Archive for the ‘Scandals’ Category
An Attempt at Restoring Academic Integrity
by Silence Dogood
At Meet and Confer on October 18, 2012, the Faculty Association (FA), almost six months from the initial meeting on May 2, 2013 to discuss transcript adulterations where the evidence that a student had registered for a course is removed from their academic transcript, officially asked for the data for all “poofs” (a term coined by Provost Devinder Malhotra) granted from FY07 to FY12 including the reason for the request and the person who approved the request for removal from the transcript. The FA also asked for a committee to be formed that would include faculty to review all future drops. Provost Malhotra said that this matter was an administrative prerogative and he would not consider participation of the faculty.
The Faculty Association was later informed by the administration that the data requested was stored in multiple locations and multiple formats and would be prohibitively expensive to obtain. What the administration agreed to provide was an analysis of a representative sample of one year’s data. The administration stated that for FY 2012, there were 1,197 academic petitions submitted requesting a change in status. Data provided by John Palmer in his report of May 10, 2013 indicated that out of the 1,197 cases where academic petitions were submitted between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 (FY12), a subset of 237 cases (19.7%) were selected for further review.
Late in Spring Semester, a copy of the original data set without identifying information was obtained. Identifying information was removed so that it would not violate FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act). It is important to note that this data was not provided officially by the administration. Until the Palmer report, the only data provided by the administration was provided by President Potter at Meet and Confer on February 21, 2013 when he listed the number of grades that had been changed from “F” to a “W”. President Potter seemed quite pleased to cite how small a percentage these represented out of the total number of grades reported. What is curious is why President Potter was answering a question that was not asked by the Faculty Association.
At the last Meet and Confer of the year on May 2, 2013 (coincidentally the same day one year earlier that this issue had been brought to the attention of the administration by the faculty), John Palmer, who had been tasked with the process of analyzing the data, began his report with about 5 minutes left in the meeting. At 5:00 p.m., Provost Malhotra (who was chairing the meeting) said “in the interest of time what we’ll do is we’ll put this item back on the agenda for Meet and Confer next time we meet.” With Meet and Confer over, he and President Potter got up and left the room.
What is surprising about these events begins with the fact that Associate Provost Palmer has always provided a written report prior to giving his review. In this case, he was reading his report without providing a written copy. Later, it was learned that he was directed not to provide copies of the report because “the Provost had not had time to review the report.” Eventually, John Palmer’s report was forwarded to the Faculty Association on May 10, 2013.
Dr. Palmer’s report contains a large amount of information about the 1,197 academic petitions submitted and much information has been gained. Despite the disappointment of not having complete data going back to FY07, it was a beginning in good faith to understand scope of the “issue.” The administration is loath to call it a problem. However, whatever you call it, the process is certainly not complete. The administration promised information for FY13, which has yet to be shared.
On July 1, 2013, John Palmer was removed from his position as Associate Provost of Faculty Relations (something that almost everyone on campus knows but something that has yet to be announced to the campus). With John Palmer’s departure, the investigation of transcript adulterations has essentially ended without providing data for FY13. It is apparent that, in the eyes of the administration, the “issue” is closed. I guess I wouldn’t want to keep talking about disappearing grades that at first I had said was not a problem, then had admitted it was a ‘small’ problem.
Excuse me! Disappearing grades is a HUGE PROBLEM. Whether you call them ‘drops’ or ‘poofs,’ the idea that the record of registration is removed from a student’s transcript without the faculty member’s knowledge is simply unacceptable. And yes, even the administration’s own data shows that in over 30% of the cases, faculty are not consulted.
