Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Not Your Father's Passport

Passport is the name of a NON-profit agency, set up in the '90s by a group of Louisville hospitals and doctors, to manage the state's medicaid program in 16 counties centered on Louisville.

It has been much in the news recently, and I suspect will be in the weeks ahead. First, state auditor Crit Luallen issued a scathing report last year over the agency's lavish use of funds for trips, gifts, salaries, and more. 3 top officials resigned. Passport was even using public funds to lobby the state for more and higher rates--to be paid for by public funds--strictly a No-No.

These were not the only problems her report indicated, and this week one other shoe dropped. This non profit made so much money from its state contract that it paid "dividends" to its founders. One reason for those payments was so it could plead "poor mouth" to the state for additional fees from public funds! As reported by the Courier-Journal, Attorney General Jack Conway ruled such "dividends" illegal for a NON-profit to make and negotiated a deal for over $26 millions to be repaid.

One hospital repaid at once, the rest have been given up to four years to do so--Conway said it might work a financial hardship--but in my book that just gives them more time to hang on to money they shouldn't have had in the first place..and you KNOW they will earn interest on it!

The U of L hospital said they had seen no reason why the original "seed money" they put into Passport should not have been returned to them. If the law on non-profits does not permit this, the law should be changed; but anything in excess of the original infusion should not be. Atty. Gen. Conway is right on this.

Conway also said this ended his "civil" probe of Passport, but he wouldn't comment on whether a "criminal" probe might go on. Let's hope so.

And let's hope Gov. Beshear revokes his recent decision to give Passport even more public funds, and a new contract, to carry out even more management of the medicaid program. Surely after the auditor's report, and the attorney-general's findings, Passport has forfeited all rights to continuing to hold state business.

Two other points need to be made..(1) Thank God for Crit Luallen; she has been a great state auditor..and needs to be retained. But, term limits forbid more reason why I do not favor term limits, on any office.

This position of state auditor doesn't get the attention of the media or voters during the campaign; which is going on now. I hope this year will be different, and hope our two major papers will be especially vigilant in covering the campaigns of the candidates--and who they endorse.

(2) If Passport made so much money, did they scrimp on serving better those who truly need the services of medicaid? Why do we think a state agency couldn't have done as well, if not better? An in-house agency would have been audited sooner, and the abuses found at Passport would likely not have happened within a state agency.

Or did some money or political favors get exchanged back when Passport was formed, or over the years? There really should be a criminal probe.

And, governor, you really ought to take back that contract you just gave this faulty group and find a new, even a state agency to handle medicaid around Louisville.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Media Musings

It's not been a good week for a lot of the media.

And I don't mean just in the Murdoch scandal in Britain. BTW, (1) Murdoch is an Australian by birth but; (2) his world headquarters is in the U-S; (3) his most profitable businesses, such as the various Fox channels, the Wall Street Journal, etc. are also here.

We had problems right here in Kain-tuck-ee:

My fave Louisville morning paper identified the British Prime Minister as James Cameron, a "Titanic" mistake, and took 3 days to make a "timely" correction to David.

A local furniture store went on Lexington TV announcing "the greatest thing which has ever happened in this area!" What? Better than the end of WW2? It was just a sale. OK, you mean the greatest business event. What? Better than Toyota coming?

I'm told courts have held that this is "harmless puffery." I disagree; words have meaning..and consequences. And as long as local TV stations allow such inaccuracies on their--pardon, the peoples air!..just so long they will continue to run down the importance of that medium.

Even the great summer film classics series at the Kentucky Theater had problems. At "Fantasia" the host appears in the orchestra saying.."Hello, I'm Deems Taylor." He wasn't. Disney apparently couldn't bring itself to tell us they had lost the original commentary by Taylor and was substituting an actor in the new version. That's a lie, an unnecessary lie.

