Monday, April 21, 2014

Ex-Mayor Daley’s law firm losing grip on City Hall under Emanuel


Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, City Hall paid millions of dollars in legal fees to Katten Muchin Rosenman, the law firm where Daley now works.

But under Daley’s successor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the firm has seen its City Hall business fall sharply, records show.
Last year, Chicago taxpayers paid Katten Muchin $139,964 — the lowest amount the firm has been paid by City Hall in more than 16 years.

Katten’s City Hall business has fallen even as the firm’s attorneys have contributed $44,300 to Emanuel’s campaign fund, including $17,000 last September.

read more....


Perhaps Chicago is moving towards bringing work in-house using "paid for" labor hours instead of the typical $295 per hour (with assignment of multiple attorneys that goose the effective hourly rate to $900 per hour)?

This would be prudent & a better use of precious taxpayer funds.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Call for Standardizing Teacher Evaluations In Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), in compliance with recently passed legislation in the statehouse in Springfield,  is now in process of implementing the Successor Teacher Evaluation Process (STEP) to include a category related to student growth in order to measure the teacher's effectiveness. Informal and Formal Evaluations are a key component in the contract process for teacher retention or dismissal. This is especially cogent now that most districts have circumvented the seniority system under tenure (protected under in-place collective bargaining agreements) by cleverly moving the hiring/firing process to the local building principal.

Coupled with the initiative is the upcoming implementation of the new Common Core Standards and discarding of the ISAT in favor of PARCC for standardized testing.

Teachers are state licensed and regulated by ISBE based upon academic credentials, work experience and on-going education to maintain a particular level of standards and compliance.

As an illustration, here is contract language from Deerfield District 109 "For the 2013-2014 school year, an Evaluation Plan Committee, which shall be composed of an equal number of Board and Association representatives, shall develop a Successor Teacher Evaluation Plan (STEP) to be used to evaluate all teachers. The STEP shall conform to the State’s statutory mandates for teacher evaluation plans including the student growth component."

Our on-going investigation of improprieties in Teacher evaluations has yielded an interesting trend in this subjective process. 

We have received reports that the evaluation itself (as presently structured) is elementally flawed and skewed. Again, using Deerfield Dist. 109 as an example, the timeline and process are clearly defined.


"The building principal or appropriate supervisor shall acquaint each teacher under his/her supervision with formal, written evaluation procedures, instruments which will be used, and the name of the administrator and/or individual who will be responsible for the evaluation of a teacher’s performance. This shall be accomplished within four (4) weeks of the beginning of the school year or four (4) weeks from the date on which employment actually begins if such is later.

Notification shall be given to the teacher if the assigned evaluator is changed, is unavailable, or an additional evaluator is to be used. 10.4.1.3 A full-time non-tenured teacher or a first through fourth year part-time non-tenured teacher will receive an evaluation at least in accordance with the schedule listed below:

Year 1 2 – Formatives 1 – Summative


Year 2 2 – Formatives 1 – Summative


Year 3 1 – Formatives 1 – Summative


Year 4 1 – Formatives 1 – Summative
The Administration exercises the management right to determine how many additional formative observations may be required for full-time non-tenured teachers and first through   
fourth year part-time teachers. A teacher may, if desired, request one (1) additional formative
observation in Years 1 and 2, and up to two (2) additional formative observations in Years 3 and 4.


Tenured teachers and fifth year or more part-time teachers will receive an evaluation once every two (2) years with a minimum of one (1) formal observation. If a need is seen for more frequent formal observations and/or an additional evaluation by the evaluator, the teacher shall be notified and given the reason for such more frequent formal observations and/or additional evaluation. The teacher may also request more observations if desired. Information resulting from formal observations, informal observations, and data will be used in completing the teacher’s evaluation report. If there are issues that occur or develop during the off year in the evaluation cycle, those issues should be addressed within that off year. However, any issue that is addressed in an off year per the above can appear in an evaluation year.


A professional development plan shall be implemented for any teacher who receives a rating of Needs Improvement. A teacher shall be evaluated each year until the teacher receives a rating of Excellent or Proficient at which time the teacher shall return to an evaluation cycle of once every two (2) years."


We have found that a number of administrators lack similar classroom experience to the teachers being evaluated. For example, there is an Assistant Principal in Deerfield District 109 who served only 3 years as a classroom gym teacher before leveraging the Type 75 required to be an administrator. Being evaluated by a novice administrator is certainly unfair and insulting to seasoned teachers who serve every day in the classroom engaging in direct instruction to students.


In for a penny, in for a pound!

Here is our recommendation. To be consistent, ISBE sets the frame for student standardized testing and the framework for teacher evaluations but has not implemented an independent oversight of this process. A subjective evaluation opens the door to retaliation and personal feelings toward a teacher by an administrator clouding the process.