So the issue has now shifted from trying to understand the scope of the problem of disappearing grades to finding a way to create a process going forward that will insure the integrity of the faculty member’s role is assigning grades and the administration’s responsibility of maintaining a record of the grades assigned. A document was brought to the Faculty Senate on September 10, 2013 by Professor Jack McKenna, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee:
Proposed Joint Committee on Late Withdrawals and Drops
On January 14, 2013, Provost Malhotra’s memo Re: Petition Process for Late Withdrawals and Drops lists 10 individuals as “decision makers.” John Palmer’s Summary Analysis dated May 10, 2013 lists 16 people as “Authorized Decision Maker (ADM).” Even with “guidelines” provided by Provost Malhotra, this number of individuals, whether it is 10 or 16, making enrollment transcript change decisions cannot help being inconsistent.
This spring, the Academic Policy Working Group (a joint administration/faculty advisory committee) brainstormed with Assistant Dean of University College Nancy Mills several mechanisms for dealing with late withdrawals and drops. No formal proposal as to the process was agreed to at the time. However, the suggestion was for a committee to review all late withdrawals and drops for the purpose of standardizing the process and providing consistency in the decisions being made. It was suggested that a committee of five individuals be formed for the purpose of developing a process and basis for making these enrollment decisions. A suggested makeup of the committee was suggested: Assistant Dean of University College (Nancy Mills); A Dean or Assistant/Associate Dean (selected by the administration); Director of Financial Aid (Mike Uran); Faculty Director of Advising (Steven Klepetar); and a faculty member (selected by the Faculty Senate). Additionally, a member from the Office of Records and Registration would be a non-voting ex-officio member. The committee would provide a report of summary data at Meet and Confer each term.
From the minutes of the Faculty Senate on September 10, 2013: 013 8.c.1-8.c.3)—McKenna spoke to Faculty Senate.
Motion to approve the formation of a grade change policy working group to make policy and recommendations, comprised of six members: Assistant Dean of University College, a Dean or Assistant Dean appointed by Administration, Director of Financial Aid, Faculty Director of Advising, and two faculty members appointed by Senate—(Karasik/Hubbs). Amended and passed unanimously.
Motion to change one faculty to two faculty appointed by Senate—(Hubbs/Hergert). Passed
The amended motion passed the Faculty Senate unanimously—something that does not happen too often!
The motion was presented to Provost Malhotra by FA President Steve Hornstein on Monday, September 16, 2013. The motion was also presented at Meet and Confer on October 9, 2013, where Provost Malhotra said he would respond “within ten days.” Why it should take from September 16, to October 23 to respond is a mystery to me. However, all editorial comments aside, the faculty await the Provost’s response by October 23, 2013.
There are many definitions of integrity; a popular one says that integrity is the “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”
It’s time for the administration to step up and do the right thing. The removal of the record of registration of a student in a class is something that should not happen as a routine matter of course. It is something that should happen only in extreme circumstances. If this is not the case, then the very foundation of the academic integrity of the university is called into question.
President Potter and Provost Malhotra, form the Academic Petition Review committee and begin the attempt to restore academic integrity to SCSU.
Technorati: Corruption, Student Transcripts, Late Drops, Late Withdrawals, Earl Potter, Devinder Malhotra, St. Cloud State, Jack McKenna, Steve Hornstein, Faculty Association, John Palmer, Data Analysis
To: St. Cloud State faculty
From: Gary Gross, citizen journalist
Subject: St. Cloud State’s transcript cover-up
I’ve written lots of articles about President Potter’s attempt to cover up his administration’s transcript scandal. These aren’t baseless accusations, though they’ve been characterized that way by this administration. It’s been verified by some of your colleagues. This is one of the posts I’ve written on the scandal. Judge for yourself if my accusations are baseless or irrefutable. This is from Dr. Phyllis VanBuren’s monthly column for the St. Cloud Times:
Meet & Confer sessions are held regularly between the Faculty Association and St. Cloud State’s administration. On every agenda of M&C minutes from October 2012 through this May, the topic of grades changes appeared.
The minutes show there is a lot of finger-pointing and the need for data sharing and adherence to policies and practices by students, faculty and administration. There are two main issues. One involves changing grades, usually to a W. The other involves the possibility of dropping classes from transcripts without informing faculty.
