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Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MBTA: Toward a Coal Free T

Kudos to the MBTA for moving away from Dirty Energy and in the direction of Clean Energy and alternatives (Circulated by Sierra Club).

Click on the link and take a look at Massachusetts' Senator Scott Brown's anti-environment vote.

Thank you for taking action in asking Richard Davey, the new Secretary of MassDOT, for a Coal Free T. Below is a message that he asked to be share with the nearly 850 people that took action in asking him to repower the MBTA with clean energy.

Thank you, -Drew

Drew Grande
Sierra Club - Beyond Coal Campaign
Associate Organizer
10 Milk St, Suite 632
Boston, MA 02108

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: General Manager's Office

Thank you for your email regarding my appointment as Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of MassDOT. I also appreciate that you acknowledged the investments made by the MBTA to become a cleaner and more energy efficient organization. I want to assure you that the MBTA will continue to identify opportunities to consume less energy and improve the air quality in the communities served by the Authority.

I am pleased to inform you that on September 7, 2011, the MBTA Board approved a new Power Supply Agreement that will run through December 31, 2015. This agreement is the MBTA’s most progressive energy procurement to date. For the first time, the Authority will purchase Renewable Energy Certificates for 20% of its power requirements. This purchase supports Governor Patrick’s renewable energy initiatives and acknowledges the MBTA’s commitment to improving the environment.

On a separate track, the MBTA will look into pursuing the procurement of solar and/or wind power to meet a portion of its energy needs. We are also upgrading the lighting in five of the MBTA’s facilities as part of the NStar’s Utility Rebate Program. By having these facilities in this program, we expect an annual energy saving of 1.6 million kW hours/year and a cost savings of $206,000/year. Additionally, the Authority achieved budgetary efficiencies by implementing an Environmental Management System that includes recycling programs for electronics, metals, waste oil, cardboard, and newspapers.

Again, I appreciate you taking the time to bring your concerns to my attention. We are committed to identifying projects and opportunities to reduce our consumption of electricity. Furthermore, the MBTA will continue to strive to deliver service in an environmentally friendly matter and become more fiscally responsible in its consumption of natural resources. I also believe that the MBTA’s effort align perfectly with Governor Patrick’s Executive Order #484 (“Leading By Example), the GreenDOT Policy, and Federal Green Communities Act of 2009.

I am looking forward to working with the Sierra Club and other stakeholders in my new role as MassDOT Secretary as we work to provide more environmental benefits to residents of the Commonwealth and lead the nation in transportation excellence.


Richard A. Davey
MassDOT Secretary & CEO

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wall St. protests explode

Ignored by the corporate media.

Secure Communities: Republicans and Sen. Scott Brown: Creating an Issue Where None Exists

The article below appeared in AUGUST, yet Republicans continue to make this an issue, facts be damned!

It's rather pathetic to distort the facts and lie about something that is already being accomplished. Yet the Party that caused the "Recession" and allows it to continue with failed fiscal policies knows no limits to their misinformation.

And then the Johnny-Come-Lately, Senator Scott Brown, who can't get his facts straight, sent a letter in SEPTEMBER (article below) addressing the same NON-issue.

Tarr's, others' Secure Communities call too late
Feds have shut off access to crime program
Wire and Staff Reports The Gloucester Daily Times

Aug 30, 2011

BOSTON — Reacting to the recent arrest and arraignment of an illegal immigrant on a vehicular homicide charge, legislative Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester — have ripped the Patrick administration's immigration policies and announced a bill they said would force him to join federal efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

There's just one problem: The federal government is no longer asking states to sign up.

Several weeks ago, federal immigration authorities rescinded all agreements with states and announced plans to unilaterally implement Secure Communities — a fingerprint-sharing program with the FBI — negating the need for states to enlist.

In addition, the Patrick administration insists it already shares its fingerprint information with the FBI, effectively participating in Secure Communities. The administration also shares with the FBI fingerprint information it receives from cities and towns across the state.

Senior administration public safety officials told the State House News Service that, by state law, all cities and towns are required to share fingerprints with the state from anyone arrested in connection with a suspected felony. In addition, a number of communities voluntarily provide additional fingerprint information.

"Just about everybody shares our fingerprints with the FBI," said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "Everybody does in one sense or the other, but practically every single department does on a daily basis. For most of us, it's sent in automatically."

