Juvenile Injustice? South Bend Judge Won't Send Females To DOC Facility

Docpatch After reading this story, it's hard to understand why Department of Correction Commission J. David Donahue still has his job:

"A St. Joseph County judge has stopped sending female offenders to the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, claiming the state-run detention center is understaffed and lacks adequate rehabilitative and educational services.

"Judge Peter Nemeth also said he has received reports of sexual activity between inmates and between inmates and staff.

"'I have decided it is neither safe nor productive' to continue sending female juveniles to the Department of Correction facility on Girls School Road, Nemeth said in a letter he sent Monday to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"Nemeth said he was appealing directly to the governor after attempts to work out problems with DOC Commissioner J. David Donahue were unsuccessful.

"The judge said his decision to stop placing youths at the state facility was the result of his court-ordered review of the facility conducted in October. His letter said that review turned up numerous deficiencies, including:

  • Inadequate staffing to maintain a safe environment.
  • Classroom settings that 'can only be described as nonproductive at best.'
  • The lack of vocational programs.
  • The failure by the facility psychiatrist in many cases to adequately explain to inmates why they have been placed on psychotropic drugs, to justify their continued use and to provide a monthly follow-up.

"The governor had not received Nemeth's letter as of Wednesday afternoon, said spokeswoman Jane Jankowski. She said the normal process would be for the governor to discuss issues called to his attention with the appropriate department officials, then respond."

Eating His Foot: Education Guru Calls Principals "Bozos", Ignites Debate

Apple The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's "Political Notebook" column brings us this entertaining nugget from a recent meeting of the Guv's Education Roundtable:

"Gary Stark, of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, gave a presentation on a Teacher Advancement Program at the invitation of Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed.

"At one point Stark mentioned that principals are trained to evaluate teacher instruction under the program and said, 'one of the disrespectful things that we do in our profession is we send a lot of bozos in classrooms that don't know anything about instruction.'

"When the presentation was finished, roundtable member Daniel Tanoos said he didn't appreciate the bozo comment, noting schools do their best to hire qualified teachers.

"Stark corrected Tanoos by saying, 'I was referring to principals as bozos' and went on to say they have limited knowledge of instruction and make themselves look silly trying to evaluate teachers.

"He did not specifically apologize for the comment, saying only, 'I shouldn’t be … I guess I say that as a former principal.'

"Not surprisingly, the Indiana Association of School Principals took offense, writing Daniels a scathing letter. The governor leads the roundtable, which is a mix of public education leaders working together to improve Indiana's schools.

"'It is disappointing that you would allow such degrading, humiliating, unprofessional and fallacious comments to be made in a public forum,' the letter said.

"Then the principal group said that under Daniels' leadership the roundtable has 'diminished into a fiasco of finger-pointing and attacking.'

"The principals weren't the only ones upset.

"Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson – also a roundtable member – said she was offended by the entire presentation perhaps more than the bozo comment.

"'I've been called worse. I thought it made him look worse than anyone,' she said.

"Robinson noted his presentation gave the impression that Indiana is years behind in professional development without ever visiting an Indiana school.

"'It was hard for me to sit still and listen to it,' she said. 'It took me awhile to even control myself to say something.'

"Daniels Press Secretary Jane Jankowski said the speaker immediately clarified his comments and the issue was dealt with at the time.

"'The letter is unjustified, and it's a cheap shot,' she said. 'This is not the way to get a meeting with the governor.'"

When pressed, Jankowski said there are two reliable ways to get a meeting with the Guv: write a big campaign check or crawl under his desk with him. She indicated that a combination of the two methods would all but guarantee a spot on his calendar.

(The Journal Gazette editorialized on the Education Roundtable incident yesterday. Read that coverage here.)

Human Resources: After Cancer, Toll Road Worker Let Go, Can't Get Answers

Macquarie1_2Another day, another cheery, uplifting human interest story brought to you by the new owners of the Indiana Toll Road:

"Linda Lopez takes her steps slowly through the living room and eases herself into her favorite chair. 'I can't walk very well,' the 60-year-old Portage resident says, almost apologetically. Chemotherapy has caused neuropathy in her feet and legs, making walking and standing difficult.