This post verifies as fact that students’ participation in classes have been completely deleted:
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Last spring, Tamara Leenay, a chemistry professor at St. Cloud State University, was reviewing grades when she came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a couple of years earlier.
“I noticed the course was not even on his transcript,” Leenay said. “There was no ‘F.’ There was no course number…It was completely gone. And I have [a] record that he was in my class and that I gave him a grade…and I was never notified of any of these changes.”
Leenay’s experience isn’t unique. Faculty members at St. Cloud State say they’re concerned that students’ grades have mysteriously disappeared from transcripts. Professors and instructors aren’t sure how widespread the problem is, but say, except in rare instances, the university’s failure to notify them of grade changes is an ethical breach.
“A number of faculty members raised concerns that they believed from what they were seeing that student’s grades were actually disappearing off transcripts,” said Stephen Hornstein, president of the university’s faculty association. “A student would take a course, get a poor grade and then a semester or two later that grade would not appear on the transcript at all.”
Dr. Leenay’s statement was unequivocal. There isn’t room for interpretation. A student took a class from her. The student failed the class. Later, she discovered that the student’s participation in the class had disappeared from St. Cloud State’s official transcript system.
Despite this irrefutable proof, the administration insists proof doesn’t exist:
In addressing this concern at a meet and confirm meeting conducted amongst university professors and administration, Hammer said the cause for concern primarily dealt with late drops and withdrawals.
Here’s what Provost Malhotra said about the issue:
Recently, questions about student registration and transcript changes, specifically late withdrawals and drops, at St. Cloud State University have been reported in a few media outlets.
Apparently, Provost Malhotra think that getting a grade removed after a student has failed the class deals specifically [with] late withdrawals and drops.
When your colleagues have a name for when the transcripts have been permanently and secretly altered, that suggests this isn’t an isolated incident. When your colleagues add ‘poofs’ to the campus jargon, that’s proof that the administration isn’t telling the whole truth about this.
When academic integrity is compromised at a university, no amount of rebranding will help wipe that away. The only way to correct that is to admit that it happened, then restore the students’ transcripts. Without that act of integrity, the university’s reputation will continue suffering.
When the IRS scandal first broke, the administration attributed it to rogue agents in the Cincinnati office. Jay Sekulow’s op-ed on the Lerner emails demolishes that storyline:
Last week, while the world’s eyes were fixed upon the Obama administration’s fumbled response to the Syria crisis, new documents emerged in the allegedly “phony” IRS scandal.
These documents, emails from Lois Lerner, then Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, were short, but highly damaging to the IRS’s persistent (and pernicious) spin.
The first email, a February 1, 2011, message to, among others, Obama donor and fellow IRS executive Holly Paz, proclaims: “Tea Party matter very dangerous. This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue over whether Citizen’s United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax exempt rules…Cincy should probably NOT have these cases – Holly please see what they have please [sic].”
That Lerner said that Cincinnati shouldn’t deal with TEA Party cases raises thousands of red flags. It’s probably why she attempted to plead the Fifth. First, Ms. Lerner testified that the IRS scandal was about rogue agents in Cincinnati, a fiction that didn’t convince anyone. Next, these emails arrived courtesy of the IG of the IRS. They clearly prove Washington was involved in this scandal up to its eyeballs. Ms. Lerner’s emails necessarily means Cincinnati wasn’t involved in mothballing TEA Party organizations’ tax exempt status.
It doesn’t get better for Ms. Lerner after that:
First, Lois Lerner unquestionably misled the public when she stated in her initial, May 10, 2013, apology for IRS targeting that the scandal centered around “our line people in Cincinnati.” In reality, this was and is a Washington scandal, with senior IRS officials at the epicenter.
Thanks to the Lerner emails, we know definitively that Washington handled things, not “line people in Cincinnati.” We know that Ms. Lerner thought that TEA Party organizations were “very dangerous.” That’s a statement indicating her political beliefs. This statement didn’t discuss IRS policy on organizations’ tax exempt applications. That calls into question Daniel Werfel’s sham investigation that concluded that the IRS targeting of TEA Party organizations’ applications wasn’t politically motivated.