Despite relying on what appears to be an outdated premise, Republicans fired off an announcement ripping the Patrick administration for refusing to join Secure Communities and suggesting that the governor's actions cost the life of a Milford resident, Matthew Denice, 23, who was killed earlier this month, allegedly at the hands of a drunken-driving illegal immigrant.

Republicans have backtracked since last week, focusing now on the idea that they'd like to see governor show more support for the Secure Communities concepts, noably the sharing of fingerprint and other law enforcement tools.

But the Republicans' initial announcement, which contained quotes from four legislative Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester — included a series of suggestions that Patrick should "join" Secure Communities, an impossibility under the current framework.

"We ought to be giving the people who are charged with protecting us the proper tools, and we are calling on Governor Patrick to do just that by partnering with the Obama Administration and joining the Secure Communities program," Tarr had said in a prepared statement issued last week.

Secure Communities has been billed as a program in which the FBI, which routinely collects fingerprint information from state and local police departments, shares that information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an effort to root out illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes. But it has also sparked waves of protest among immigrant advocates and officials from certain states, who say it promotes profiling and has often been used to target lower-level offenders.

The administration said it supports ICE's efforts to deport undocumented immigrants who commit felonies.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim of this terrible crime. The focus now is on prosecuting the person responsible and ensuring that justice is served. We will provide whatever assistance is required to get that done," said Alex Goldstein, a spokesman for Patrick. "The governor's policy is that serious criminals who are here illegally should be deported. Massachusetts has and will continue to send fingerprints to the federal government, and the Massachusetts Department of Correction will continue to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to facilitate removal of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of felonies in the commonwealth."

In an Aug. 5 letter to Patrick, ICE Director John Morton informed the administration that it would no longer accept agreements with states to enter the program. Instead, the agency determined that because it involves information-sharing between two federal agencies, they don't need state participation to implement the program. The program is expected to be fully implemented by 2013.

The letter clarified what had been months of confusion within states about whether the program was voluntary or mandatory. Prior to ICE's clarification, Patrick had wavered over plans to join Secure Communities, suggesting during last year's re-election campaign that he was still reviewing the program.

Sen. Brown tells Gov. Patrick to join Secure Communities
By Staff reports
The MetroWest Daily News
Sep 14, 2011

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said today he has sent a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick urging him to work with the Obama administration to ensure Massachusetts’ “full and immediate” participation in the Secure Communities program.

"During a Senate Homeland Security committee hearing yesterday, President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano described Secure Communities as 'a key tool in our immigration enforcement efforts to identify those in the country illegally who are also committing other crimes, are fugitives from existing warrants, are multiple illegal entrants or security concerns,' '' Brown said in the letter.

"I agree with Secretary Napolitano, and believe that Secure Communities plays an important role in keeping America safe.

"Recently, three tragic deaths at the hands of illegal immigrants in Brockton and Milford have highlighted the clear need to address this very serious problem. In both cases, the perpetrators were in the country illegally and had amassed violent criminal histories.
"Had the Secure Communities program been in place, it is possible that law enforcement would have been able to identify and remove them from the country before they tragically took three lives.''

"I urge you to work with the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to address your concerns so that Massachusetts may fully participate in this program as soon as possible,'' said Brown.

Recently, John Walsh posted this reply regarding the large field of qualified and impressive Democratic candidates running in opposition to Senator Brown:

Your suggestion that we focus our efforts on telling our friends and neighbors about Scott Brown's record is exactly correct. Voting in YOUR name, Senator Brown has opposed summer jobs for needy kids, opposed reform and expansion of student loans for middle class students, voted to reduce funding for community health centers and job training programs and blocked the extension of unemployment benefits until millionaires and billionaires got their tax cuts. He does all of this in the name of reducing the deficit while he refuses to put aside special deals and loopholes for the five biggest oil companies and hedge fund managers who pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. He's voted to gut clean air regulations and after wild Romney-like gyrations on the matter, he STILL says he supports the "general direction" of Paul Ryan's budget which would have ended Medicare as we know it. Continuing his party's assault on Social Security and Medicare, he voted for the radical "Cut, cap and balance" bill from the Tea Party House Republicans.

