Milwaukee teens “on probation” running around unchecked

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This news really hits home with me. I was a probation officer a long time ago. I supervised adult offenders, most of whom were on probation for domestic violence, other physical assaults, or drug dealing. I had a few on parole for more serious offenses. (We were required to call them “clients” back then. Referring to them as criminals might hurt their feelings.)

I’ve always believed that probation is only a bandaid on a larger problem. In theory it’s great: You get a second chance to live right while under the supervision of law enforcement. In reality, it’s quite often a joke: Offenders know the probation officer has little power to enforce the law with jail overcrowding and certain violent offenses as priorities.

Even though the system is far from perfect, it is sad to see what little it does offer being squandered. Children in Milwaukee are waiting months to receive supervision, and in the meantime are running the streets. Recently a 16-year-old boy was convicted of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle. He received probation in the Serious Chronic Offenders Program (which should tell you something about his record), but waited over two months to start the program.

There are two big problems with this:

  1. The children are not receiving the guidance and supervision they often desperately need.
  2. Some are committing new crimes while unsupervised.

The chief probation officer at the Children’s Court Center say there are too many cases for her probation staff. She says that they each supervise 40 to 44 children. (That’s actually not much, if you’ve ever worked in the field.)

Here’s a big problem: The judges didn’t know there was a “waiting list” for these probation programs. They were sentencing the kids to probation, thinking their supervision would kick in right away. Had they known it would not, they likely would have put some of the more violent kids in secure detention to protect society.

Plastic Surgery Patient Starts Website and Successfully Defends Defamation Claim

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Plastic surgery patient Georgette Gilbert was unhappy with her results, and started a website called My Surgery Nightmare. On the site, she detailed her experience with Dr. Jonathan Sykes, including before and after photos. She had an endoscopic browlift, lower blepharoplasty, cheeklift and fat injections…and I must say that the “after” pictures are scary.

Here is a snippet of what Georgette wrote on her site: Continue reading

Stock Option Backdating: What’s the Big Deal?

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The list of companies involved in stock option backdating and related investigations continues to grow. The Wall Street Journal currently lists more than 120 companies under scrutiny, including the likes of UnitedHealth, Broadcom, Apple, and Home Depot. These companies are either under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Justice Department, or they have issued restated financial statements.

Is anyone surprised anymore when a company ends up on this list? This seems to be the scandal that never goes away, and people aren’t too shocked when a new company is added to the list. The crux of the scandal is the timing of stock options. But calling it “backdating” makes the problem sound far more innocuous than it really is.

As we know, stock options are a popular corporate incentive, generally meant to give executives a vested interest in the company’s stock performance. Options are issued, giving the employee the “option” to purchase shares of the company’s stock at a specified price. This exercise price is usually equal to the market price of the stock on the date the options are granted, meaning that the options are “at the money.” Continue reading

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle Wants to Raise Taxes By $1.74 BILLION

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Remind me again…. didn’t he say in his re-election campaign that he wasn’t going to raise taxes? Sounds like another lie from the Doyle administration…

Here’s what’s in store for us:

  • An additional $630 per each of the 2.76 million income tax filers (but gosh, how beter could this money be spent anyway)
  • $506 million from the $2.02 per pack tax on cigarettes
  • $417 million from the new tax on hospitals
  • $272 million from the tax on oil company profits (not that this will ever happen, but still, he wants it)
  • $142 million from doubling the real estate transfer fee paid
  • Increased “fees” of $376.2 million (but that’s not really a tax, is it?)

And if you’re not tired of bending over yet, property tax bills are probably going to go up by about $350 million at the end of this year… Please sir, may I have another?

Oh wait… they already gave it to us again, by having Doyle’s spokesman Matt Canter say that “… this budget provides targeted tax relief for the middle class…” Yeah, this is what tax relief really looks like.

Pinnacle Development Partners Charged With Running a Ponzi Scheme

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Pinnacle Development Partners LLC has been charged with running a Ponzi scheme that took $69 million from over 2,000 investors. The top man, Gene O’Neal was charged with 19 counts of federal mail and wire fraud.

