Not All Rosy in Pasadena

Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains overlooking LA.  Home also of alleged embezzlement of $6.4 million missing dollars.  The suspected formula for embezzlement is to find an obscure budget fund that has been  financing little activity, position city employees in on the scheme as signatories on the fund’s purchases and payments,set up an outside firm to bill for bogus services and then direct the proceeds to conspirators.  A tried and true formula with a long history of ripping off  businesses, non-profits and government jurisdictions, all of whom learned the need for basic accounting controls the hard way.

Why College Takes So Long

The road to a degree is anything but smooth, this story says. The structural problem with public college systems is the extreme fragmentation, compounded by the autonomy so central to the faculty culture that dominates in academe’.  The fragmentation arises mainly from all but inevitable public policy choices over the years — politicians of all stripes benefited from the creation and expansion of local campuses.  Faculty autonomy, which rests upon individual professors “academic freedom” to pursue truth, has morphed into a collective privilege, where the faculty of Department X deems itself the final word on X education, which includes deeming as unworthy courses in the discipline from other colleges.  So students have to go around the bush again.

Elevator Checks on Hold

Over the next month, this blog will cover certain building-related issues in order to facilitate a research project by MPA students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  The ER focus of the blog remains, only the flavor will change a bit.  And so–Chicago has some mighty tall buildings, and NASCAR-speed elevators taking folks to the top. Many have been awaiting their annual inspections for years.  Elevate carefully, my friends.

Supreme Embarrassment

Not long ago I told readers about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice convicted for misusing staff for political activities.  So last year!  This newest Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice in the negative news spotlight is one Seamus McCaffrey, embroiled in a scandal involving sexually explicit materials sent around from official government email addresses.  The judge, whose trajectory towards the Supreme Court–an elected position in Pennsylvania–was boosted by a high profile stint as the on-site judge dealing summarily with rowdyism at Philadelphia Eagles football games, now rides off into the sunset.

CSI Black Eye

Yes, there has been a rash of CSI/forensic lab scandals over the past few years, as this NPR story details. Criminal justice system leaders face a structural challenge in overseeing labs whose science is difficult, if not impossible, for them to fathom.  And peer accreditation faces an equal challenge if, as this story indicates, reviewers are presented with false “complying” paperwork and empty assertions of the “procedural purity” of the lab’s personnel and practices. I think the piece is on the money in placing accountability with individual labs, whose leaders control the ethical culture of their operations. Though the story features a miscreant lab chemist, local accountability would be better served if her boss’s photos, captioned with “resignation,” highlighted the piece.

Bratton Back in Big Apple

Bill Bratton reprises his biggest role–NYPD Commissioner–under the direction of a mayor the polar opposite of Rudy Giuliani.  As this piece, Making of a Police Visionary, suggests, the thoughtful and pragmatic Bratton, a police leader who aligns policy to circumstances and goals while delegating authority and discretion to subordinates, will very likely get the job done.

City of Sea

So this long-term Seattle Public Utilities employee stole a million by depositing checks intended for the city into his personal account. Read closely to count how controls failed–the city allowed the employee to issue invoices and accept payments directly, developers/property owners didn’t realize their checks were going to a “City of Sea” account set up by the employee in a bank whose own controls seem to have been lax. One thing fraud investigators should look for is spoofing nomenclature, bogus accounts and phantom vendors indicating that individuals may be redirecting organizational resources to themselves.