"A Portage Toll Plaza attendant for the Indiana Toll Road for two years, Lopez had a mammogram Jan. 18. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy Feb. 12.

"She had filed a Family Medical Leave Act application Feb. 1, the same day foreign-owned Indiana Toll Road Concessions Co. took over the Indiana Toll Road. The private Spanish/ Australian firm leased the road for 75 years for $3.8 billion as part of Gov. Mitch Daniels' 10-year transportation plan.

"Lopez says her doctors expected she'd be off work for up to three months.

"But her cancer was so aggressive that after her surgery, they told her she'd likely not return until next year.

"She underwent chemotherapy, which ended last month and will soon start radiation therapy.

But Lopez received a letter from ITR Concession Co. on July 20 telling her she had five days to return to work or she'd lose her job because she had not worked for ITRCC for 90 days prior to her surgery.

"'I couldn't have waited any longer to have surgery because the lump was growing,' Lopez said.

"Lopez said she tried to contact her human resources director after receiving the letter to let him know that she was still under doctor's care and had not yet started radiation therapy.

"'He never returned my calls,' Lopez said.

"'I lost all my benefits,' she said. 'I didn't qualify because I had not worked for them for 90 days.'

"Lopez was allowed 12 weeks off as part of the Family Medical Leave Act, but was still under a doctor's care after those benefits ended.

"'I had just finished my chemotherapy and they sent me a letter telling me I had to return to work by July 25th or they would terminate my job,' Lopez said. 'I couldn't go back yet. I couldn't stand, and you have to stand from 8 to 16 hours at the toll booth. They have stools, but they tell you not to use them.'"

State Action: Should We Lower Our Flags When A Hoosier Dies In Combat?

AmericanflagDo you think Indiana should should lower its flags when a Hoosier is killed in the line of duty? USA Today reports that 28 states automatically do.

"States that don't lower the American flag often honor fallen troops in other ways. New Mexico, for example, lowers its state flag.

"According to spokeswoman Jane Jankowski, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has attended funerals for all guardsmen killed in the Middle East and has penned notes to fallen troops' families. He also visited troops last year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indiana, however, does not lower the flag for those from the state killed in action.

"'There are a number of efforts that he has undertaken here to honor and respect those who are sacrificing for our country,' she said."

No Projects, No Jobs: Major Moves Turns Into Major Letdown For New Workers

Nothiring Come one, come all! Step right up and see the amazing opportunities the Guv's Major Moves project has to offer workers who are willing to go through training and learn new skills! So many projects on tap, so much need for labor!

*the sound of another promise broken*

"They've toiled away in the classroom, they perspired through construction training and the dozens of Major Opportunities graduates are all ready to start their real world jobs. But at a time when the government continues to tout the massive construction projects coming to the region, the newest graduates can't seem to find any that have room for new hires.

"Joree Richards, in charge of placing students in construction fields for the Indiana Plan, said Major Opportunities offered minorities the opportunity to learn skills needed to join the ranks of the union construction workers.

"When some of the students began learning about construction, they realized this wasn't the career path they anticipated, so they dropped out, or completed the program and took non-construction related jobs, Richards said, explaining the low number of apprentices produced. Others had trouble passing their drug tests.

"Those still waiting to become apprentices may need to wait longer than they expected because the abundance of construction jobs hasn't materialized yet, said Bill Thon, executive director, Workforce and Economic Development for Ivy Tech. Since the construction season just began when the warmer temperatures arrived, the unions are still trying to figure out who they need to perform the jobs and how many more they can accept.

"'There aren't a lot of construction jobs out there, as we thought were going to happen as early as this in the construction season,' Thon said. 'The jobs have been really slow because of the weather, and some projects have been delayed.'"

And check out this stunning punt by guberflacktoid Jane Jankowski. Apparently, despite his earlier talking points, the Guv is no longer responsible for Major Moves:

"Lee and his friends assumed there would be an abundance of jobs for them, following Gov. Mitch Daniels' speech last October when he bragged about Indiana's upcoming construction jobs.

