Dawg in the News Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Attorney and Judges. Ever Been Victimized by a Dishonest/Incompetent Attorney or Judge? http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=3&Itemid=64 Tue, 13 Apr 2021 10:50:12 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb ► NY Times – 04/14/13 – Private Jets, Country Clubs Soften Blow of Meager Pay http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4908:ny-times-041413-private-jets-and-country-clubs-soften-blow-of-meager-pay-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4908:ny-times-041413-private-jets-and-country-clubs-soften-blow-of-meager-pay-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 NY Times – 04/14/13 – Private Jets and Country Clubs Soften Blow of Meager Pay 



Many Texas lawmakers are quick to name the sacrifices they make to serve: the meager state pay, the grueling hours, the time spent away from their families and their day jobs.
But in other ways, life in the Legislature has its advantages. The perks associated with the job — travel, hotel upgrades and campaign cash spent on luxury gifts — can augment lawmakers’ lifestyles considerably.
Take Senator Troy Fraser, Republican of Horseshoe Bay, a 16-year veteran of the upper chamber who previously served in the House. Over the last three years, Mr. Fraser, the Senate Natural Resources Committee chairman, spent more than $300,000 from his campaign account maintaining his personal airplane, at least $33,000 on country club expenses and more than $4,000 on suits, on top of thousands of dollars on upscale hotels for conferences and events from Hawaii to Buenos Aires, according to his campaign finance reports.
Between 2008 and 2010, he claimed more travel per diem payments — 361, valued at more than $58,000 — than any other member of the Senate. And in the last several years, taxpayers paid for him to attend at least nine policy conferences in destinations like Puerto Rico and Santa Fe, N.M. In some instances, Mr. Fraser flew his own plane, receiving mileage reimbursements at up to triple the price of a commercial ticket.
Mr. Fraser said all his campaign expenses and Senate reimbursements were related to his role as a legislator and, in particular, his expanded duties as the chairman of a major committee.
The airplane costs, which he said he incurred flying across the state for official business, “do not cover 100 percent” of his bill. He justified the country club membership by saying he made a weekly golf outing “available to all members of the Legislature and all lobbyists.” And the clothing he bought was purely for use during the legislative session, he said. In 2011, he reimbursed his campaign for the suits after an ethics watchdog filed a complaint against him. Mr. Fraser said he still disagreed with the decision.
Mr. Fraser said that in recent years he had moved away from requesting state reimbursement for out-of-state travel, choosing to finance it through his campaign instead. He said the per diems were a reflection of his retirement from the private sector; the Legislature is now his day job.
“I’m one of the few who almost overreports,” Mr. Fraser said, adding that every state expense is approved by the Senate and every campaign expenditure meticulously itemized. “My constituents and my supporters understand very clearly what I’m doing with money.”
Mr. Fraser is hardly the only lawmaker to reap on-the-job benefits. His colleagues use campaign cash to drive BMWs, and trade thousand-dollar gifts from Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Montblanc and Four Seasons spas. Some rent costly condos in Austin and buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets to sports events.
Critics say such spending — which is allowed under the state’s campaign finance rules as long as it is directly tied to state or legislative business — blurs the line between the permissible and the ethical. At best, they argue, it takes advantage of campaign donors;  at worst, Texas taxpayers.
“They’re enriching themselves by having their living expenses paid for ad infinitum,” said David Palmer, a California-based campaign-finance watchdog who filed so many complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission on legislators’ use of their campaign cash that lawmakers passed legislation limiting such complaints to Texans.
Rita Kirk, director of the Southern Methodist University Maguire Ethics Center, said the root of this behavior was Texas’ part-time Legislature, where “the only people who really can get there are people who are wealthy enough to self-finance or have wealthy people invest in them.” She said it established an “elitist government style” in which proper stewardship of taxpayer or donor dollars could at times be compromised.
Lawmakers justify charging the state or their campaign contributors for conferences in exotic locales if it qualifies as official business;  they are out, they say, doing the state’s bidding.
