Archive for Maryland

Action Needed to Save Columbus Day in Baltimore

Columbus Day
The following email about city legislation affecting Columbus Day was sent today to local members of the Knights of Columbus by the national KofC – please share it with your friends and call Friday:

The Baltimore City Council is voting on Monday, Dec. 5, on a proposal to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ and Italian-Americans’ Day.

We urge you to call the city hall operator THIS WEEK at 410-396-3100 or the Office of the City Council President at 410-396-4804 to respectfully express your support for preserving Columbus Day.

The following points may be useful in your conversation:

  1. October 12 should continue to be celebrated as Columbus Day. We strongly object to and oppose any efforts to abolish or diminish this holiday by repeal, dilution or replacement. Such actions are unfair to Columbus himself and to those who celebrate his holiday.

  2. The legacy and accomplishments of Christopher Columbus deserve to be celebrated. He was a man ahead of his time and a fearless explorer and brilliant navigator whose daring discovery changed the course of history.

  3. Columbus has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.

  4. Long-time Stanford University Professor Carol Delaney has done extensive research debunking many of the negative myths about Columbus. In fact, she paints a positive portrait of a man who had generally benign relations with the Native Americans and has been unfairly blamed for everything that ever went wrong in the New World after his arrival.

  5. Advocating the addition of a new holiday is one thing, but it is something else altogether to lobby for the diminishment or elimination of an already well-established holiday that is celebrated by Americans year after year.

  6.  Because Columbus Day has special meaning — including to many Italian Americans and Catholics — efforts to repeal, diminish or replace Columbus Day are unfair and hurtful to those communities, regardless of what substitutions are offered.

More on Columbus Day

In 2014,  I wrote about Carol Delaney and her research that debunked many myths about Columbus. She also found that Columbus was searching for gold to help fund a new crusade to retake Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.

MD Public Defender’s Trump email called “inflammatory”

MD Public DefenderOver the weekend, MD Public Defender Paul DeWolfe sent an email to all Office of Public Defender (OPD) staff members across the state using state government email servers. DeWolfe insists the email wasn’t “anti-Trump” but one Republican state senator calls it “inflammatory rhetoric.”

In his email, DeWolfe mentioned that, “Many of us are still in shock and despair over the [election] results.”

He then talks about the election of Nixon and Republicans in 1968 that he claims “resulted in the reversal of so many of the progressive reforms brought about by the struggles of the Civil Rights movement.”

After detailing the things that he said Nixon was responsible for rolling back, DeWolfe then said, “Believe it or not, this election seems worse to me than even the election of 1968.”

After saying that it is time to “get angry and fight back”, he discusses Trump policies including stop and frisk, “mass deportation” of illegal immigrants, and issues related to incarceration and policing.

DeWolfe also has a three-point call to action for his staff that involves them joining his volunteer immigration team, joining the fight for bail and pretrial reform, and becoming “active in the fight against the anticipated wave of bigotry and repression against our minority, immigrant and LGBTQ clients.”

Here’s a screenshot of the DeWolfe email:

md-public-defender

Yesterday, I sent a request for comment to OPD and pointed out that the message could be considered an anti-Trump email. I received the following statement from Paul DeWolfe:

Communicating with staff about significant national and local issues relevant to criminal defense practice is an important priority of mine.  Consistent with reactions across the country, many OPD staff have expressed concern regarding how the election will impact our clients and our work.  The email message was not anti-Trump but responsive to threats made on constitutional rights that will directly impact the people we represen

After being contacted for a comment, Republican State Senator Justin Ready had strong words for the email sent to OPD staff by DeWolfe:

I think using taxpayer funded resources to send inflammatory material is questionable to say the least. It’s wrong to accuse people who voted for Trump or Trump himself of wanting to roll back the clock on civil rights. That’s an outrageous charge. The OPD performs an important public service ensuring that anyone accused of a crime can have legal representation. However, its irresponsible to be engaging in this kind of rhetoric. It’s wrong and it’s untrue.

More on MD Public Defender Paul DeWolfe

DeWolfe was named MD Public Defender in late 2009 after his predecessor was terminated. He was previously Montgomery County Public Defender.  He was reappointed earlier this year. In an interview in July, he discussed his office’s work to free people arrested during the Baltimore riots of 2015.

The MD Public Defender is hired by a 13 member Board of trustees. 11 members of that board are appointed by the Governor and one each by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. Good luck finding the membership of the board on the OPD website (or anywhere else online), it’s not there. I even looked in PDFs of their annual reports and in legislative audits.

Speaking of legislative audits – according to a story in The Daily Record in August 2014:

The Office of the Public Defender failed to ensure clients were financially eligible, and the agency failed to submit invoices to the state comptroller for timely payment, according to an audit released Thursday by the Office of Legislative Audits.