"'Indiana is entering a building boom,' he said on Oct. 5. 'We're going to experience record opportunities, so we want everyone to know about these jobs and that the state can help them get the skills needed to obtain one.'

"Daniels' spokeswoman said Workforce Development was responsible for the implantation of the jobs and forwarded calls to them.

"Andrew Penca, commissioner for the Department of Workforce Development, said while Northwest Indiana residents are waiting for their careers to start, other areas of the state appear to be doing better. Some areas of Indianapolis and Evansville have seen 40-50 percent placement, Penca said, stressing the difficulty in adequately defining the success of the project."

Paging Noah Webster: In The Day, In The Night, Spell It All, Spell It Right

TDW can be a real jerk [when it comes to spelling], but the Guv's staffers have made a few obvious goofs lately. You really have to wonder about this one, though. C'mon, guys. County sheriffs are right there in the Indiana Constitution. Plus, Microsoft Word will correct you if you get it wrong.

Sheriffmistake

Elsewhere, alien invasive species are taking over our state! Subhed: Cutesy flack arrives at work to find entire office covered in kudzu.

Bonus: This may be the coolest thing ever procured by a state agency.

What Gives? Lite Guv Sent Out To Flack For Guv's Indy Toll Road Plan

Microphone_9Since when does the Guv send the Lite Guv out to do his public relations? Watch out, Guberflack. It looks like Hairspray is gunning for your job.

"Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman says her boss, Gov. Mitch Daniels, faces a Catch-22 in his pursuit of a privately built toll road in Central Indiana.

"She says she understands the public's need for better information about Daniels' proposal. But she says the administration can't move ahead and gather the needed facts without legislative approval.

"'When you don't yet know what or where it might be, it's difficult to form an opinion,' Skillman said. '(But) it's difficult for the administration to proceed if there isn't legislative support.'

"That, in essence, is the stance the Daniels administration has taken as it attempts to deflect a growing chorus of critics questioning the governor's proposal for a toll bypass east and south of Indianapolis.

"With a Senate committee vote looming next week, key lawmakers on both sides of the issue are marshalling support, preparing amendments and turning to the bully pulpit.

"Two key GOP senators from Fort Wayne -- Senate President Pro Tempore David C. Long and Thomas J. Wyss, the proposal's sponsor -- held a Statehouse news conference Thursday to defend the bypass, which the governor calls the Indiana Commerce Connector.

"Wyss' Senate Bill 1 also would authorize a second project -- the Illiana Expressway, which would begin at I-94 near Michigan City and run in a clockwise loop to I-55 in Illinois.

"While Long and Wyss support the connector, they said the legislature and governor would listen to the public and could abandon it if they believe the support isn't there.

"'If these groups of legislators who are involved with this process are saying, after it's all said and done, 'This just isn't going to work . . ,' I think it's highly likely that it won't happen,' Long said."

We've witnessed time and again how well the Guv listens to the people after everything is signed, sealed and delivered. Strangely enough, Sens. LongWyss, you're both from Fort Wayne, which means your constituency isn't really affected by this woefully unpopular proposal. No risk, no gain. Carry that water.

The Fraud Squad: More Details Emerge About Bureau Of Motor Vehicles Audit

Bmvlogo_43The Indy Star provides more details about a recent Bureau of Motor Vehicles audit showing that the potential for fraud still exists within the agency, despite the Guv having sprinkled Magic Fraud-B-Gone Dust all over the place. Bonus: Guberflack Jane Jankowski can't resist taking a whack at the days of yore.

In a sick sort of way, you've got to admire this administration. They've developed a really good system of tearing down and selling off. It's just a shame that they're doing it at our expense.

"Forgotten bank accounts. Discrepancies in accounting ledgers. Disregard for basic contracting rules.

"State auditors found those and dozens of other record-keeping problems at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, deficiencies that resulted in errors in tax payments to local jurisdictions and mistakes in the tracking of cash transactions at license branches.

