The Rhode Island Superior Court yesterday overturned a misdemeanor conviction for John A. Leidecker, a top teachers union official who mocked and impersonated a state lawmaker during the 2010 primary.
Leidecker, an assistant executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, was busted in 2010 for sending emails mocking former state Rep. Douglas W. Gablinske on a number of political issues.
The messages were sent from an email account of Doug Gablinski, and detailed exchanges between the imposter and a fictional person, Walter Flatus, in which the union official misrepresented the lawmaker’s position on bridge tolls, school funding and union contract issues. Gablinske contends Leidecker’s musings, which he forwarded to the lawmaker, caused him to lose the primary, as well as many restless nights, the Providence Journal reports.
Leidecker was found guilty of cyberstalking by District Court Judge Stephen M. Isherwood in 2011 and ordered to pay a $100 fine for the misdemeanor conviction, but the union boss appealed the decision to the state’s Superior Court.
This week, Judge Susan E. McGuirl ruled the mocking and harassing emails were protected political speech under the First Amendment, and overturned the lower court’s ruling, the news site reports.
“The language in the emails, while annoying, did not rise to the level of threatening, she said. She also could not find that it was without any legitimate purpose as it addressed issues up for political debate at the time, she said,” according to the Journal.
Calling it a “financial disaster,” another school district is dropping out of the recently overhauled National School Lunch Program.
Nicolet High School in Wisconsin’s Glendale school district says because of it’s financial losses last school year, it’s opting out for the 2014-15 school year.
“We thought it would be a financial disaster for us this year with the full implementation (of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act),” district business manager Jeff Dellutri said at a recent school board meeting, according to Glendalenow.com.
Healthy foods are required under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will be fully implemented this year. But Vicky Hanson, the district’s food service director, said foods like black beans, kale and whole grains just end up in the trash at the end of the lunch hour.
“We put it out, but they just don’t take it,” she said. “It’s always in the trash.”
Dellutri told the board the district lost about $10,000 by being forced to serve “healthy” food students refuse to eat.
Glendale is the latest Wisconsin district to revolt under the federal regulations.
Earlier this month, Muskego-Norway school board president Rick Petfalski told the Journel Sentinel, “We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level.”
“By leaving the program we will not be required to follow these onerous guidelines, pushed by and large by Michelle Obama, who last I checked has been elected by no one,” Petfalski said, EAGnews reported at the time.
California school employees are squirming to justify their top-dollar salaries to the public after a government watchdog group recently launched an online database with the eye-opening compensation records of over a half-million employees.
“The public votes on tax measures, bond measures without complete knowledge about how the money is being spent,” Ed Ring, executive director of the California Policy Center, told the LA Times. “Taxpayers are paying these salaries so they have a right to know.”
That’s why the Center recently launched Transparent California, a searchable online database with compensation figures for more than 581,000 California public school employees, as well as pay data for other public sector employees.
And the figures are staggering.
“Last year, James Hammond, the superintendent of the Montclair-Ontario Unified School District in the Inland Empire, was paid $492,077. Jonathan Eagan, the principal of a junior high school in the Bay Area city of Martinez made $279,669,” the Times reports.
“And 31 custodians at California public schools were paid more than $100,000 in 2013.”
The data was collected through public information requests sent by the Center to 1,058 school districts across the state, though only about 653 responded with relevant data. The Los Angeles school district, for example, hasn’t released the salary figures for its school employees. Continue reading →
The union representing security employees of Amtrak, the nation’s federally-chartered rail passenger corporation, was missing funds. It didn’t have far to look for the source of the problem. On June 24, Eric Givens, a longtime Amtrak police officer, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York with one count each of wire fraud, embezzlement and making a false statement related to his alleged theft of at least $100,000 in funds from the Amtrak Police Labor Committee, and a Fraternal Order of Police affiliate, each of which he had served as treasurer. He had been arrested earlier that day. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General, and the Amtrak Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs.
Eric Givens had been a police officer with National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or Amtrak, since May 1997. In addition, he was treasurer of Amtrak Police Labor Committee during 2003-10, and for three years after that, a committee affiliate known as Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 189. According to prosecutors, Givens, 52, a resident of East Stroudsburg, Pa., starting around 2008 helped himself to the union till. He allegedly made unauthorized debit card charges and cash withdrawals from the Labor Committee and Lodge, and then concealed these transactions in union financial records. The funds went for personal expenses such as food, gasoline, travel and entertainment. Eventually, the union leadership recognized it was missing funds and called upon the U.S. Labor Department to conduct an investigation.
