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Ethics in the News

This page provides links to recent news articles concerning ethics – government, business, sports, politics, education, and any other facets of life where issues of conflict of interest provide us all with food for thought.  Some ethics issues become criminal matters, some do not. Some are verifiable, others just speculative.
The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the ethics commission or its members.  
Comments? Contact the Ethics Commission to let us know what you think of this page, comment on anything you read here, or suggest other links to include.
 
Recent Ethics in the News
  • Family business?  The leader of the State Senate of New York was arrested, along with his son, on charges including conspiracy, mail fraud, and bribe solicitation to name a few.  The attorney for Adam Skellos, the son of Senator Dean Skellos, is expected to comment on the charges today.  My guess is that among these comments, he will say that his client looks forward to defending himself in court and that he expects to be completely exonerated. Stay tuned. 
    View article: May 4, 2015 - The New York Times
     
Past Ethics in the News
Past articles from New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and other sources. The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the ethics commission or its members.  
The New York Times
  • Promises, promises:  Upon replacing disgraced New York State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, promised to bring integrity back to the state government.  It was recently learned however, that Speaker Heastie had kept the house he inherited from his mother, a house that she confessed to purchasing with embezzled funds, and that a judge ordered resold 16 years ago. Speaker Heastie just recently sold the house, netting a significant profit, which he used to purchase another house. View article: April 20, 2015. 
     
  • Thirty-four teachers from Atlanta, including 11 who were convicted today of racketeering charges, had been implicated of conspiring to falsify grades on standardized tests administered in their districts. The resulting test scores were suspiciously high which prompted the investigation.  Higher test scores generally mean more federal funding.  The eleven convicted teachers now face significant prison time. The teachers who accepted a plea deal were sentenced to one year in prison.  The Atlanta schools superintendent, Beverly L. Hall, who was also implicated in the conspiracy died recently. 
    View article: April 7, 2015
     
  • And he's still in office.  A  member of the New York General Assembly, who served as its Speaker for two decades, was indicted for extortion and fraud, after running a scheme where he referred developers to a law firm in exchange for kickbacks- er - referral fees- which he then failed to disclose on financial statements.  There's more.  Initially, Sheldon Silver refused to give up his position as Speaker, but eventually stepped aside under pressure.  According to his lawyers, he is not guilty and looks forward to total vindication. View article: February 19, 2015
     
  • It's all about the money.  Again.  Another politician, this time the former speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to three years in prison for accepting bribes and misusing campaign funds. View article: March 3, 2015  
     
  • The governor of Oregon resigned under pressure as a result of multiple allegations that his fiancee's business benefited financially from her relationship with the governor. Is it ethical misconduct or much ado about nothing? View article: February 15, 2015
     
  • Where do I start:  The speaker of the New York General Assembly, Sheldon Silver, faces 5 counts of corruption charges for taking bribes and accepting kickbacks from  lawyers, doctors, and others.   Speaker Silver's public response to the charges:  “I’m confident that after a full hearing and a due process, I will be vindicated."  Read the Complaint and prepare to be appalled. View article: January 22, 2015
     
  • But it was probably an innocent mistake!  The firing of Sharon Helman, former director of the VA's  health care system in Phoenix was upheld by the court, on the grounds that she illegally accepted gifts of airline tickets and an 8-night stay at Disney World for her family of six, from a consultant seeking to do business with her agency. View article: December 23, 2014
     
  • The board of a prominent brokerage firm accelerated the stock option vesting schedule for two newly elected officials (one a governor and one a representative in Congress) whose stock options would have otherwise been worthless.  The decision to permit early vesting occurred AFTER the officials were elected. View article: December 17, 2014
     
  • Legal "loopholes" permit high ranking elected and other officials to continue questionable practices targeted by a now-disbanded ethics panel appointed by Governor Cuomo (NY) and then disbanded by Governor Cuomo.  It's all about the money. View article: December 8, 2014
     
  • The lead for the Department of Homeland Security agency's review of the secret service prostitution scandal just resigned because. . . guess!  View article: October 28, 2014
     
  • In the ethics law, campaign contributions are not considered to be gifts.  If you don't think campaign finance affects the ethics of government, check out this opinion piece concerning "dark money." View opinion: October 8, 2014
     
  • Independent "think tanks" or lobbyists for foreign countries?  
    A new report reveals that many of the revered "independent" research institutes receive large sums of money from foreign governments to influence Congress and/or the executive branch of government.  Some of these institutes may be violating federal law by representing foreign governments.  A very long article but worth the time. View article: September 7, 2014
     