Between 2007 and 2011, legislative travel records show, former Senator Jeff Wentworth, Republican of San Antonio, charged the state for 17 conference trips, including one to El Conquistador, a resort in Puerto Rico. Senator Rodney Ellis, Democrat of Houston, had at least 9, including one stay at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Former Representative Warren Chisum, Republican of Pampa, billed the state nearly $4,000 for an energy meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and more than $2,700 for a meeting at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.
For some lawmakers, conference trips turn into de facto vacations. They pay out of their own pockets to tack on extra days, bring along their families and enjoy spa treatments, bars, casinos and rounds of golf.
Senator John Carona, Republican of Dallas, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1990, said that as a “matter of personal policy,” he had never attended conferences on legislative business, largely because he thinks taxpayers should not be footing the bill. Nor does Mr. Carona, a wealthy businessman who travels frequently for work, generally accept travel per diems when the Legislature is not in session, to “avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
But he has sought thousands of dollars’ worth of mileage reimbursements from the state for traveling on his company plane, which he says he does for convenience and efficiency. He has also used his campaign account to buy gifts for his colleagues from the luxury retailers Bachendorf’s and Salvatore Ferragamo, and to buy a longtime employee a $6,000 retirement present from Eiseman Jewels.
Such gifts are common; lawmakers routinely give one another presents to celebrate a new baby or a wedding, congratulate a legislator for carrying a hefty bill or honor one for leading a key committee. In 2009, Senator Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville, and other members of the Senate State Affairs Committee bought Chairman Robert Duncan, Republican of Lubbock, a $1,380 guitar.
The most notorious of such gifts dates to the 1990s, when Kevin Bailey, then a Democratic representative from Houston, was arrested and accused of threatening his girlfriend with a gun. He was cleared of any charges, but the gun, a .22-caliber Derringer, lived on in infamy: it had been given to him by the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee as a thank you for Mr. Bailey’s help passing the state’s concealed-handgun law.
Mr. Carona said legislators had “no business” complaining about their state stipends or working conditions.
“Each and every one of us made the choice to run for the office, and few are eager to give up the post,” he said. “The compensation and perks are more than sufficient for most citizen legislators here in Texas.”


dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Sun, 14 Apr 2013 14:46:30 +0000
► Plaza de Armas – 07/26/12 – The Watchdawg barks at Jeff Wentworth http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3213:plaza-de-armas-072612-the-watchdawg-barks-at-jeff-wentworth&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3213:plaza-de-armas-072612-the-watchdawg-barks-at-jeff-wentworth&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Plaza de Armas – 07/26/12 – The Watchdawg barks at Jeff Wentworth

The Watchdawg barks at Jeff Wentworth
By Gilbert Garcia
Jeff Wentworth had just completed a San Marcos campaign forum Wednesday when I asked him about the criminal complaint filed against him in Travis County two months ago. It was the first he’d heard of it.
Wentworth can be excused for not keeping up with the complaints directed at him, because the source of these attacks – a disabled, 67-year-old, retired Army veteran from Folsom, Calif., named Dave Palmer – has bombarded the veteran state senator with ethics complaints and accusations over the last four years. Palmer isn’t obsessive, necessarily, he’s just a guy who derives entertainment from spending eight to 10 hours a day in front of a computer screen, combing through campaign finance reports and state-comptroller spreadsheets, all in the hope that he can bust some lawmaker for ethical misdeeds.
In recent years, Palmer has filed more than 100 complaints against various Texas public officials, but Wentworth stands out as his favorite target. What drives this campaign-finance vigilante who calls himself The Watchdawg? He swears it’s neither political partisanship nor personal animus.
“I have no grudge against (Wentworth)," says Palmer, a long-time registered Republican who doesn't hesitate to tangle with members of his own party. “I’ve never met him, so obviously it’s nothing personal. I just hope he’s made to answer for what he did.”
The crux of Palmer’s latest complaint is that the San Antonio Republican has repeatedly double-dipped, by billing both the state comptroller’s office and his own campaign for the same expenses. Over the years, Palmer has also hounded Wentworth over the senator’s history of using his campaign funds to lease Lexus cars. Wentworth has argued that the luxury rides were necessary to meet the demands of Senate-related trips between San Antonio and Austin. Palmer contends, however, that Wentworth has been overly lavish in his choice of cars, and alleges that the senator is using them for personal (and not just professional) purposes.