"The inadequate safeguards leave the agency -- responsible for more than $900 million in transactions in fiscal 2006 -- vulnerable to fraud and malfeasance, according to the State Board of Accounts audit.

"Sen. Timothy S. Lanane, D-Anderson, characterized the audit's findings as 'alarming' and called on state and local prosecutors to make sure no crimes had occurred.

"'The clerk-treasurers of the smallest towns are required to keep records of every penny that comes into their protection,' Lanane said. 'Those same principles should apply to the BMV. We need to get to the bottom of that.'

"BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver said there is no evidence that any fraud or wrongdoing took place or that any money was missing from state accounts."

Except for this. And this.

The Walls Keep Speaking: More On Alleged Ethics Violation In Guv's Office

Magnify3_5The chatter surrounding the ethics violation allegedly committed by one of the Guv's senior staff members continues to grow louder.

Word on the street is that the Guv's Office and the Marion County Republican Party are working overtime to kill any story that might arise out of allegations that Senior Advisor for Latino Affairs Juana Watson took an all-expenses-paid vacation to Puerto Rico with her daughter last month in exchange for setting up a meeting between the Guv and Jorge Rodriguez, who's rumored to have financed the trip because he needed to get his business foot in the state contracts door.

Sources say folks who were scheduled to appear for media interviews have bailed out at the last minute, and others involved in blowing the whistle on Watson are being warned to proceed at their own employment risk.

It really shouldn't be this hard. The Guv should produce Watson and her travel records. Someone should ask, "Say, Juana, did you go to Puerto Rico with your daughter on November 9?"

If the answer is yes, who paid for the trip? If she says she did, then she needs to produce receipts to that effect. If she can't, then the Ethics Commission must step in and investigate this and the other allegations made in a formal complaint that supposedly was filed with that office last Friday.

In his typical fashion, though, the Guv appears to be standing by Watson no matter what. We've seen this before. With Dick Rhoad. With Mitch Roob. With Earl Goode. With Heather Bolejack (for a very brief period in time). With Esther Schneider.

Instead of putting pressure on mainstream media not to run with a story, the guy would be better served -- remember all those promises of open and ethical government? -- shining a light on alleged corruption from within.

If there's nothing there, he looks like a tough boss who isn't afraid to make sure his employees stick to the principles he espouses. And if there is something there, he'd be better served heading it off now instead of waiting for all the documentation pile up.

A win-win for the little fella. A win-win for taxpayers.

The only person with anything to lose at this point is the person who may or may not have violated the state ethics rule prohibiting gifts and favors.

Why Can't We Have Mass Transit? Because The Guv Can't Privatize It

DollarsignThe Star's John Ketzenberger writes about the Guv's toll road plan today, and he asks uber-guber-flack Jane Jankowski why we can't include mass transit in the region's long-term transportation vision. TDW doesn't really think the Guv is "dreaming big" with his outer loop proposal. He just wants to privatize everything. And his rationale for not wanting mass transit belies that desire:

"So the governor has our attention with his proposal for an outer loop. And as long as he's dreaming big, why not dream along with him? Let's implement a comprehensive regional rapid transit system, too.

"'It's an interesting idea,' said Jane Jankowski, the governor's press secretary. 'But (it's) one that would be doubtful.'

"Seems the administration can't find a good example of a public transit system that could make money for a private partner -- unlike toll roads.

"But as the governor has said, 'Why stop at .38 (caliber) if a .45 or .50 is called for?' The recent study of business leaders could provide the firepower.

"Nine of 10 Lacy Leadership Association members, made up of business and government leaders who have been in the Stanley K. Lacy program, think the region needs a rapid transit system. The survey by Walker Information is based on 337 responses to 962 alumni surveys.

"Respondents agreed rapid transit would help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

"A majority of those surveyed suggested using gas taxes and tolls to pay for the system. Cost is always the biggest hang-up. Daniels isn't interested, Jankowski said, unless the state figures out how to create a profit for itself and a private partner."

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