  • The trial of of  12 school administrators and teachers accused of cheating on standardized tests to improve their students scores is about to start in Atlanta. The former superintendent of schools, Beverly L. Hall, who is alleged to be the mastermind of this massive cheating scandal, had been named the national school superintendent of the year in 2009.  Currently ill with cancer, Ms. Hall's trial has been postponed. View article: August 10, 2014
     
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo created an independent commission to investigate political corruption but then allegedly interfered on several occasions to keep the commission from investigating allegations of corruption that might have involved his interests, finally disbanding the commission after a few short months. View article: July 23, 2014
     
  • Evidence shows that while General Motors denied knowledge of, or refused to answer questions about , the cause of a number of fatal car crashes involving its cars, it had in fact concluded that sudden loss of engine power was responsible. View article: July 15, 2014
     
  • An investigation into the University of North Carolina's purported bogus classes for football players has been reopened.  Allegations of grade changing and of classes that rarely met prompted the inquiry and the number of witnesses coming forward has increased. View article: June 30, 2014
     
  • A former New York prosecutor is implicated in a scheme whereby money recovered by his office from drug dealers and others was used to pay for political consulting services (disguised as services to the prosecutor’s office.  In the same investigation, Barry Kamins, the administrative judge of the criminal court for New York City, was found to have provided political and legal advice to Hynes concerning pending criminal prosecutions.  View article and the investigative findings, June 2, 2014.
     
  • Substantial evidence shows pervasive game-fixing in World Cup soccer as well as possibly hundreds of other professional games by gambling syndicate.  
    View Article I and Article II: May 31 and June 1, 2014
  • Leyland Yee, State Senator from California, a strong gun control advocate, was charged with soliciting bribes in exchange for promoting a gun running scheme in the Philippines.  
    View Article: April 4, 2014 
The Baltimore Sun
  • The Baltimore City inspector general is expanding investigations of numerous allegations of fraud by city employees, including fire, police, transportation, and other agencies, who allegedly sought and in some cases received undeserved disability benefits. View Article: September 27, 2014
     
  • The inspector general for the City of Baltimore uncovered more fraud, abuse, and corruption in city government. Again.
    View Article: September 4, 2014
     
  • PBS is premiering a film this week on the multiple violations of journalistic ethics rules by Jayson Blair, a once highly admired young reporter for The New York Times.
    View Article: May 4, 2014
     
  • The Senate’s censure of State Senator Ulysses S. Currie may not significantly undermine his bid for reelection. 
    View Article: April 19, 2014 
  • The Mayor of Baltimore is going to post the financial disclosure statements of Baltimore City public officials online. But first, anybody who wants to look at the statement will have to provide identification.
    View Article: April 21, 2014 
  • A recent state audit revealed that several employees made over $250,000 worth of personal purchases on their state issued credit cards.
    View Article: April 2, 2014
  • A Morgan State University professor was recently charged with obtaining $200,000 in grant money from the National Science Foundation and attempting to be granted more. He allegedly used the grant money for personal expenses and to pay his wife a “salary.”
    View Article: April 2, 2014
The Washington Post
  • Letting the foxes guard the henhouse:  A DEA agent and a member of the Secret Service were charged with money laundering, theft, fraud (and conflict of interest) for stealing bitcoins from the internet "Silk Road" exchange, all while they were investigating the operations of the exchange.  Read (or skim) the complaint.  View article.  March 30, 2015
     
  • "An appearance of favoritism and special access."  In a report issued by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, there was evidence that the second in command at DHS, took pains to facilitate visas for foreign investors in an electric car company that was owned by the current governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe.  It's still all about the money. . .   View article: March 24, 2015
     
  • It's all about the money:  Police chiefs, past and present, with financial ties to Taser International, pursue or support departmental contracts for body cameras with that vendor. View article: March 6, 2015
     
  • A distinction without a difference?  One third of the biggest (over $1,000,000) donors to The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation are foreign governments or entities that are prohibited from donating to Hillary's campaign fund. View article: February 18, 2015. 
     
  • So much for the public trust:  Rep. Grimm, a Republican recently reelected to Congress from New York , pleaded guilty to tax evasion this month.  While admitting he was wrong, he also said “As  long  as I’m able to serve, I’m going to serve.  As of right now I’m still in a capacity to serve, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing.” View article: December 23, 2014
     
  • GUILTY. Former Governor and Mrs. McDonnell were found guilty of several counts of public corruption. Finally. View article: September 4, 2014
     
  • It's all about the money as the fall-out of the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. View article: September 2, 2014
     
  • Prosecutors reveal that former Virginia Governor, Robert F. McDonnell may have accepted more undisclosed gifts from more donors than previously publicized, including a $23,000 trip to Kiawah Island, courtesy of a member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. View article: June 23, 2014
     