What the Lerner emails indicate is that the targeting of TEA Party applications was politicized by the IRS. In fact, they were politicized by Lerner herself:
Second, key leaders at the IRS are highly partisan. Lerner’s May statement contains this howler: “They didn’t do this because of any political bias. They did this because they were working together.”
Ms. Lerner shouldn’t be allowed to return to the IRS in any capacity because she’s a political animal working in a position that requires nonpartisanship. In short, she’s utterly unqualified for the job.
To: Chancellor Steven Rosenstone
From: Gary Gross, citizen journalist
Subject: SCSU Crisis
Chancellor Rosenstone, I was optimistic when you were hired as the new chancellor of the MnSCU system. That optimism has faded as I gathered information about what was happening at MnSCU universities. Honestly, most of the information that’s troubling me from a policy standpoint has come from St. Cloud State.
Historically speaking, St. Cloud State has been one of the premier universities in the MnSCU system. At this point, it’s difficult to picture St. Cloud State as MnSCU’s flagship university. I’ve documented President Potter’s financial mismanagement in my writings.
According to St. Cloud State’s Budget Committee, the University has lost $1.125 million per year the first 2 years Coborn’s Plaza has been open. According to public documents, President Potter agreed to pay the City of St. Cloud $240,000 a year for 3 years. The 3 police officers’ assignment is to investigate violent crimes committed near the St. Cloud State campus.
St. Cloud State can’t afford that type of financial mismanagement when its enrollment is tanking. As you know, St. Cloud State’s enrollment is down 8% as of 4:30am this morning. If St. Cloud State’s enrollment is down that much this year, their enrollment will be down by approximately 18% over the past 3 years. That’s a drop of approximately 3,000 students. It’s also a significant drop in tuition revenues over that time.
Losing millions of dollars in tuition revenue each year isn’t something the University can afford for a single year. In addition to this year’s tuition revenue losses, St. Cloud State lost millions of dollars of tuition revenue the previous 2 years, too. When President Potter terminated Mahmoud Saffari, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, Provost Malhotra said that the reason for terminating Dr. Saffari was that he hadn’t produced a “satisfactory strategic enrollment management plan.”
It’s been 2 years since Dr. Saffari’s termination and St. Cloud State still doesn’t have a strategic enrollment management plan in place. In fact, there’s proof that they haven’t even started putting one together. That means that President Potter hasn’t put a strategic enrollment management plan together even though St. Cloud State’s enrollments have been dropping for three years.
Finally, professors from across the campus have reported student’s transcripts getting doctored. President Potter’s spokesman insists that this is because of late drops and withdrawals. Professors have stepped forward and said that their students’ participation in their classes have disappeared entirely from their transcripts. There’s no sugarcoating this fact: that’s transcript fraud. The minute that a university’s integrity is questioned, it’s difficult to restore the public’s trust.
Each of the categories I’ve described for you is a major strike against President Potter. He signed the agreement to pay the City of St. Cloud for police protection. President Potter also signed the agreement that’s costing St. Cloud State $1,000,000+ a year.
During President Potter’s time as president, enrollment has dropped dramatically. He said that putting a “satisfactory enrollment management plan” was imperative. Then he terminated the man he tasked with that assignment. Then President Potter didn’t put together a satisfactory enrollment management plan. President Potter is the man responsible for delegating assignments. If they don’t get done, he should shoulder the blame for not getting these assignments accomplished.
Thus far, there hasn’t been proof that you’ve taken an interest in these issues. That can’t continue. Indifference to a deteriorating situation isn’t an option. It’s imperative that you take these situations seriously. It’s imperative that you launch a serious investigation into these matters.
A great university is getting damaged through President Potter’s mismanagement. Now is the time for you, Chancellor Rosenstone, to step forward and provide the leadership needed to correct this situation and these mistakes.