Whew! I'm motivated to tell the story of how Scott Brown took a 50-vote-per-precinct win in a special election as a mandate to vote over 90% of the time with Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party Republicans. When our friend Lee Harrison of the Berkshire Brigades called Brown "Kentucky's Third Senator," I think hit hit the nail on the head. We need to continue to tell that story one-on-one to everyone we know and to ask them to do the same.

As enthusiastically as I endorse that portion of your message, I must disagree just as enthusiastically - but respectfully - with your suggestion that a large, contested primary is bad for our party. I wouldn't call for a meeting to "narrow the field" - in fact I wouldn't participate in one. This primary - and in fact each of these candidates - reflects the depth of talent and passion within the Massachusetts Democratic Party. It shows off our strength - and it promises to engage more voters and propel our nominee to victory next November. It - and each of them - makes me proud to lead this party and gives me great hope for a win next November that will reverberate up and down our ballot.

I do hear (and understand) the concerns that a hotly contested primary carries risks. Of course that is true but I believe each of us can mitigate those risks by insisting that the candidates we support run a clean, hard-fought primary - and each of us commits RIGHT NOW to support the nominee post-primary to send Scott Brown, his coat and his truck back to Wrentham for good. I expect and welcome that our candidates won't agree on every issue. Let's hear those debates. I am certain candidates will draw distinctions with their primary opponents and I'm confident we'll survive the occasional sharp elbow that happens in a competitive race.

Scott Brown and his Tea Party Republican friends are our opponents. Talented Democrats offering their service are our friends and the competition among them reflects - and builds - our strength. Tell everyone about Scott Brown's record and pick one of these fine Democrats to offer them as an alternative.

Did you know there are only about 150 days until caucuses? Better get organizing if you want to be in Springfield next June.

Before you decide to vote for Senator Scott Brown's re-election, do yourself a favor and examine his voting record. He's not on your side.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Lies of Trickle Down

The network is experiencing communication difficulties, so this, unedited --

Robert Reich Debunks 6 Big GOP Lies About The Economy

When President Clinton and Vice President Gore left office, we had budget surpluses as far as the eye could see and FULL employment.

Then we had 'let's pretend we're returning the people's money to them' tax cuts for the wealthy that put us in this place.

Pretty quirky what poorly educated people will believe.

Businesses are holding $2 TRILLION and banks are holding $1 TRILLION. That sounds like an economic recovery.

How to talk about Solyndra (and Evergreen)

The Chinese are massively subsidizing the solar market and the Republicans in Congress would rather obstruct and condemn than recognize that the U.S. has a major problem competing.

Dirty Energy receives massive tax breaks, incentives and subsidies Republicans refuse to address or discuss.

How to Talk About Solyndra
—By Kevin Drum

You've probably heard of Solyndra by now, right? It's the solar power company that got $500 million in Recovery Act loans from the Department of Energy and then went belly up a couple of weeks ago.

Conservatives have been trying to paint this as a big scandal of some kind, despite the fact that: the company had plenty of private investors too; it's the only DOE loan that has failed so far; and there's no real evidence that anyone in the White House did anything worse than push OMB to speed up their decision-making process a bit in 2009. Stephen Lacey has the full timeline here.

But I think Dave Roberts probably has the bigger picture right:

Watching this unfold over the last week, I keep thinking back to "Climategate." When it first broke back in late 2009, lefties and bloggers and Dem lawmakers just ignored it, because it was obviously dumb. This left the field entirely open to a massive attack from the right, coordinated among ideological media, staffers, lobbyists, and pols. When the left finally stirred itself to action, all that emerged were a bunch of long, boring investigations into the details and good-faith efforts to be fair about how both sides a point. By the time five separate investigations had cleared the scientists of all wrongdoing, the damage was done. Now we're seeing the same script play out again.

…The right is going after this whole hog, trying to make the name synonymous with clean energy boondoggle. And the left is flailing around, throwing out this fact and that fact with no coherent message. Lord am I tired of watching this script play out.