  • It's all about the money- Representative Don Young ( Alaska) fined $60,000 for accepting improper gifts and using campaign funds improperly. View article and Appendix A for list of improper gifts: June 20, 2014
     
  • Vice-president Biden visited the Ukraine shortly after his son was hired by a Ukranian energy company that is seeking to expand business with countries outside of Russia. View article: June 7, 2014
     
  • A former highly placed city official, Kelvin Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully for D.C. council, pleaded guilty to conspiring to channel campaign contributions to candidates without reporting the funds as required by law.  View article: June 3, 2014
     
  • Virginia lawmakers rushed to enact new online disclosure requirements that may require expensive and cumbersome technology. View article: May 26, 2014
     
  • Governor McAuliffe (Va.)  vetoed a bill that would have prohibited him from soliciting campaign contributions from entities wanting to receive monies from the Governor's Development Opportunities Fund.  The reason?  The prohibition does not apply equally to state legislators. View article: May 23, 2014
     
  • The Washington D.C. Ethics Board will continue proceedings against a D.C. administrative judge. View article: May 12, 2014. Background story - view article: February 6, 2014.
     
  • Several federal appeals courts judges failed to disqualify themselves from hearing cases where one of the parties was an entity in which the judge owned stock, in apparent violation of federal law. View article: April 28, 2014
     
  • The Senate subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security reported that the former acting inspector general of that agency compromised his impartiality by routinely falsifying information and delaying investigations, and by providing confidential information to people over whom he had oversight responsibilities.  This information first came to light when the Senate subcommittee heard from a whistleblower that the IG ordered staff to withhold information pertinent to the subcommittee's investigation into the hiring of prostitutes by members of the Secret Service.
    View Article: April 24, 2014
     
  • The often unpunished failure of high-ranking officers to take seriously allegations of sexual misconduct in the ranks contributes to a lack of trust in the military by victims of sexual assault. 
    View Article: April 22, 2014
     
  • Vincent C. Gray, the mayor of Washington D.C. lost the primary in his bid for reelection. It is believed that the scandal over his defeat of the former mayor, Adrian Fenty, in 2010, resulting in the conviction of several of his campaign aides, was largely to blame for his loss.
    View Article: April 2, 2014 
Other Sources
  • The Washington Times:
    A former IRS ethics lawyer was disbarred for misappropriating money held on behalf of a client and then for misleading investigators.  The newspaper story alleged that she claimed that she would never get in trouble because her boss would protect her. Read the opinion hereView article: April 2, 2015

     
  • The Portland Press Herald:
    The fire chief of Freeport, Maine was suspended for two days as the result of an ethics violation. The chief worked secondary employment with a fire restoration company and used his position to provide fire victims with information about his restoration company. The town leaders concluded that his activities created the appearance of a conflict of interest. View article. January 20, 2015
     
  • Boston Globe:
    At least the football season is over:  Approximately 64 students out of a class of 280 were involved in cheating in an ethics class exam at Dartmouth College recently.  Most of the students attending the class are student athletes, and most of the athletes are football players.  Many, but not all, face a semester suspension and their exam grade will be lowered by one-letter grade. View article: January 8, 2015
     
  • International Business News:
    Ethics violation?  You decide. . . Governor Christie accepted travel expenses and fancy tickets from the owner of the Dallas Cowboys to attend the recent playoff game against the Detroit Lions, two years after he and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo selected Legends Hospitality LLC to operate the observation deck at One World Trade Center.  The Port Authority, which is appointed by the Governors of New York and New Jersey, ratified the selection the next day. One of the owners of Legends Hospitality LLC?  Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. View article: January 6, 2015
     
  • Department of Defense (DoD):
    TheThe Department of Defense recently updated its Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure by members of the military and employees of the DoD. The encyclopedia chronicles many of the ethical missteps, large and small. that have been caught by the DoD. An educational and entertaining read.
    View Encyclopedia - October 2014 (Note, you may have to download the material but it is well worth it.)
     
  • CNN:
    The good news is that cheating is not just an American problem.  The bad news is that cheating is not just an American problem.  Almost 2500 Chinese students were recently caught cheating on a national pharmacy licensing exam. View article: October 28, 2014

     
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
    It's all about the money. Should judges be elected or appointed- will this decision affect the ethical problems that have faced some Pennsylvania judges?  
    View article: October 27, 2014
     
     
  • The Charlotte Observer:
    The former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina pleaded guilty and apologized to the public for accepting over $50,000 in bribes and a number of  illegal gifts while in office.  He will be sentenced later in the year for up to 20 years of prison time and up to a $250,000 fine. View article: June 3, 2014
     

 

 

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