Iowa Democrat Gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Jack Hatch and former Iowa Democrat congressman Dave Nagle are joining forces with a local chapter of the AFSCME in an effort to reopen a juvenile home for use as a shelter for illegal immigrants.
The Obama administration is scrambling to find space that it can use to house the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, both adult and children, that are puring across the US-Mexico border. At least 57,000 illegal immigrant minors have entered the US since October, with an estimated 150,000 expected to come next year, most coming from Central America.
Late last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 30,340 illegal immigrant minors have been released to a sponsor across the entire country, over one hundred and twenty of them ending up with a parent, relative, or family friend in Iowa.
The juvenile home that Hatch and Nagle want to have used to house even more illegals was closed earlier this year by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad following reports of abuse at the facility.
former U.S. Rep. Dave Nagle of the “Keep IJH Open” group, but the group is working with advocacy groups that have called for the state to welcome the children. AFSCME, which represented employees at the Toledo home for juvenile delinquent girls, supports the idea.
It’s a “valid option,” according to state Sen. Jack Hatch, who was among Democrats who went to court to overturn Gov. Terry Branstad’s closing of the facility amid allegations of abuse by staff members.
Hatch, who is challenging Branstad in the November election, said the idea would get consideration if the state had leadership like that delivered by Republican Gov. Robert Ray, who oversaw the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees in the 1970s.
“This state deserves that kind of leadership but doesn’t have it right now,” he said.
AFSCME Local 61 President Danny Homan is not optimistic about reopening the Iowa Juvenile Home to host immigrant children.
“I’m under no illusions this governor is going to open the Iowa Juvenile Home to them given all he has said about that he doesn’t want them here,” Homan said.
That won’t stop him from pushing the idea, because “it’s the right thing to do.”
Nagle called the home an ideal setting for the immigrant children because it has housing, kitchen and medical facilities as well as classrooms.
Nagle, Homan and others will continue to push for using the Iowa Juvenile Home.
“We have a facility sitting there that is vacant that would work for them,” Homan said. “If all the parties wanted to make it work, they could make it work.”
“What’s the alternative?”
Hatch and Nagle aren’t alone in trying to bring more illegal immigrants to Iowa. As previously reported Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba is openly working with the White House to bring up to 200 illegal immigrant minors to his city, to be cared for by local charities and non-profits.
A Wisconsin Sheriff has been placed on leave for ‘stealing the identity’ of a local Tea Party leader and signing him up for gay websites, Obamacare, and other porn sites. From Illinois Review:
A feud between Campbell, Wisconsin, Police Chief Tim Kelemen and local Tea Party Leader Greg Luce started last fall, when Luce started organizing protests against Barack Obama on an interstate overpass.
Kelemen worked to persuade the city council to ban overpass signs. In response, Luce urged Tea Party and First Amendment supporters to deluge the chief’s phone and email with opposition.
Police Chief Kelemen then began signing up Luce on websites for federal health care, homosexual dating and pornography. Luce responded by filing a federal lawsuit, accusing the police chief of restricting his First Amendment right to free speech and stealing his identity.
The police chief told investigators he “didn’t think what he was doing was that big of a deal,” but Kelemen was put on paid leave.
Funny, nobody complained when anti-war protesters were exercising their free speech rights from overpasses when a Republican was in the White House.
Hawkes can be heard saying, “Come on cop. You can’t do this dude. You can’t do this.”
Um, yes he can, Dude. This all started earlier in the day when the officer pulled Hawkes over for talking on his cell phone while driving a car with no license, registration, plates or tags. Hawkes was quoted:
“I explained to the officer that I actually don’t need a license plate — that I’m a private individual here. … I also told him that I had a right to use my cell phone if I’d like. That anti-cell phone law was enacted without the consent of we the people,” said Hawkes.
According to Hawkes, the officer asked him to turn off his vehicle, but Hawkes said he told the officer, “I’m late for a meeting. I have to go, at which point I drove off.”
Dude, you can’t just drive off when you’ve been pulled over, even in Maui.
A collection of labor unions is demanding that leaders of California’s Oakland Unified School District allow a lesson plan that compares convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to appear on the district’s website.
In a resolution passed on July 14, the Alameda Labor Council condemned Oakland Unified school leaders for censoring the pro-cop killer lesson plan, entitled “Urban Dreams,” and accused them of buckling to the intimidation tactics of the Fraternal Order of Police and Fox News.