In the interest of fairness and objectivity, we call upon ISBE to provide independent evaluation of teachers for statewide measure of their effectiveness and compliance with the mandate and the removal of the evaluation process from the local school districts. This policy will also insure uniformity of the evaluation process, just like the standardized testing of students is interpreted across all school districts.

UPDATE:
We just received a response from a seasoned Chicago Public School Teacher with 35 year's experience who related her latest evaluation. Under 5 previous principals she received no evaluation lower than excellent. Her current evaluation conducted by an Assistant Principal with "fifteen minutes experience" only rated her at "Proficient" and lied about the dates and times that he observed her in the classroom. She finds this to be insulting and inaccurate. She takes pride in her work and feels that this is personal. Any dispute that she makes with this evaluation will, unfortunately, turn into a "he said, she said" as she has no written evidence that substantiates her claim of prejudice and deliberate downgrading.
This is certainly a breach of trust and abuse of the evaluation process.





 




Friday, March 7, 2014

SPOTLIGHT ON DEERFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT 109 

Corruption Busters has launched an investigation into allegations of improprieties by Administration Staff regarding continued abuses related to Special Education in the District. We are awaiting receipt of multiple FOIA requests to determine the extent of these actions.

Here is an update to events that transpired from 2012 -2013 regarding the backlash to Special Education policies implement by former Superintendent Goier.

The Deerfield Patch did extensive reporting on the 

discontent expressed by the parents regarding the 

stripping of essential services mandated by the State 

of Illinois for Special Education and shifted to the 

Gifted Program.

Posted by  
"Widespread support for the No Confidence petition will hopefully convince the Board of Education that we do not want them choosing our next Superintendent."
read the full article here...

There is a new Superintendent, Mike Lubelfeld, who has endeavored to provide transparency and a commitment to Excellence in Education. There are newly elected board members (parents who advocated for changes to Special Ed) committed to fair policies.

However, there are administrators who are holdovers from Goier's tenure who allegedly continue, with impunity, to violate teacher rights protected under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Perhaps the Board will need to reconsider recent contract extensions for Administrators who are found to be engaging in professional misconduct?


We will report back as this story unfolds.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Madigan wants state to spend $100 million on Obama library 

SPRINGFIELD — House Speaker Michael Madigan called today for the state to put up $100 million to boost efforts to land the presidential library and museum of President Barack Obama. read the story here...

Here is our alternative suggestion.

Forget the DePaul Arena. McCormick Place is dark over 50% of the year and has a $1.1 Billion deficit. Madigan passes legislation each year to use taxpayer dollars to bail out the MPEA operating budget shortfalls that keep rising.

Put the library at McCormick Place at Lakeshore. 

Here is a suggestion on how to pay for this...
Use the existing bond monies already available for the Navy Pier upgrades (all $60 Million) and the project is almost zero budget. Choose Chicago gets $5 Million a year from MPEA to promote tourism. Mayor Emanuel can match funds from the City budget that would have gone to the Arena. There should certainly be Aldermanic support for this proposal, especially with the promise of additional tourists spending their dollars on Chicago hotels, restaurants and shopping.

We welcome your comments on this issue.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

MPEA DELIBERATELY SHREDS RECORDS 

In a new twist to the orchestrated efforts to conceal information from the public regarding daily operations at Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, MPEA employees are doing a great Colonel Klink impersonation..."I know nothing, NOTHING!"

Two of our latest FOIAs have resulted in MPEA's response that they have no records to provide.

The first requested all written documentation (email, memos, etc.) between Juan Ochoa, CEO, and his appointee to Acting Chief of Staff, Carlos Ponce during Ponce's 9 month's employment in 2009 and 2010. 

Here is the response...."we have no documentation responsive to your FOIA"
That's right. Not one piece of paper! NOTHING. NADA.

We had previously issued a FOIA for a copy of the Process Plan work product that was to be produced for Ochoa by Ponce as a consultant in 2008 that also has miraculously disappeared. Ponce was paid $28,000 by MPEA for this work that he then parlayed into an employment agreement. Ponce then negotiated a Separation Agreement that resulted in an additional payment to him of $34,000 (as previously reported). 

Again, there is no written documentation related to Ochoa's signing off on this abuse of taxpayer funds.

The 2nd FOIA related to documentation surrounding the crafting of the MPEA Interim Board Report issued April, 2010. "Somebody Who Somebody Sent" authored a 145 page fully wordsmithed and polished masterpiece in under 20 days while 2 meetings chaired by John Gates and guided by Bruce Rauner went through the motions of information intake regarding restructuring MPEA and Navy Pier.

Again, NOT ONE PIECE OF PAPER...no notes, minutes, emails. NOTHING. NADA.