Be sure to read the entire audit online from the Office of Legislative Audits for further details.

Maryland State Board of Elections databases show DeWolfe gave money in 2006 to the campaign of Tom Perez. Federal Election Commission databases show no federal contributions given by Paul B. DeWolfe of Maryland.

More from his bio:

A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 2005, Mr. DeWolfe is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a former President of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Association, and a former President of the Bar Association of Montgomery County Maryland. Currently he is Secretary of the Criminal Law Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Association.

 

IGT and more lottery intimidation

igt-logoI noted previously that IGT (formerly known as GTECH) has engaged in an intimidation campaign against Maryland Lottery officials in recent weeks since they lost out on a contract to another company.

Two letters of protest were filed, including one specifically targeting lottery director Gordon Medenica, who previously worked for IGT. The targeting of the director flies in the face of 2009 statements about the company changing its way.

As recently as a month ago (on September 29), the Securities and Exchange Commission – for the first time in its history – issued a standalone fine on whistleblower retaliation and announced that IGT “agreed to pay a half-million dollar penalty for firing an employee with several years of positive performance reviews because he reported to senior management and the SEC that the company’s financial statements might be distorted.”

Additionally, I have confirmed that lobbyists from Alexander & Cleaver P.A., including Hannah Powers Garagiola, representing IGT in the state have been lobbying members of the General Assembly and the media over the past few weeks.

As I noted previously, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland conducted a year-long investigation of the company – then known as GTECH – in the 90s after they hired associates of the governor to take the lottery contract from the incumbent provider in a questionably conducted procurement. A lobbyist for the company was convicted of unrelated mail fraud charges because of that investigation.

I also discussed intimidation and influence-purchasing by IGT in Texas, Arizona, and Rhode Island. Since then, I’ve read more on the company’s history in Maryland.

In 2009, GTECH applied for a contract running the computer system for the state’s nascent slot machine system. Slots were just approved the year before in a statewide referendum.

The state of Maryland’s 2009 background investigation of the company revealed legal problems in other states and countries as well.

The company admitted there were investigations into “possible contract and regulatory issues” and, according to The Baltimore Sun, the “company or its employees have faced allegations of bribery and taking kickbacks” going back to the 90s.

News reports from 2009 in Maryland discuss the fact that the national sales director of the company went to prison after a conviction in New Jersey on charges related to a kickback scheme. Also, mentioned in the 2009 story: a lawsuit in Brazil by the government against GTECH over contract money received by the company that was allegedly illegal because of bribery of government officials.

In the 2009 investigation and application for contracts, it was noted that the company “steadfastly maintains that it has embarked on a course of conduct that is entirely different than its past one, and that it is now in strict compliance with all regulatory requirements.”

More on IGT

In 2006, the Texas Department of Safety investigated of GTECH for a Texas Lottery Commission meeting. GTECH officials claimed back in 2006 that the company had changed its way of doing business as well.

The Texas report discussed the activities and lawsuit in Brazil at great length. A similar issue took place in Trinidad that was also looked into by the Texas DPS and an independent auditor. Other countries where concerns were raised included both Poland and the Czech Republic.

In these countries, the report noted that entities or people hired as consultants in each country appeared to be making a large amount of money while doing “relatively little work.”

As in Maryland this year. a lottery Director in Arizona awaiting confirmation was attacked in the media after IGT was not awarded a contract. That director resigned for having used a state car to drop off his children at school, after “an anonymous complaint letter — supposedly by a current Lottery employee …. was sent to the governor, attorney general, various state senators, and the Arizona Republic.”

If you look at the recent attempt to make trouble for Maryland Lottery director Medenica, whether it was the protest letter targeting him or the veiled threats about him still facing confirmation, then it doesn’t appear IGT has really changed its ways.

Tom Perez jokes about murdered girl at Clinton event

Tom Perez jokes about Amber AlertsNTK News reports that U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez was interrupted at a Hillary Clinton event in North Carolina by phones going off due to an Amber Alert for a missing boy there. The boy was later found safe.

. Perez has been mentioned as a likely candidate for attorney general in a Hillary Clinton administration.

Perez replied, “Amber Alert. “Oh yeah? Well, Amber is going to vote for Hillary!”

Perez saying Amber is going to vote for Hillary is insensitive at best since the Amber they were named for was kidnapped and murdered in 1996. Her name was Amber Hagerman (pictured above) and her murderer has still not been found.

Conservative group AR2 has called on Perez to apologize.

Here’s video of the Perez remarks:

More on Tom Perez

Perez was also mentioned as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton.

