Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. It’s more than beaches and barbecues. It’s more than a good sale at the mall. It’s about reflecting on and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
More than one million servicemen and women have given their lives fighting for this country, and their sacrifices have not only kept us safe, they’ve kept us free. The least we can do to honor these brave men and women on Memorial Day is reflect on their service and thank them for our liberty, which far too often we take for granted. Freedom of speech is one of the liberties most important to our mission as an organization, so we at Franklin Center are especially grateful to all who have fought to protect it.
War separates thousands of military personnel from their families. Some are separated for months or years at a time, and some are separated permanently. On Memorial Day we must not only honor the heroes we’ve lost, but we must serve and appreciate the families that have been separated by war. Invite them to your cookout. Bring them to the beach. Nothing will make you appreciate your family more.
Although Memorial Day only comes once a year, it’s important we don’t forget the sacrifices that men and women in the armed services, and their families, make on a daily basis. We should express our gratitude for their sacrifices as often as we can, and more importantly, we should all strive to lead a life worthy of their legacy – and defend freedom and liberty in whatever way we can.
One of President Obama’s most ardent liberal supporters has defected from ObamaCare.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, told a Colorado health policy think tank that ObamaCare premiums will be too expensive for some of the wealthiest addresses in America – ski resorts like Breckenridge and Keystone.
He says he’s asking the feds to let them sit out the president’s national health system.
“We will be encouraging a waiver,” Polis told Health Policy Solutions in a story that ran today. “It will be difficult for Summit County residents to become insured. For the vast majority, it’s too high a price to pay.”
Click here to watch TV coverage of NJ Watchdog’s investigation on NBC!
Timothy Carroll retired at age 33. He claimed he was “totally and permanently” disabled by the trauma of seeing dead bodies while working as a sheriff’s officer in Morris County, New Jersey.
“I suffer from crime scene flashbacks and hallucinations due to all the years I served as a crime scene detective,” stated Carroll in his disability application.
The real shock is Carroll then started a business that cleans up gory crime scenes, a New Jersey Watchdog investigation found. Yet the state continues to pay him a disability pension for life, a sum that could total $1 million or more.
Carroll’s company – Tragic Solutions LLC, of Linden – specializes in removing human residue from “bloody and/or messy” scenes, including “murder, suicide, accidental, natural and decomposing deaths,” according to its web site. He formed the business with Thomas Rohling, another former Morris sheriff’s officer who draws a state disability pension.
“I really don’t want to comment on this,” Carroll told NBC 4 New York, New Jersey Watchdog’s partner on the investigation.
“This says there is a problem with the whole pension system, the way the whole system is set up,” said John Sierchio, a trustee of the state Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. PFRS paid out $175 million to 5,067 disabled retirees in 2011 – figures expected to rise when 2012 data are released.
Disability applications received by the PFRS have doubled in the past year – and 95 percent of those claims are questionable, according to Sierchio.
The supposedly career-ending incidents have included a fireman who fell out of bed while sleeping, an officer who fell off his chair while sitting down, cops who slipped on wet floors or icy sidewalks, and a patrolman who suffered emotional trauma because his lieutenant yelled at him during roll call.
“It’s people who don’t want to work anymore,” said Sierchio, a Bloomfield police sergeant who has served on the PFRS board since 2002. “The last two officers shot in New Jersey are back to work, but the guy who trips over a curb is sitting on a beach getting two-thirds (of salary) tax-free.”
In New Jersey, it’s relatively easy to fake or exaggerate an injury to get a disability pension. The PFRS has no staff to investigate fraud. Nor do any of the state’s five other retirement funds for public employees.
“No one is watching,” said Sierchio.
The Tragic Solutions case illustrates how weak laws, red tape and lack of enforcement contribute to the woes of a state pension system that faces a shortfall of nearly $42 billion. New Jersey Watchdog obtained the records through Open Public Records Act requests.
In 1999, Carroll told pension officials he was unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression caused by what he witnessed while responding to a car accident and three suicides.
“I started having crime scene flashbacks and hallucinations in 1997,” wrote Carroll. “In September of 1998, I suffered a hallucination while working at the courthouse. I was removed from work and placed in a mental hospital.”
Carroll began receiving disability checks after the PFRS board approved his retirement effective May 1999. Five years later – in April 2004 – Carroll and Rohling formed Tragic Solutions, according to state business records. For Carroll, the timing would prove crucial.
NASHVILLE — Officials in 33 government entities throughout Tennessee wasted or misused almost $11.7 million of taxpayer money according to audits that the State Comptroller released during March.
City of Whitwell
More than $6,200 in overdraft fees was added to two of the city’s bank accounts.
The city paid more than $2,200 for unnecessary Internet services. The city used AOL and MSN dial-up Internet service until switching to a DSL Internet vendor in 2008. However, the city continued to pay more than $40 per month to AOL and MSN for their services as well.
§ The former city recorder sold a total of 120 hours of vacation leave back to the city at a total cost of $1,305. However, there was no provision in the city’s personnel policy allowing for the sale of vacation leave.
Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley
The Project Director submitted fictitious invoices for reimbursement from the organization that resulted in personal gain. The fraudulent expenses included in reimbursement requests amounted to $2,524 and $4,944.
A cash shortage of at least $4,768 existed, in addition to questionable payroll disbursements totaling $4,121.
During a review of court officers’ timesheets, it was noted that at least two employees were routinely working less than the required 30 hours per week, but were still receiving benefits awarded to full-time employees. The county’s estimated cost of benefits for these two employees, including paid leave, health insurance, and retirement totaled $9,232.
Expenditures exceeded appropriations in major appropriation categories, including General Purpose School and School Federal Projects by $355,034.
Salaries exceeded line-item appropriations in the General Purpose School, School Federal Projects, and Central Cafeteria funds by amounts ranging from $319 to $64,895.
The General Purpose School Fund purchased cartons totaling $1,194 from Southern Carton Company. David Kennedy, the husband of school board member Barbara Kennedy, is the owner of Southern Carton Company. These purchases violate the conflict of interest statute.Continue reading.
BOISE — A bill that would block a newspaper from being able to publish notices of trustee sales if that newspaper has a financial interest in the sale has passed the Senate despite lingering concerns that the bill could cast a large legal net around people and companies that have only a minor interest in the sale or even block larger newspapers from publishing the notices.
House Bill 624 says it is a misdemeanor for a newspaper to publish notices of trustee sales if that newspaper will directly or indirectly profit from such publication. The legislation is largely a response to the recent purchase of the Kuna-Melba News, where the owner is both the publisher of trustee notices and a trustee.
Supporters said the measure would keep the trustee from benefiting from only publishing notices in as small a venue as possible. A trustee, Republican Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said, has a duty to put all other interests ahead of his own. Rice said that can’t happen if the trustee can decide to limit publication in a small newspaper.
But opponents said the bill would subvert the free market and prevents newspapers from capitalizing on the “vertical integration” of their business lines.
LANSING — One can’t underestimate the power of the action Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, and his colleagues made last week with the passage of a Senate bill that aims to stop the taking of money from unsuspecting home health care workers in Michigan.
More than $29 million has been skimmed off the top of home health care worker paychecks since the Service Employees International Union pushed a unionization drive on them through a series of intricate and suspect dealings that took place under the governorship of Jennifer Granholm.
Think about that. With $29 million you could buy Michael Jordan’s suburban Chicago mansion. You could fly first-class to Rome at least 4,758 times.
Or you could line the pockets of union bosses for almost four years.
The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill in June that would have ended the scam. It made its way to the state Senate where it was passed out of the Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee but languished because Senate leadership didn’t put it up for a vote.
HONOLULU — As protestors demonstrated at the federal building against the Affordable Care Act, state legislators wrestled with Hawaii’s plans to implement the law, which mandates universal health insurance coverage for all Americans.
Today is the second anniversary of passage of the law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and informally known to its critics as “Obamacare.”
In the state Senate, community groups including the AARP continued to voice opposition to a perceived lack of consumer representation and to conflicts of interest on the board of a non-profit company that is implementing the Affordable Care Act here.
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinnhas a dilemma. The state constitution requires him to balance his budget. The governor figures he can find $2.7 billion in savings through cuts to the state’s Medicaid program. The costs of failure are huge, and few think the governor will succeed.
Even those cuts would simply hold Medicaid spending flat, and wouldn’t begin to address the $2 billion the state owes in overdue Medicaid bills.
If the Legislature can’t agree on cuts, Medicaid eventually will squeeze other areas of the state budget, including education and public safety. On top of that, the state will wind up with $21 billion in overdue Medicaid bills by 2017, according to the CivicFederation, a budget watchdog based in Chicago.
“Medicaid liabilities continue to squeeze discretionary spending, and if nothing is done this session, more and more services and facilities will be reduced or eliminated just to pay these costs,” Brie Callahan, a spokeswoman for Quinn, said.
Making such drastic cuts would help balance the budget, but it’s going to be almost impossible, said Joy Wilson, health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, a lobbying group for state legislatures.
“Over a year or over two years, those are hard numbers to get out of the Medicaid program as it’s currently constituted,” Wilson told a rare Illinois Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday. “It is very hard to get savings in the Medicaid program in real time. It just is.”
ALEXANDRIA — Indiana resident SteveWixson has discovered what more Virginians will soon find out: Allergies are more than uncomfortable. They might lead to a stretch in jail.
Wixson is an allergy sufferer and a loyal user of Claritin-D throughout spring and summer. Like a lot of pharmacies, the one in suburban Indianapolis where Wixson bought his Claritin-D tracks purchases of the remedy because it contains ephedrine.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, a derivative, are legal drugs, but they’re also essential to the production of illegal methamphetamine.
Wixson figured his store would warn him before he inadvertently acquired more Claritin-D than legally allowed under state and federal laws.