The Alameda Labor Council – which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO – is an umbrella organization that coordinates the political activities of more than 100 unions, including the Berkley Federation of Teachers and the California School Employees Association.
“ … (I)t is dangerous and unacceptable to allow the police to determine the curriculum of a major school district like Oakland, or any school district,” the group declares in its resolution.
The Alameda Labor Council, on the other hand, sees nothing dangerous about Mumia Abu-Jamal who was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981.
The burden carried by the holders of stock in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, each operating for nearly six years under federal conservatorship, just got lighter. On July 16, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Margaret Sweeney, in a procedural ruling, held that shareholder-plaintiffs in Fairholme Funds Inc. et al. v. United States are entitled to know material facts that the government wants to keep secret. The shareholders are seeking compensation for foregone income resulting from the Treasury Department’s “sweep” rule of August 2012, which forced the companies to forward all dividends to the department in perpetuity. Government lawyers had filed a motion for a protective order on May 30 to inhibit discovery. The outcome of this case will have major implications for the future of property rights in this country.
National Legal and Policy Center has been following the situation at the Washington, D.C.-based Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the McLean, Va.-based Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) following the federal takeover of the two publicly-traded companies in September 2008. The nation’s financial services industry at the time was in free fall. House prices were plummeting. Defaults and foreclosures were on the rise. And Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which now guarantee or hold a combined $5 trillion in U.S. residential mortgages – almost half of outstanding loan volume – had become dangerously undercapitalized. There was a real danger that the holders of their bonds, known as mortgage-backed securities, would not be repaid. An independent federal regulatory agency created by Congress that summer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), used its authority several weeks later to seize the companies and place them under conservatorship. Conservatorship was intended as a temporary measure. The purpose was to keep Fannie and Freddie, as “Government-Sponsored Enterprises,” solvent, thus ensuring timely payments to bond investors. The arrangement was not permanent.
Over the next few years, the Treasury Department provided the companies with a combined $187.5 billion in loans. The money came out of government-held senior preferred stock representing 79.9 percent of shareholder equity. This bailout came attached with some heavy strings. Most significant was a requirement that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to forward 10 percent of their accrued dividends to the Treasury Department. As their share prices were depressed at the level of penny stocks, their earnings depended on dividends. But during 2011-12, the housing market, unexpectedly and for various reasons, made a comeback. The Treasury Department, seeing an opportunity to speed up debt collection, developed the “third” or “sweep” rule. Issued on August 7, 2012, it would supersede the 10 percent rule. It effectively barred shareholders from realizing any profits on current or future earnings. In the department’s own words, the sweep refers to “every dollar of profit that each firm earns going forward.” Investors were righteously angry. And given that hedge funds and other financial intermediaries held much of their stock, a spate of lawsuits seemed inevitable. Over the course of 2013, they materialized. One of the most publicized of these suits was filed by the New York-based equity fund, Fairholme Capital Management. The action sought to rescind the sweep amendment and to compensate shareholders. This case eventually incorporated similar ones.
On merit alone, Fairholme and co-plaintiffs have a very strong case, especially at this point in time. During Second Quarter 2014, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already had sent more than $200 billion in profits to Treasury, a total that was set to rise to $213.1 billion by the quarter’s end - about $25 billion more than what the government had loaned them. To retain the rule would appear in direct contravention with the very purpose of the FHFA conservatorship. Forcibly diverting company profits to the government in perpetuity, argued the plaintiffs, was the antithesis of the intent of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), which authorized the conservatorship as a temporary measure. Indeed, this was little short of de facto nationalization. The Treasury Department has countered that the plaintiffs have failed to make a convincing case for a regulatory taking.
But there is a reason why the plaintiffs have had difficulties on this score: lack of access to information. The government over the years has kept secret its decisions regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And when details of that decision-making are made publicly available, they validate suspicions that the Treasury Department has never had any intention of abiding by the terms of the conservatorship. In late 2013, a New York hedge fund, Perry Capital, filed a separate suit to rescind the sweep rule. Unlike Fairholme, the plaintiffs in that case are not seeking financial compensation. Representing Perry Capital, the Washington law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher somehow managed to acquire a Treasury Department internal memo, dated December 20, 2010 (see pdf), sent by Undersecretary Jeffrey Goldstein to Secretary Timothy Geithner. In discussing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the memo referred to “the administration’s commitment to ensure existing common equity holders will not have access to any positive earnings from the G.S.E.’s in the future.” In no way did the Treasury Department notify shareholders of this policy change. Had it done so, it is highly unlikely anyone would have continued to hold stock in these companies. Continue reading →