We urge the NSA to point their attention to MPEA to conserve records callously destroyed so that taxpayers will have documentation of written communications and phone conversations to determine how a select few can continue to increase the MPEA annual deficit now at $1.1 Billion with impunity!

Patronage workers need to be accountable to taxpayers to protect assets and not channel money to folks seeking personal gain from sole source wired contracts and employment arrangements.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

David Wilhelm Cooking Show on TRS channel

Wilhelm & Hopewell Ventures have created this yummy recipe especially for the Illinois Teachers who contribute to the Teacher Retirement System:

1. Start with a 2003 contract wired by convicted felons Stuart Levine and Joe Cari to obtain a $10 Million commitment of TRS funds for private investment
2. Claim to use these funds for investment in economically disadvantaged companies located in Southern Illinois but instead invests in businesses controlled by your cronies. 
Hopewell proudly posts its portfolio on its website http://www.hopewellventures.com/portfolio.html
There are no companies headquartered in Southern Illinois!
3. Pretend to create jobs in Illinois
4. By contract, insure that TRS does not know the ultimate destination of the investment funds.
5. By contract, insure that TRS cannot cancel any investment for poor performance or loss
6. Take annual management fees that total $3.5 Million despite the fact that these investments never made $1 for TRS.
7. Ultimately lose 32% of the $10 Million investment and still control the remaining $2.4 Million (current value as of 9/30/2013)

Here is a recap of the losses just obtained via FOIA from the TRS



Wilhelm isn't clever enough to cook the books but is adept at making teacher's funds go up in smoke (while raking cash into his own pockets)!

It is curious that the TRS board and management team refuse to terminate this private investment with Hopewell. Perhaps they are simply waiting until there are ZERO funds left.

This is a breach of trust & fiduciary by those folks responsible to safeguard the assets of the fund and contributions of Illinois teachers.

We demand the resignation of Dick Ingram, the TRS Executive Director and the TRS Board Members for gross mismanagement of the fund.

We call upon the Illinois Attorney General & US Attorney to investigate the abuse of these taxpayer funds for personal gain by Wilhelm and his partners.


Friday, February 21, 2014

MIRACLES, THE TOOTH FAIRY AND THE EASTER BUNNY

The world was created in six days.

April 6 to April 21 is only 16 days (12 work days if you deduct the weekend).

My feverish efforts under pressure to write a 20 page term paper for college the night before it was due pales by comparison.

Yet, the MPEA Interim Board performed the second greatest miracle in the history of Man.

Following up on our investigation related to the MPEA Interim Board Report authored by John Gates and Bruce Rauner and issued on April 29, 2010 we issued this FOIA to MPEA on Feb. 13, 2014:

"Please provide in electronic PDF file format all documentation related to the Interim MPEA Board Report to the Illinois General Assembly published April, 2010 (see attached). This request includes all emails, internal correspondence between interim Board members and MPEA employees, meeting notes, communications with City of Chicago or State of Illinois elected officials or employees." 


The response was emailed to us on Feb. 20, 2014
"In response to your Freedom of Information request to MPEA (below), please find the attached Board meeting agendas.  MPEA does not have any additional records in our custody or possession related to your request."

We find this response to be very curious. We reviewed the Interim Report that runs 145 pages in length.

Here is the Table of Contents (Pg. 5)

MPEA INTERIM BOARD REPORT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section 1 Executive Summary

Section 2 Introduction

Section 3 Report to the Joint Committee

Findings and Recommendations
Section 4 Debt Restructuring
Section 5 Focus One & Food Service
Alternative Operating Strategies
Section 6 Competitiveness/Labor
Section 7 Sales & Marketing
Section 8 Governance
 
Section 9 “Legislative Analysis Report” by C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc.
Includes an examination of alternative sales and marketing labor models.
Section 10` “McCormick Place Analysis Report” by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP
Includes an examination and analysis of benchmarking marking Chicago as a
convention and show destination


Here are excerpts from the Report:

"As you know, the General Assembly established the Interim Board to conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of McCormick Place operations and report findings and recommendations to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority. That phase of our work has concluded and the Board hereby submits its report to the Joint Committee today."

"The findings and the recommendations of the board were informed by independent analyses by PricewaterhouseCooper LLP and C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc., bench marking our performance and operations against competing venues and providing an in-depth review of our financial structure. The findings and recommendations of the Interim Board comports with their analysis and counsel." (Pg. 6)

"The Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA) Interim Board of Directors, created in the wake of the McCormick Place crisis, was charged by the Legislature's leadership to present recommendations for corrective action by April 30th of this year. The Board first convened on April 6th and immediately embarked on a concentrated analysis of the key issues surrounding the controversy." (Pg. 9)

"The findings and the recommendations of the board were informed by independent analyses by PricewaterhouseCooper LLP and C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc., bench marking our performance and operations against competing venues and providing an in-depth review of our financial structure. The findings and recommendations of the Interim Board comports with their analysis and counsel." (Pg. 6)

"The Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority (MPEA) Interim Board of Directors, created in the wake of the McCormick Place crisis, was charged by the Legislature's leadership to present recommendations for corrective action by April 30th of this year. The Board first convened on April 6th
and immediately embarked on a concentratedanalysis of the key issues surrounding the controversy."