Elijah Cummings and Sander Levin wrote this op-ed to essentially defend the indefensible corruption of the Obama administration and the IRS.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) led the charge, alleging this was the “targeting of the president’s political enemies.” Other Republicans followed suit, citing “the enemies list out of the White House” and arguing that President Obama “doesn’t have clean hands.” And they invoked the specter of disgraced former president Richard Nixon.
Yet our committees’ review of thousands of documents and interviews with more than a dozen IRS employees have not uncovered a scintilla of evidence to substantiate their claims. Unfortunately, the facts have not stopped our Republican colleagues from lobbing baseless accusations in the cynical hope that people would believe them. The column last week on this page, “Holes in the IRS narrative,” by Issa and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), continued the effort to suggest the existence of a scandal that the established facts do not support.
I won’t tapdance about this. Elijah Cummings and Sander Levin are lying through their teeth. They’re partisan hacks. In May, when this story first broke, President Obama acknowledged that the IRS scandal was disturbing and real. He promised to get to the bottom of this story.
Of course, that’s when the scandal was about “2 rogue agents in Cincinnati.” The minute testimony was given showing that Washington knew about the scandal and actually was involved in halting processing of conservative organizations’ applications for tax exempt status, Democrats switched into ‘Republicans are engaged in a partisan witch hunt’ mode. That’s when President Obama and Jay Carney started talking about phony scandals.
Let us be clear: There was mismanagement at the IRS, and IRS employees screened applications for tax-exempt status for further review based, in part, on the names of the organizations. But there is absolutely no evidence of political motivation or White House involvement.
Let’s be clear about this: There’s irrefutable proof that the IRS was used a weapon against President Obama’s political enemies. Refusing to make a final decision on conservative organizations’ tax-exempt applications isn’t happenstance. It’s deliberate. Furthermore, Carter Hull testified that William Wilkins micromanaged the tax-exempt application process from DC. We know that President Obama appointed Wilkins to his position.
In other words, it’s impossible to conduct a thorough investigation without political ramifications.
It’s insulting (infuriating, too) that Mssrs. Cummings and Levin mention mismanagement. WRONG. Crimes have been committed. Based on the credible testimony given to the House committees with jurisdiction over this disturbing scandal, several people will be convicted of crimes the minute they’re prosecuted. Lois Lerner will be convicted if she’s tried. Douglas Schulman will be convicted of lying to Congress for repeatedly telling Congress that conservative organizations weren’t being targeted. J. Russell George, the IRS Inspector General, audited the IRS’s tax-exempt office. What he found was that 292 conservative organizations were harassed by the IRS and that each of their applications were put on hold.
By not making a final ruling on their applications, the IRS prevented these conservative organizations from appealing the IRS’s ruling. That prevented these activists from raising money to get their message out to people during the presidential election cycle. That means the IRS’s actions had a profound political impact on the presidential campaign. There’s no way that isn’t a political consideration.
Republicans have also recently claimed, as Issa and Camp wrote in their op-ed, that progressive groups received “routine scrutiny” that was somehow fundamentally different from the systematic treatment of the tea party applications.
But Daniel Werfel, the acting commissioner of the IRS, disagrees. He testified that there were progressive groups that were treated similarly to the tea party applicants, with some facing three-year delays. In fact, he said some progressive groups were even denied tax-exempt status — unlike the tea party applicants, who were just delayed.
Werfel isn’t honest. Since the IRS scandal erupted, there hasn’t been a single progressive organization named that was delayed 3 years. On the conservative side, I can rattle off lots of organizations’ names that applied for tax-exempt status that are still pending. True The Vote, Linchpins for Liberty and the National Organization for Marriage are just a few of the dozens of conservative organizations who applied for tax-exempt status and who are still waiting for a final determination.
Mssrs. Cummings and Levin are political hatchetmen doing this administration’s bidding. They aren’t honest people at a time when we need people of integrity in Congress. Instead of getting people of integrity in government and Congress, we’re dealing with weasels like Danny Werfel, Lois Lerner, William Wilkins, Elijah Cummings and Sander Levin.