My fave Lexington morning paper ran an important story from its McClatchy Washington bureau (an excellent and under-rated news service we are lucky to have) on Sen. McConnell's new plan for a debt ceiling compromise. First paragraph..McConnell has a new plan. Fine; what is it? Eight or so paragraphs later we finally get details. Why not right away in the story? (Keep your eyes on this; Shields & Brooks on PBS both had kind things to say about it.)

PBS's fine "History Detectives" has recently had two errors ...mispronouncing FDR's last name (first syllable rhymes with "rose" not "ruse") and getting the wrong person who "canned" Sen. Sumner in a major incident before the Civil War.

Yes, I know.."to err is human." (I certainly make my share) But recent weeks remind us the "media" run by people, such as you and me, are very "human."

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kate Dunn Vs. Nancy Grace

Fayette County in general, and Glen Doneghy in particular, can be proud of Kate Dunn who led the Legal Aid defense team in the current case involving the death of Lexington Police Officer Bryan Durman.

Doneghy was convicted of manslaughter, in a case where he might easily have been convicted of murder had it not been for the excellent and capable representation he got from Dunn and her colleagues. And they are not through defending him, having filed a motion suggesting the jury's decision was not free of procedural violations. We all benefit when the law is followed and justice is served; especially in such an emotional case as this one, where a young, promising policeman died tragically,and where our community had its own rush to judgment--convicting Doneghy before hearing his side of the case.

But when the jury did hear it, reason prevailed over emotion and the verdict was fair.

(One has to wonder if the same can be said for some members of the local media who used the phrase "alleged cop killer" instead of something less pejorative!)

Meanwhile, in Florida another woman did her best to convict in another highly charged case. Nancy Grace kept telling us Casey Anthony was guilty of the murder of her daughter Cayley...long before she knew all the facts or had even heard the defense's side. (There are a number of Kentucky angles to this case, among one of the more bizarre ones being the suspicion that the dead baby's father might be from this state.)

The jury in Florida also listed to reason, not emotion, in its finding...which was very difficult for them. There was NO physical evidence linking Casey Anthony to the death of her child. That she and her family behaved abominably, and in violation of the law, did not make her guilty of murder...though the prosecutor, Nancy Grace did her best to make that case.

What you say, Grace wasn't the prosecutor? Might as well have been. She got more air time and print time than the real prosecutors--making the case against Anthony from the very start....and could possibly have poisoned the jury pool before selection.

Grace is an attorney, a member of the bar, and an officer of the court. There is no excuse for her outrageous conduct. Her rush to judgment should be investigated by her home state bar association, and disbarment proceedings considered.

Fortunately Lexington had Kate Dunn.

DS Kahn, Casey Anthony..why it's almost enough to make you believe in the presumption of innocence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thank You Carl Wedekind

I'm writing this over the 4th of July weekend, thinking about our freedoms..and our rights..including what many nations lack--the right to protest what we feel are unfair laws and decisions.

I'm reminded of the recent death of a little known Kentuckian, Carl Wedekind of Louisville. He was a long time civil libertarian and advocate to abolish the death penalty..though he started his professional career as a corporate lawyer for a conservative firm.

The death penalty in Kentucky has been much in the news of late..especially when the courts banned our use of certain chemicals to kill people (and the state's attempt to get around that ruling.) But there's more..including the case of a man who has been on death row for a murder 32 years ago who won the right for a DNA test in his case..a test not available when he was convicted.

Is he innocent? That's to be determined, but in another case a man on death row elsewhere was freed after 29 years when DNA testing found him innocent.

Those who favor the death penalty decry the years it takes for cases finally to be settled..and their costs. That's understandable, but who's at fault..the person in the case or our courts and how they operate under the law? There's been a movement to limit all appeals to 10 or 15 years..which makes sense to some...until you learn of those cases, as above, where justice miscarried well beyond 10 or 15 years ago.

I won't here recite all the argument, including the religious ones, that compel me to oppose capital punishment..but I will use this holiday to say "Thank you Carl Wedekind" and all those who went before for a nation that honors "LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."