"It should be recognized that the Board conducted nearly all aspects of its review in open session, accessible to the press and public. In the spirit of transparency, it was the Board's belief that the public should "It should be recognized that the Board conducted nearly all aspects of its review in open session, accessible to the press and public. In the spirit of transparency, it was the Board's belief that the public should hear what it would hear, the questions asked, and its deliberations to
find solutions." (Pg. 9)
 
Yet, according to the MPEA FOIA response, there are no minutes, no drafts of the 145 Report, no emails between board members or employees of MPEA, no communications with either PricewaterhouseCooper or C.H. Johnson Consulting.
Nothing, NADA, Zippo!Page 15 gives a synopsis of the timeline for action:
 
"With so much at stake, on 1-11-10 Governor Quinn and Mayor Daley announced support for legislation to reform labor rules and contractor practices at McCormick Place. MPEA's Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. declared, "Convention business in Chicago is at a crossroads...We can do what it takes, pass this legislation to modernize our business model, create new jobs and growth, or we can continue to operate at a competitive disadvantage and watch the steady decline of our state's most important economic resources."
 
Rather than consider the bill, the Legislature decided to conduct its own inquiry into MPEA’s difficulties. It began by replacing the existing thirteen member MPEA Board and creating a seven member Interim board. Legislative leaders then instructed the Interim board. Legislative leaders then instructed the Interim Board to submit its recommendations to the Legislature.
It further created a 16-member Joint House and Senate panel to examine issues surrounding MPEA and make its own recommendations to the General Assembly by April 30, 2010. House leadership expressed confidence that a McCormick Place reform measure could be passed before adjournment on May 7, 2010. 
The committee held hearings in early April (2010) and heard from all sides of the issue."
Pg. 16 continues...in their own words 
As previously noted, the MPEA Interim Board first convened on April 6, 2010. Then it embarked on a high speed schedule of meetings to prepare recommendations to submit to the Joint Committee on MPEA.
 
It adopted a set of operating principals to guide their deliberations and the formulation of its recommendations. Those recommendations were submitted to the Joint Committee on the 21st of April, 2010."

Yep. Logic and analysis of the 145 page Interim Report indicate that Interim Board was being less than truthful in disclosing what was actually happening.

THIS IS TRULY A MIRACLE!
 
NO NOTES, NO MINUTES, NO EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS. NOTHING ON PAPER. QUITE ADVANCED FOR 2010 EVEN BY TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS! EVERYTHING CAME FROM THE COLLECTIVE HEADS OF THE INTERIM BOARD MEMBERS THAT RESULTED IN CRAFTING A 145 PAGE TERM PAPER ALMOST OVERNIGHT.

THIS RESTORES OUR FAITH IN THE TOOTH FAIRY AND EASTER BUNNY!
 
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE FIRST CASE IN HISTORY WHERE GOVERNMENT WAS MORE EFFICIENT THAT BUSINESS & INDUSTRY.

WE DON'T BUY THIS SNOW JOB AND NEITHER SHOULD THE TAXPAYERS OF ILLINOIS.
 
LET THE TRUE AUTHOR OF THIS MASTERPIECE COME FORWARD AND TAKE FULL CREDIT. THERE SHOULD BE A TICKER TAPE PARADE DOWN ONE SIDE OF NAVY AND UP THE OTHER IN HIS HONOR!

The application process for Rauner to get $50 Million from the TRS took longer.
 
LET US ADVANCE A THEORY OF WHAT TRULY OCCURRED. THE REPORT WAS WRITTEN IN ADVANCE, THE FIX WAS IN AND THE "INTERIM BOARD" SIMPLY WENT THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF HOLDING PUBLIC HEARINGS OVER MAYBE 10 DAYS...THEN VOILA, THEY PULLED A RABBIT OUT OF A HAT (apologies to the Easter Bunny for this metaphor).

This is exactly the pattern employed by Mayors Richie Daley and Rahm Emmanuel with the CPS hearings over school closings. On the surface it appears to be fair and unbiased but the results are already phoned it.

All part of the conspiracy to move $100 Million in taxpayer assets and $1 Billion in anticipated revenue from Navy Pier to a bogus non profit, Navy Pier Inc. run by former patronage employees placed at MPEA by Daley and Madigan, who are the root cause of the legislature removing the MPEA board in the first place.

A complete circle jerk when they thought nobody was looking!

More to come.....