Unfortunately, I think that a bit of flailing was inevitable. Conservatives had a clear attack line: anything and everything that makes Solyndra look bad. They didn't care what. Liberals didn't have the same luxury. At the time this story broke, none of us knew enough about Solyndra to really have any idea if the company itself was defensible, so a bit of hesitancy was inevitable. But Dave is right: At this point we do know enough, and there's really no reason to hesitate any longer. Basically, Solyndra was working on a solar technology that promised to be cheaper than silicon, and at the time of the loan it looked really promising both to DOE and to private investors. But then the market turned: Silicon prices dropped, and China started producing super low-cost silicon PV. That spelled doom for Solyndra. They had a good idea, but it didn't work out.

In any case, Solyndra is a tiny fraction of DOE's green-energy loan program, and Solyndra's loan guarantees are dwarfed by those of both fossil fuel and nuclear companies, which range into the multiple billions. There was no scandal in the loan process, and there's nothing unusual about having a certain fraction of speculative programs like this fail. It's all part of the way the free market works.

Want to learn more? Read the timeline here, and then listen to Rep. Ed Markey at Wednesday's hearing. You'll learn the facts from one, and how to talk about Solyndra from the other. No more flailing, okay?

From: Nuclear After Japan
Since 2005, new U.S. reactors (if any) have been 100+% subsidized--yet they couldn't raise a cent of private capital, because they have no business case. They cost 2-3 times as much as new windpower, and by the time you could build a reactor, it couldn't even beat solar power. Competitive renewables, cogeneration, and efficient use can displace all U.S. coal power more than 23 times over--leaving ample room to replace nuclear power's half-as-big-as-coal contribution too--but we need to do it just once. Yet the nuclear industry demands ever more lavish subsidies, and its lobbyists hold all other energy efforts hostage for tens of billions in added ransom, with no limit.

From: U.S. Nuclear Industry Goes Nuclear

Consider this -- Nuclear Energy costs

$7,500 per kilowatt to build

That’s more than double the capital costs for solar power and three and a half times the cost for wind.

the most heavily subsidized industry in the energy sector.

In 2005, Congress handed the nuclear power industry $13 billion in federal aid, and two years later went on to approve an additional $20.5 billion in loan guarantees, making U.S. taxpayers the cosigners on loans for new nuclear projects -- half of which are expected to end in defaults.

Wind is already more competitive than electricity generated from new nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

Recently, this article was quite interesting:

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

As well as this:
$22 trillion Social Security surplus revealed on C-SPAN

The time has come for candor.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Iceland has killed hundreds of endangered whales for profit

Since 2006, Iceland has killed hundreds of whales for profit -- including 280 endangered fin whales -- in defiance of an international moratorium on commercial whaling. So far, BioGems Defenders have sent more than 97,000 messages to President Obama, urging him to impose tough economic sanctions on those Icelandic seafood companies that are directly tied to the whaling industry. Long-time whale activist Pierce Brosnan is leading our fight, lending his voice to a short but compelling video on the unconscionable slaughter of endangered fin whales. You can help us alert millions more Americans and build overwhelming pressure on the White House to take decisive action before more whales are killed.

New Ways to Use Less Energy at Home

From the energy specialists at Jetson Green [for additional information, click on the link]:

New Ways to Use Less Energy at Home
Concrete countertops? Blown fiberglass insulation? The payback may be quicker than you think..

For new-home buyers, green is the color of money.

The share of homes being built in the U.S. with environmentally friendly features jumped to 16% of single-family starts last year from 2% in 2006, says McGraw-Hill Construction, a market-research firm in New York. Fueling the trend, industry officials say, is a desire to save energy at a time of high fuel costs. Indeed, in a recent survey, 93% of builders named increased energy efficiency as an important green practice—far more than cited any other benefit.

"People understand energy efficiency because it's easy to measure," says Michele Russo, director of green content at McGraw-Hill, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos. "They get that bill all the time."

Green homes generally cost anywhere from 2% to 10% more than a typical home, depending on the features included, though the difference is shrinking. About 4%, or $14,000, of the cost of a $398,000 home purchased last year by Keith and Rebecca Sorensen was for green features, including a solar water heater and added insulation, says Michael Chandler, who built the three-bedroom residence in Chapel Hill, N.C. But the couple says their energy bill has been cut by two-thirds from their previous home. The roughly $200 a month in savings means the Sorensens' green premium will be paid off in about six years.

"We're kind of tree-huggers, if you want to call us that, but I hate spending a lot of money hurting the environment," says Mr. Sorensen, 38, an accountant.