Tags: IRS Scandal, President Obama, Elijah Cummings, Sander Levin, Politicians, Lois Lerner, Douglas Schulman, Daniel Werfel, William Wilkins, Political Appointees, Democratic Culture of Corruption, Crime, Lying to Congress, Democrats, J. Russell George, IRS Inspector General, Carter Hull, Dave Camp, House Ways & Means Committee, Darrell Issa, House Oversight Committee, Investigation, GOP
If Carl Cameron’s information in this video plays out as he’s been told, the IRS scandal will be back front and center by noon today:
Here’s the minitranscript from Cameron’s interview with Bill O’Reilly:
CAMERON: What he [Chairman Issa] said to me today was make sure to watch tomorrow’s hearing because he’s going to present the evidence to prove it…. That he can get it right up all the way into the White House before it was all revealed.
O’Reilly started off by opining that the IRS scandal was losing altitude and that it would fade from significance. The Democrats, starting with Rep. Elijah Cummings, changed from being outraged when this first came to light to defending the administration when it started getting apparent that White House insiders were involved.
If Chairman Issa genuinely has proof that someone inside the White House worked with Lois Lerner in putting TEA Party organizations through extra rounds of scrutiny, this scandal will explode. It isn’t just that this is new information. It’s that it’d be new information that refutes the White House’s initial stories that this was the work of a couple rogue IRS operatives in the Cincinnati office.
I wrote here that the worst word in the English language, at least in the White House’s interest, is the word Y-E-T. Here’s what I wrote then:
If there’s a word in the English language that the Obama administration has a right to fear, that word is Y-E-T. Democrats who had previously attacked the IRS changed their tune during yesterday’s hearing. Democrats transitioned into defending the Obama administration. That’s because the IRS agents in the Cincinnati office haven’t been rolled. Yet.
Perhaps Democrats think their’s is a good strategy because it’s built on the premise that the IRS agents fear prosecution. That isn’t a smart gamble, even though the IRS agents haven’t been granted immunity. Yet.
Rep. Cummings has tried running interference for the administration by saying the TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) is a Bush administration hiree who can’t be trusted.
If J. Russel George can produce the documentation verifying Chairman Issa’s claims, it’ll be totally irrelevant who hired J. Russell George. Chairman Issa posted this tweet:
#IRS chief counsel’s office involved in targeting controversy http://wapo.st/15GGVE5 via @PostPolitics
This information, if verified, changes everything:
In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.
Previous accounts from IRS employees had shown that Washington IRS officials were involved in the controversy, but Hull’s comments represent the closest connection to the White House to date. No evidence so far has definitively linked the White House to the agency’s actions.
According to a partial transcript released by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and House Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chief counsel’s office also discussed using a template letter to ask questions about the groups’ activities, despite Hull’s warning that such a boilerplate approach would be impractical.
“My reviewer and I both said a template makes absolutely no difference because these organizations, all of them are different,” Hull told investigators. “A template would not work.”
I’ll predict that, at some time during the hearing, Elijah Cummings will complain that partial transcripts are despicable. Whatever. I’d love hearing him put these statements in a context that isn’t damnig to the administration. Whichever way you slice it, the reality is that Mr. Wilkins tried orchestrating a strategy to harass TEA Party organizations. There’s no way to spin that.
When the FBI joined with the U.S. Dept. of Education in visiting the SCSU campus, the St. Cloud Times couldn’t be bothered with dispatching one of their education beat reporters to the campus to cover the student transcript fiasco. Instead, they just ran an article written by Conrad Wilson of MPR. This morning, the St. Cloud Times is getting scooped in their own back yard again. MPR isn’t breaking the story this time, though. I’m breaking it here.
It’s pretty pathetic when a supposed newspaper gets scooped on a major story. It’s worse when it’s scooped on the story twice, once by MPR, the other time by a lowly blogger. The Times had the time to cover President Potter’s announcement that he intends to reduce energy costs at SCSU by 20%. They apparently don’t think students’ grades disappearing off of the official SCSU transcript system is a high priority.