In 2006, Pinnacle advertised 25% returns in 60 days (which equals a 280% annual return).  The company claimed it earned such high returns by purchasing distressed real estate and quickly selling it at a profit. Continue reading

Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Iraq Reconstruction

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In a February 15 memo to the members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a staggering estimate of the amount of fraud, waste, and abuse carrying out the Iraq reconstruction was revealed:

Last fall, GAO reported to Congress that Pentagon auditors had identified approximately $3.5 billion in contractor charges as “questioned” or “unsupported” costs. The Pentagon auditors have recently informed the Committee of significantly higher estimates of wasteful spending in Iraq. According to the auditors, questioned and unsupported costs have now risen to more than $10 billion – nearly three times higher than previously reported. According to the Pentagon auditors, more than one in six dollars they have audited in Iraq is suspect. Continue reading

On Ethics For Lawyers

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I was recently amused as I was directed to a site detailing “proposed [tag]ethics[/tag] opinions” for North Carolina [tag]lawyers[/tag]. This is no joke. It appears that the ethics rules will prohibit attorneys from handing out business cards, because people might actually give them to potential law firm clients. Do they mean to tell me… *gasp*…. that someone is afraid that an attorney may get a referral after a job well done? And for that very reason multiple business cards may not be handed out?

Apparently so. From the North Carolina State Bar website: Continue reading

Some Basics About Sarbanes-Oxley

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Say it fast five times: Sarbanes-Oxley, Sarbanes-Oxley, Sarbanes-Oxley, Sarbanes-Oxley, Sarbanes-Oxley… If you’re like me, you’re sick of hearing these words.

Lots of people, however, don’t have the first idea what the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is really about. I think the public-at-large thinks it’s legislation that stops fraud. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is true that Sarbanes-Oxley (also fondly referred to as SOX or SarbOx) was meant to protect investors in public companies. It set forth some standards and certain procedures that public companies are required to abide by.

But the legislation itself requires far less than many people believe it does. At the end of the day, the regulations require companies to document their processes and disclose whether or not their internal controls are working. It doesn’t actually force them to materially improve the internal controls. (See my article What Has Sarbanes-Oxley Done For You Lately? for more of my opinions on this.)

So what does Sarbanes-Oxley require? Continue reading

The REAL “Flip This House” is coming back!

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You heard it right! Not those scam artists from San Antonio and Atlanta. This is “The Real Deal.” Quite literally. Richard Davis, his sidekick Ginger, and the rest of the Trademark Properties team are going back on the air (this time with a contract) and I can’t wait! I’ve learned from WallStreetFighter that Richard and Ginger and crew will be on TLC starting March 10th.

From Time Warner Cable:

The Real Deal
Airs Saturdays, March 10th, 9p-10p ET (60 min.)

The Real Deal is the non-stop new series from TLC that takes us inside the world of Trademark Properties for an eye opening and unapologetic look at the true reality of making money in real estate by pulling off the impossible. Each week Team Trademark, led by Richard Davis locate, renovate and if they can pull it off on time and under budget, profit from some of the most challenging projects they can find.

Best of luck to Richard and everyone. I am so glad you’re back!

UPDATE: MediaWeek is reporting that the show will actually begin airing in April.

Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 banned…

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According to InformationWeek, The U.S. Department of Transportation has banned upgrades to Microsoft Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7 and Office 2007. This ban will be for an indefinite period of time. According to InformationWeek:

The agency has an “indefinite moratorium” on upgrades because “there appears to be no compelling technical or business case for upgrading,” CIO Daniel Mintz says in a Jan. 19 staff memo obtained by InformationWeek. In addition, there are “specific reasons not to upgrade,” he says, referring to compatibility with apps, upgrade costs, and an upcoming move to a new headquarters. The ban applies to 15,000 DOT users who now use Windows XP Professional. The memo indicates that a similar ban is in effect at the Federal Aviation Administration, which has 45,000 desktop users.

A friend of mine who is running Vista on a new laptop computer (because there was no other option when purchasing the machine) has had nothing but trouble. The number of bugs in Microsoft Vista are apparently staggering, and compatibility issues with software packages are out of control. What a nightmare!