More from Capital Research Center:

Perez was a volunteer for CASA de Maryland, a George Soros-funded advocacy group representing the interests of illegal aliens. He served on the organization’s board in 1995-2002, rising to president. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has called CASA de Maryland “a fringe advocacy group that has instructed illegal immigrants on how to escape detection and also promoted illegal labor sites and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.” Big donors to CASA de Maryland include Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society (at least $270,000 in 2010-2013), the National Council of La Raza ($70,000 in 2004-2013), and two government-supported entities, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. (at least $40,000 in 2011-2013) and the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, which is supposed to provide legal services to the poor (at least $630,203 in 2005-2013).

More from Red Maryland in 2010:

Richard Faulknor at Blue Ridge Forum and Ann Corcoran at the Potomac Tea Party Report have raised issues about the fitness of Tom Perez to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division given his dubious association with CASA de Maryland. Mr. Perez’s involvement in the decision by the Civil Rights Division to not press for civil or criminal sanctions against the antics of King Samir Shabazz, of “kill some cracker babies” fame, and the New Black Panther Party is inexplicable and now the subject of an investigation by the US Civil Rights Commission, and hopefully by Darrell Issa when he assumes chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Political Intimidation and the Maryland Lottery

LotteryI noticed something very interesting while reading a recent article in The Washington Post about recent events at the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency.

IGT Global Solutions Corporation (formerly GTECH) lost out on a $263 million contract with the Maryland Lottery for its “central monitoring and control systems” according to the article. After losing the contract to Scientific Games International, IGT filed a letter of protest. They didn’t stop there.

IGT doubled down and filed a second letter of protest targeting Maryland Lottery director Gordon Medenica. He sent an email to lottery staff explaining the decision-making process. The director noted in that message that the technical requirements were more important than being the low bidder.

Medenica’s statement to the Associated Press about the protest:

The real story here is the attempt by the losing bidders to bring political pressure to an ongoing procurement process. Their manipulation of an independent, objective, competitive procurement is blatantly inappropriate.

Two recent posts at Red State by an out of state blogger seemingly discuss the matter from IGT’s viewpoint. The first, by Dan Spencer, notes that Medenica “has been appointed, but not yet confirmed by the state Senate.”

That sure sounds like IGT is sending a warning shot at Medenica, as well as a subtle attempt to encourage legislators to threaten his confirmation.

Another post at Red State cites “an industry insider” who claims that “bid protests” and “legislative scrutiny” could cause problems for Medenica because he was senior executive for Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group, a “business venture that was partially owned by Scientific Games.”

What this shadowy “insider” left out is that – in addition to Northstar being partly owned by SGI – it was primarily owned by IGT. In fact, IGT owned just over 82% of Northstar, and also provided part of Northstar’s staff.

More on IGT and Lottery Director Intimidation

This all seemed strange, so I started looking into previous lottery contracts around the country and found that IGT has tried similar intimidation tactics in a few other states.

In Texas in 1998, GTECH paid out a $725,000 settlement to former lottery director Nora Linares to settle a lawsuit. The Linares suit claimed GTECH “was to blame for interfering with her employment, emotional distress and making it difficult for her to get a new job.”

Linares claimed GTECH, which operated the Texas lottery, gave her boyfriend a $30,000 consulting contract she knew nothing about before it was made public in 1996. She also alleged that the GTECH engaged in a “systematic effort” to get her fired from her job in an attempt to cover up what they had done.

In Arizona in 1993, lottery director Bruce Mayberry was fired from his job, allegedly thanks to the insistence of a former staffer of Arizona Gov. Fife Symington who then worked for GTECH. Reportedly, Mayberry “tried to force the vendor to live up to its contract.”

As a result, the Arizona Attorney General announced an investigation of the firing.

One thing mentioned in coverage of that firing involved Maryland back then:

If [Attorney General] Woods looks for a pattern, he won’t have to look far, because GTECH has a habit of hiring political insiders to do its bidding. GTECH hired two associates of Maryland’s governor during a controversial bidding war for that state’s lottery contract. GTECH won the contract, but the U.S. attorney for Maryland has conducted a yearlong criminal probe into alleged bid-rigging.

Reporting from Arizona also mentions that the Kentucky lottery director and the entire lottery board resigned after a state audit showed  that “GTECH had benefited from contract loopholes and sloppy oversight.

In 2015, former Rhode Island Speaker of the House Gordon Fox went to federal prison after pleading guilty to accepting bribes. While GTECH wasn’t involved in this case, they were supporters of him. In fact, he paid a $10,000 fine in 2003 for a conflict of interest when he voted for legislation that would give GTECH $770 million and result in his law firm being hired by the company. Fox was regularly “schmoozing” with lobbyists from the company, including at Red Sox games in Fenway Park.

This is probably only the tip of the iceberg with lottery and gaming contracts across the country and around the world. While I do not really care who the Maryland Lottery agency selects to run the lottery,  this kind of political hardball by a government contractor in my own state does get my attention.

More to come.