Here’s a question for the Times’ editors: when a student takes a class, does all the classwork, takes the mid-term and final exams, then gets an F, should that student then get to request that that grade be purged from his transcript? In fact, that’s a pretty good question for President Potter and Provost Maholtra to answer.
I’m not holding my breath waiting for the Times or SCSU to answer that question.
If the Times won’t hold SCSU accountable, others will. It’s a shame that the Times hasn’t held this administration accountable thus far. In fact, it’s rather predictable.
Recently, the FBI paid a visit to the St. Cloud State campus to check into the transcript scandal. While MPR filed an article about the visit, the St. Cloud Times couldn’t be bothered with assigning a reporter to the story. Instead, they ran the MPR article.
I first wrote about this scandal in this article. MPR’s first article ran a month ago. I’m still waiting for the first article by the St. Cloud Times. Let me rephrase that. I’m still waiting for a St. Cloud Times reporter to write about this scandal. I’m not holding my breath on that.
It’s stunning that the Times assigned Dave Aikens to write about President Potter’s proposal to cut energy usage by 20% but they didn’t assign a reporter to write about a serious issue like transcript fraud.
To date, I’m the only journalist questioning whether taxpayers got ripped off when SCSU hired the Earthbound Marketing Group to help with SCSU’s rebranding. I’m the only journalist questioning President Potter’s spending decisions.
We’ve seen how reckless and biased the Times Editorial Board is with their opinions. The fact that they didn’t investigate this issue is proof they’re mostly disinterested in investigating St. Cloud State. The fact is they haven’t written anything about this transcript scandal since it bubbled up over a year ago.
It’s one thing to have another news organization find a story first. It happens. That isn’t what’s happening here. MPR wrote their first article about the transcripts a month ago. The Times could’ve investigated this in that time. They couldn’t have been unaware of the transcript discrepancies after MPR’s first article because they monitor MPR’s wires. That’s confirmed by their running MPR’s article on the FBI visit.
Unless the Times can prove that their education reporters are working on an investigative piece that’ll run later, the Times’ editors will have egg on their face. Let’s be clear about this. This post isn’t about criticizing the education beat reporters. They’re given assignments on what to write about. It’s about the editors apparently not taking an interest in a major local issue.
On something this big, that isn’t acceptable.
This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted that Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment protections by verifying the authenticity of a document:
Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines Friday morning, with 22 Republicans saying she waived the Fifth and 17 Democrats arguing she did not. Lerner remains under subpoena, and the committee believes it could bring the long-time IRS official back and compel her to testify.
The dynamics have definitely shifted in this investigation. Democrats who first expressed outrage at the IRS’s criminal activities now are making political statements to rationalize their votes. This statement is a perfect example of the shift:
Democrats, meanwhile, like Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., challenged Gowdy’s argument, calling attempts to block Lerner’s invoking of the Fifth Amendment “an egregious abuse of power that tramples the Constitution and serves no valid legislative purpose.”
Connolly said that “the majority has brought us to a point where we risk allowing this committee to be transformed into a Star Chamber proceeding that establishes future Legislative Branch precedent where any chairman, whether a Democrat or a Republican, is free to compel an American invoking their constitutional right against self-incrimination to physically appear before the Committee for no other reason than to be pilloried, delayed, embarrassed, and burdened into unknowingly, unintentionally, and ironically, forfeiting the very sacred constitutional right that is intended to protect every American against forced self-incrimination by the government.”
Meanwhile, Republicans like Trey Gowdy are making statements based on the legal system:
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., reiterated Issa’s argument, delivering a fiery speech about Lerner’s attempt to protect herself under the Fifth.
Gowdy said Lerner made nine separate assertions, with the advice of counsel, and then authenticated a document. “That’s not how the Fifth Amendment works,” Gowdy said. “You’re not allowed to just say your side of the story…She could have sat there and said nothing.”
