Archive for Politics

DNC bus dumps raw sewage down storm drain


WSB-TV in Atlanta reports that local authorities in Gwinnett County are investigating a report that a bus being used by the DNC (Democratic National Committee) dumped raw sewage into a storm drain (above photo from WSB-TV.)

An employee at an O’Reilly Auto Parts store reported seeing the bus pull into a turn lane on the road outside the store. According to the employee, the RV driver got out and opened the drain plug on the bus. All of the sewage from the bus lavatory then drained out onto the street and into the storm drain. The employee also took photographs that were provided to the police.

A police report indicated that there was a “foul smell” and a “large amount” of”drying toilet paper” where the bus had parked in the roadway. A fire department hazmat team was called to clean up the spill.

A statement from the DNC to WSB apologized:

This was an honest mistake and we apologize to the Lawrenceville community for any harm we may have caused. We were unaware of any possible violations and have already taken corrective action with the charter bus company to prevent this from happening again. Furthermore, the DNC will work with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, as well as local and state officials to determine the best course of corrective action.

The first part of this statement seems far-fetched and seems a bit disingenious with the “may have caused” phrase. That part reeks of apologies to anyone who might have been offended in other faux apologies by people committing wrongdoing.

DNC not the only offender

In 2005, a tour bus driver for the Dave Matthews Band admitted dumping 800 pounds of sewage onto passengers on a tour boat on the Chicago River. The bus was on a bridge at the time. The driver, Stefan Wohl, received 18 months probation and was also sentenced to a $10,000 fine and 150 hours of community service. The band had previously given $50,000 to the Chicago Park District and Friends of the Chicago River. Wohl apparently never drove for the band again.

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.

Flashback: Kathy Szeliga in 2013

szeligaIn 2013, I blogged about reports that Delegate Kathy Szeliga called for a “legislative investigation into the failures of the state health insurance exchange” to Governor Martin O’Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, Speaker Mike Busch, and Leader Mike Miller.

She also told Bryan Sears of The Daily Record that she wanted a “forensic audit” to “look at the costs, the contracts and how they were awarded.”

The most memorable quote from that story:

Szeliga said Brown, former health care exchange director Rebecca Pearce and others “are just polishing a turd” when it comes to the information being released about the website and its unsuccessful rollout.

More on Kathy Szeliga

Szeliga is a solidly pro-life member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She faces hard left Democrat Chris Van Hollen in the U.S. Senate race.

She was dead-on with her comments about Anthony Brown and the Maryland Obamacare Exchange’s woes.

MD students miss school for union convention

unionThanks to a teachers’ union convention at the beach in Ocean City, students in 19 of Maryland’s 24 school districts will get a day off from school on October 21, 2016.

The only 5 districts whose students will attend school that day are Allegany, Charles, Garrett, Howard, and Montgomery counties.

Allegany lists the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) convention on their online calendar but it doesn’t appear to be a day off based on the rest of the days off on their calendar. Montgomery County students are attending school that day for the first time in recent history. Until this year, it was always a day off for both teachers and students.

Of the 19 school districts where students won’t attend that day, only 8 of them will have professional development days while 11 are closed completely. 7 of the 19 didn’t even disclose that the day off or the professional development day was related to the MSEA convention.

School board members, administrators, and even the MSEA have also opposed a recent policy enacted by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and long championed by State Comptroller Peter Franchot, which would mandate that public schools being their academic calendar after Labor Day every year. A recent Goucher College poll showed that 67% of Marylanders support this policy.

One of the arguments against the Hogan plan was that there wouldn’t be enough time after Labor Day to fit all 180 days in the classroom in before the June 15 end date included in the new policy.

Districts also want the power to set their own schedules and the teachers’ union and other unions are involved in that process as well. The school board members all want the MSEA endorsement so they can add the Teacher Approved line to campaign literature and signs.

In other words, the union and school districts are complicit in taking children out of the classroom so MSEA members can head to the beach for their convention.

More on the Maryland teachers’ union convention

I took a look at the convention website with the agenda and the schedule of workshops.

One workshop of note:

Social Justice Teaching: Weaving Social Justice Themes into Curriculum and Empowering Students

This interactive workshop will show how one world language teacher weaves issues of social justice, human and civil rights, race relations, inequality, and social consciousness into traditional units of language study. The presenter will also discuss how she integrates language acquisition skills in authentic ways into social justice lessons and units while still addressing the demands of the obligatory curriculum. Participants will explore opportunities to weave social justice themes/lessons into their own content areas. They will also examine how to develop students’ social justice consciousness and empower them to take social action.  Room 203

Presenter: Erika Strauss Chavarria is a high school Spanish teacher and member of the NEA Discipline and School-to-Prison Pipeline and MSEA Human and Civil Rights committees. She is a board member of the Howard County Education Association (HCEA), chair of the HCEA Organizing Committee, and member of the  Minority Affairs, and Government Relations committees.

In 2014, Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland wrote about teachers receiving paid professional development days to attend the MSEA convention. He noted that year there was a workshop on union organizing ahead of that year’s election:

How Do We Get What We Want? Organize!

Join us for this special session on organizing successfully in your building and local, whether the issue is professional, political, or your principal. This highly interactive session will be led by NEA organizing guru Floyd Cox, and will begin Friday at 1 p.m. in the Bayfront Ballroom. You won’t want to miss it!

It’s a concern that students are missing classroom time so teachers, in some cases who are paid for the day, can attend a union convention.

Leo Dymowski runs for circuit judge

Leo DymowskiIn case you missed it, Leo Dymowski is running for Baltimore County Circuit Judge. Dymowski ran for Maryland Attorney General as a Libertarian in 2014. I endorsed him and voted for him in that race.

On October 5, Dymowski’s campaign will be hosting a campaign fundraiser at The Seasoned Mariner on Wise Avenue in Dundalk from 6-8 p.m.

His campaign website includes a section on “Rules for a judge to remember.”

The first rule relates to demeanor and notes that “Too many judges are arrogant and forget that they work for the people.”

The second rule discusses “Standing up to career politicians.”

Dymowski discusses the state’s judicial screening commissions that “have approved the son of senate president Mike Miller, the son of senator Norman Stone, the son of senator Walter Baker, the wife of our last governor, and now, the son of a convicted multi-million dollar lobbyist, Bruce Bereano!”

Rule three details “Sitting judges raising money.”

Dymowski talks about the legal profession giving money to judges who will hear cases involving lawyers donating the money. As he says, “Ordinarily, if you gave a judge thousands of dollars and he handled your case the next day it would be considered a bribe.”

Dymowski also points out in Maryland that’s just “business as usual.”

He closes by saying “this is why I am running against business as usual and the rigged system of big money influence in government.”

More on Leo Dymowski

Dymowski is a graduate of Archbishop Curley High School and served in the 82nd Airborne Division during his time in the U.S. Army. He graduated with a political science degree from UMBC. While working at the Housing Authority in Baltimore City he went to night school and received a Master’s in Urban Planning and Management along with his law degree. Dymowski spent 15 years in private legal practice  before becoming a Hearing Officer with the Maryland Parole Commission. He and his wife live in Dundalk, where he is active in animal rescue efforts.