Many of the latest practices in green building revolve around ways to make homes use less energy. Here's a look at some recent innovations.

Blown Fiberglass Insulation
Blowing fiberglass between walls, rather than installing matted sheets, is a relatively new technique for addressing one of the best ways to improve the efficiency of a home: making sure it's properly insulated.

"After all, it doesn't make any sense to outfit a home with all of these great new, highly efficient technologies and then have it in a home that leaks like a sieve," says Michelle Desiderio, director of the green buildings program at the NAHB Research Center, part of the National Association of Home Builders, in Upper Marlboro, Md.

The old standard in walls was fiberglass sheets, or "batts," but they often didn't keep rooms sealed very tightly. That led to a slew of competing products in recent years, such as cellulose, or recycled paper, and polyurethane spray foam, which provide more insulation because they are blown in to fill all the nooks and crannies between walls, Ms. Desiderio says.

The fiberglass industry has fought back with new products that have insulation values rivaling cellulose and spray foam, without the potentially harmful chemicals they may contain. (Officials of those latter two industries say that toxicity is an issue only when the materials are being installed, and that workers are instructed to wear appropriate safety equipment to avoid exposure.) One technique has been to design a system of blowing fiberglass into wall cavities, such as the JM Spider Custom Insulation System from Denver-based Johns-Manville Corp.

Builders who have switched back to fiberglass say that while the blowing technique costs as much as 40% more than using the batts, it's up to 50% cheaper than using spray foam. Cellulose costs about the same as blown-in fiberglass, but unlike the Spider fiberglass it can hold moisture, says Stephen Crouch, a residential market manager for Johns-Manville.

Green-building experts say the higher insulation costs will eventually be offset by the home's overall energy savings, which can vary widely depending on what other green features are included.

Mr. Crouch says Johns-Manville's Spider sales have continued to increase during the housing slowdown.

Cellulose and spray foam have both continued to gain share in the home insulation market, say officials of the two industries. And cellulose has "superior" moisture-handling capabilities, says Daniel Lea, executive director of the Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association, in Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Lea adds that cellulose is the "greenest of green" insulation, in part because it has such a high content of recycled materials including newspapers.

Spray foam, meanwhile, has added benefits such as being able to reinforce the structural integrity of a house, says Kurt Riesenberg, executive director of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance in Fairfax, Va.

Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pump water heaters have hit the residential market over the past two years as a way to slash bills on electric water heating. Made by companies including General Electric Co. and Rheem Manufacturing Co., the water heaters suck heat out of the air such as in a garage or basement, like a refrigerator running in reverse, and use it to help heat water in a house.

The savings can be significant: In the case of the Rheem HP-50 heat pump water heater, Rheem officials say the average annual operating cost of the device is between $225 and $280, or about half that of standard electric water heaters.

But the heaters aren't cheap. They cost up to $1,500 for a 50-gallon model, or three times as much as a comparable conventional electric water heater and five times as much as natural-gas-powered units (though natural gas isn't available everywhere). To pay back the higher investment would take three to four years, based on the annual savings.

Another issue with the heat pump units is that homeowners could inadvertently end up paying more to heat the home if one is installed in the wrong place. "If you put it in the garage, that's OK, but if you put one in your basement, that will pull heat out of the basement—forcing you to put more heat back in," says Joe Wiehgen, a senior research engineer at the NAHB Research Center. He suggested that wouldn't be as much of an issue in more temperate climes.

Electronic Monitoring
Several companies have come out with home monitoring systems over the past year that let homeowners track their energy use so they can turn off electricity where it isn't needed.

In February, France's Schneider Electric SA introduced the Wiser Energy Management System, which lets homeowners see a computerized display of their power consumption so they can make adjustments, such as shutting down power to unused appliances. Costing about $600 with installation, the Wiser system can take $60, or 20%, off a $300-a-month power bill, meaning a payback period of as little as a year, says Jeff Drees, president of Schneider's U.S. division.

Similarly, Atlanta-based Powerhouse Dynamics Inc. last year introduced the eMonitor, which costs about the same and advertises a comparable payback period. At the Sorensen residence in North Carolina, the builder, Mr. Chandler, says he included an eMonitor system in the home and has agreed to monitor power use for the family.