Rep. Connolly is acting like a partisan. Rep. Gowdy is acting like a former U.S. attorney, which is what he is. What’s more is that Rep. Gowdy has famed defense attorney and Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz on his side:
“She’s in trouble. She can be held in contempt,” Dershowitz told “the Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV. “”You can’t simply make statements about a subject and then plead the Fifth in response to questions about the very same subject,” the renowned Harvard Law professor said.
“Once you open the door to an area of inquiry, you have waived your Fifth Amendment right…you’ve waived your self-incrimination right on that subject matter.”
Dershowitz knows what he’s talking about on this subject. He’s literally written a book on the Fifth Amendment. If Rep. Conolly wants to argue that Dershowitz, a lifelong liberal, is saying this to curry favor with Republicans, I’d love hearing that argument.
Democrats are playing a terrible situation poorly. What Rep. Connolly said is foolish. Republicans didn’t put Ms. Lerner in a difficult position. She put herself in this difficult position by testifying. Had she started by saying she was invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, this vote wouldn’t have happened. That’s what Rep. Gowdy said this morning:
Follow this link for more on this story.
Earlier this week, Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel told reporters that progressive groups were also targeted and that the IRS hadn’t done anything wrong. This article quotes the TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) as disputing Werfel’s statement. First, here’s what Werfel told reporters:
In a conference call with reporters, Werfel said an internal investigation of the IRS scandal, the findings of which were released Monday afternoon, had unearthed other instances in which “Be On The Look Out” (BOLO) lists were used. He has since ended the use of the tactic, he said, calling the screening criteria used in these other instances “inappropriate.”
“When I got to the IRS, we started a more comprehensive review of the operations of this part of the IRS, have been looking at documents and business operations, and we did determine and discover that there are other BOLO lists in place,” Werfel said. “And upon discovering that, we also found that we believed there continued to be inappropriate or questionable criteria on these BOLO lists. Once we came to that conclusion, we took immediate action to suspend the use of these lists in the exempt organizations unit within the IRS.”
I was skeptical of Werfel’s statement at the time. The IG’s testimony shows I was justified in that skepticism:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) sent a letter Wednesday to congressional Democrats telling them that while several liberal groups may have gotten extra scrutiny, the IRS didn’t necessarily target those — but it did do so for conservative groups.
“TIGTA concluded that inappropriate criteria were used to identify potential political cases for extra scrutiny — specifically, the criteria listed in our audit report. From our audit work, we did not find evidence that the criteria you identified, labeled “Progressives,” were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2012 timeframe we audited,” Inspector General J. Russell George said.
In total, 292 organizations with TEA Party in their names were targeted. A paltry 6 organizations with progressive in their names got additional scrutiny.That’s only part of the story. The 6 organizations with progressive in their names still got their status approved within the prescribed timeline. More than 50 TEA Party organizations have been waiting for over 3 years for approval as a 501(c)(4) organization.
In short, Commissioner Werfel lied in saying the IRS’s conduct wasn’t improper or illegal:
Though he acknowledged that his investigation remains incomplete, Werfel said that he had yet to uncover evidence of intentional wrongdoing by IRS officials when applying these BOLOs. Nor had he found instances in which outside actors, mainly the Obama campaign and administration, had pressured the tax agency to target conservative groups.
“The fact that no evidence is surfacing as wrongdoing is an important conclusion to reach as long as it is qualified by the fact that more reviews are underway,” Werfel said, when pressed by The Huffington Post as to why he was making statements that could later be contradicted by the findings of additional investigations. “And so, I’ll be as clear as I can right now. I’m not providing a definitive conclusion that no intentional wrongdoing occurred. But I’m suggesting that based on the ongoing reviews to date, no evidence has yet surfaced.”
If Werfel doesn’t think that targeting 292 TEA Party organizations to 6 progressive organizations isn’t proof of intentional wrongdoing, then he should be fired ASAP. That’s proof he’s either incapable of being honest or he’s incapable of recognizing reality.
In either case, he isn’t the right man to restore integrity to the IRS.