"It shows you in a graphical format where there are spikes and stuff," says Mr. Sorensen, who shares the home with his wife and their three children.

Concrete Countertops
At least one green building technology costs less right out of the gate: concrete countertops.

Inspired by "Concrete Countertops: Design, Forms and Finishes for the New Kitchen and Bath," a book by designer Fu-Tung Cheng of Berkeley, Calif., builders around the U.S. have taken to making countertops by mixing their own concrete on a home site. The technique is considered both greener and cheaper because the concrete doesn't have to be shipped like the more prevalent granite counters, says Mr. Chandler, who began building them last year.

According to online calculators, it costs around $1,100 to make 50 square feet of concrete countertop, compared with $2,000 for granite.

But the do-it-yourself approach has its drawbacks. "The challenge is getting the right training for your crew," Mr. Chandler says. "You have to know how to reinforce steel in the right way. It's not intuitive."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Special Needs Students Betrayed by State's Failure to Audit

No one noticed 'collaboratives' receiving public funds and not being audited?

The need is great and public schools are struggling, while abuse is unchecked.

Scandal after scandal surrounds Beacon Hill while they glad hand lobbyists and concoct legislation behind closed doors.

Maybe it's time for legislators to do their jobs, what they were elected for.

Time to correct this. Maybe even before focusing on Slot Barns.

Is it truly any wonder that voters are cynical?

OPINION: Funny finances at READS Collaborative

Is it really a lot to ask of our educators to not appear driven by greed? Is it a lot to ask them to follow the law and not use evasive maneuvers to line their pockets with outrageous amounts of money that few others can ever hope to earn?

The answers are obviously “no” – and that was made very clear in an audit released Wednesday.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump said the financial operations of the READS Collaborative, which works with special needs students in dozens of area school district, were a mess, at least until 2010 when READS began taking steps to clean up its act.

The finger of blame is pointed at former READS executive director Martin T. Hanley Jr., who retired as Carver school superintendent in 2003 and later became the heads of READS. Hanley isn’t named in Bump’s reports, but he is the person referred to when Bump says he violated state pension law by collecting nearly twice as much in salary as he was allowed.

The most troubling aspect of the case is that Hanley knew he was violating the law because he was informed by the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System in 2008 that his READS salary exceeded state limits. But instead of taking a lower salary, Hanley arranged to be paid by another READS entity that has since been disbanded.

Hanley would not tell the auditor what financial arrangements he made, but Bump is clear in saying that the executive director of READS – that’s Hanley – was paid inappropriately by the nonprofit group.

Hanley was already collecting $90,000 per year from his school pension when he took over READS, which serves 1,000 special needs students in Abington, Bridgewater-Raynham, East Bridgewater, Lakeville, Middleboro, Taunton and West Bridgewater, among others.

He was paid $103,572 as the heads of READS in 2009 and $106,679 in 2010. He left the post in June. Bump said these salaries exceeded state law by $118,000 over the two years.

It also is troubling that, according to Bump’s office, money went back and forth between the two READS groups without much concern for propriety. There also were more than $2 million in questionable costs and loans. Even more problematic was that READS apparently overcharged school districts for services and did not follow “an effective policy” for reimbursing collaborative members.

The audit said READS also should have invited non-member school districts – such as Brockton, Easton and Whitman-Hanson – who used its services to join READS, which would have saved them more than $1 million over a two-year period.

READS knew this audit was coming and has done a few things to get its house in order. But Hanley should be forced to pay back the $118,000 he improperly collected in excess compensation. If he refuses, the matter should be referred to the attorney general’s office.

What this case shows is that there is still a lot of money available for special education, but that it has to be carefully monitored.

Most troubling about this case is that the head of that organization – Hanley – didn’t do enough to make it more efficient and useful to school districts and students in the area. Instead, he seemed more worried about finding a way to collect as much money as possible through his salary and pension – nearly $200,000 per year total. That’s offensive and outrageous.

Former special education group director earned more in salary than pension law allowed, audit says
Retired Carver superintendent earned $118,000 more than allowed
By Vicki-Ann Downing
Enterprise Staff Writer

Martin T. Hanley Jr., retired Carver school superintendent, earned at least $118,000 more in salary than he was permitted under state pension law when he was executive director of a Brockton area special needs collaborative.

This finding was among the conclusions drawn by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump in a review of the financial operations at the READS Collaborative, where Hanley worked, and two other educational collaboratives: Southeastern Massachusetts Educational Collaborative, based in New Bedford and Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, based in Billerica.
Together, she said, the three organizations generate more than $31 million in annual revenue and serve 32 single and regional member school districts and their nearly 1,000 special needs students.

Bump said she found evidence of mismanagement and improper spending at all three collaboratives. The results of the audits were released Wednesday.

The READS Collaborative was established in 1989 to serve special needs students in Abington, Bridgewater-Raynham, East Bridgewater, Lakeville, Middleboro, Taunton and West Bridgewater, among others.

As the retired school superintendent in Carver, Hanley was limited in the amount he could earn in retirement.

When the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System notified Hanley in 2008 that his compensation from the READS Collaborative exceeded those limits, Hanley arranged to be paid by another entity, READS Inc., a nonprofit corporation, the audit found.

Hanley would not tell auditors what arrangements he had made with the retirement system, the audit report said. He retired from READS in June.

“Since the corporation is a separate nonprofit entity, the executive director appears to have believed that this compensation arrangement would not represent a violation” of state law, according to the audit report.

“However, even though he charged all of his compensation expenses to the corporation, these charges were inappropriate, since he also simultaneously administered READS,” the audit said.

While being paid by READS, Hanley was also getting $90,000 a year – $7,518 a month – in his pension from the Carver School Department, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System said Wednesday. He retired from that job on July 1, 2003.

Until June 30, the Middleboro-based organization maintained two separate entities: The READS Collaborative, which provided regional programs for special needs students, and the nonprofit corporation, which provided early-intervention and other services eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

The organization did not do a good job of separating the entities, the audit found.
Christopher Thompson, a spokesman for Bump, said funds were transferred between the two organizations, a concern because the nonprofit does not have as much government oversight as the collaborative.

The READS audit also found as much as $1.28 million in “questionable allocations of administrative costs” and a “questionable loan” of $944,000 from READS to the corporation. READS charged non-member school districts “hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fees” to pay back the loan, the report said.

READS also accumulated a surplus of $3.4 million because it charged non-member districts more for services than it cost to provide the services and more than it agreed to charge them in its collaborative agreement, the audit found.

READS did not follow “an effective policy” for reimbursing districts for the excess, the report said.

Also, non-member school districts receiving services through READS should have been invited to join the collaborative, which would have saved them $1.05 million over the period of the audit, 2008 to 2010, the report said.

Among the school districts that could have saved money were Brockton, Whitman-Hanson, Randolph, Halifax, Holbrook, Easton and Rockland, according to the audit.
Hanley could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Theresa A. Craig, who succeeded Hanley as executive director on July 1, said READS has already made changes as a result of the audit’s findings.

The corporation was dissolved on June 30, so READS now operates as one entity, she said. One district, Acushnet, has begun formal proceedings to join the collaborative.

“We’re going to use the report to move forward in a positive way and continue to serve students,” said Craig. “The audit will inform how we move forward, without a doubt.”

Bump on Wednesday called on the state Legislature and the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to take steps to make sure changes are made to prevent abuses in the collaborative system.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Middleborough-based READS Collaborative

In the wake of Billerica-based Merrimack Special Education Collaborative scandal that uncovered misuse and abuse of public funds, Middleborough-based READS Collaborative was audited with the comments and report below. The report is worth reading. This betrays not only the public trust, but those public funds were intended to serve.

Auditor seeking expanded powers
Wants authority to track spending of any public funds

Bump said that a significant, but undetermined, portion of that money is awarded to subcontractors who have no obligation to cooperate with her efforts to monitor their use of state funds.

“We should have the legal authority to look at how that money is spent,’’ she said.

Bump said the roadblocks to her investigations of education collaboratives were put up during audits of the Middleborough-based READS Collaborative, and the Billerica-based Merrimack Special Education Collaborative.

At the READS Collaborative, Bump found that the former executive director avoided limits on his state teacher’s pension by listing 100 percent of his salary at a related nonprofit organization, even though he also served as the executive director of the collaborative.

Auditor Bump's report on the
Southeastern Massachusetts Education Collaborative