Wentworth says that whenever he bills his campaign for work expenses, he always reimburses the campaign as soon as he receives a reimbursement payment from the state comptroller (and says he has a long string of canceled checks to back up his case). He adds that only in the last year have the state’s campaign finance reports included a section (Schedule K) that allows the candidate to show that they’ve reimbursed their campaign. And he's utterly unapologetic about his choice of cars.
“(Palmer) has no idea. He doesn’t understand Texas law and doesn’t care to understand Texas law,” Wentworth says. “All of this is bullshit. It’s already been thoroughly vetted for over a year by the Texas Ethics Commission and they dismissed it.”
Wentworth dismisses Palmer as a “gadfly” who is “convinced that everybody in public office is a crook and he sets out to prove it, with very inflammatory rhetoric.”
Palmer, an Ohio native, says he started sniffing for political corruption in the late ‘80s, after his wife was involved in a serious car accident and he found himself appalled by the “incompetence” of the Ohio civil court judges he observed. He started digging for dirt on judges and attorneys, and after moving to California, he broadened his focus to include lawmakers – most often, those in California or Texas.
“I didn’t want to be self-centered about it,” he says. “It wasn’t like I was the only victim in the world.”
Along the way, he wallpapered the offices of the Texas Ethics Commission with so many complaints – and agitated so many Texas legislators – that the Lege passed a bill last year that prevented non-Texans from filing complaints with the TEC. The bill’s author, the late Ken Legler, had been one of Palmer’s chief targets.
That’s why Palmer filed his latest Wentworth complaint with the Travis County District Attorney’s office – because he no longer has the TEC as an option. Gregg Cox, director of the Travis County DA’s special prosecution division, says his office generally refrains from investigating complaints that can impact a particular political race, and that Palmer’s complaint against Wentworth will continue to be “parked” at the DA’s office until after next Tuesday’s runoff.
Legler’s 2011 bill highlighted the strange investigative zone that Palmer occupies: Even though he’s regarded as something of a crank by legislators, they take him seriously enough to want to stop him. And he’s produced results.
Palmer filed a complaint with the Travis County District Attorney’s office last year against state Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) over Fraser’s use of campaign funds to buy nearly $8,000 in clothes. Fraser responded by reimbursing his campaign.
In 2008, the Texas Ethics Commission responded to a Palmer complaint by fining state Rep. Rene Olveira (D-Brownsville) $3,000 for failing to report his largest contributors’ occupation and employer info. The following year, the Commission fined Edinburg-based District Court Judge Mario Ramirez $900 and required him to reimburse his campaign nearly $4,000, all as a result of a complaint from Palmer.
But Palmer has yet to nail Wentworth, though not for lack of trying. They’ve carried on a sporadic war of words over the years, with Palmer writing Wentworth in 2008 to accuse him of taking “hubris and hyperbole to new and as yet unseen levels.”
A personal note to Donna Campbell: If you win next Tuesday’s runoff, prepare to have The Watchdawg nipping at your heels.
Gilbert Garcia is the author of Reagan's Comeback: Four Weeks in Texas That Changed American Politics Forever, now available from Trinity University Press.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Thu, 26 Jul 2012 20:20:49 +0000
► Abilene Reporter – 12/29/08 - Commission fines legislator for campaign reports http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=703:abilene-reporter-dec-29-2008-commission-fines-legislator-for-campaign-reports-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=703:abilene-reporter-dec-29-2008-commission-fines-legislator-for-campaign-reports-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Abilene Reporter – 12/29/08 - Commission fines legislator for campaign reports

MCALLEN -- A South Texas legislator under investigation for his air travel and land holdings has been fined by the Texas Ethics Commission for improper accounting on campaign reports.
State Rep. Kino Flores said Monday he had already paid the $1,100 fine from campaign funds. The fine is unrelated to the investigation by Travis County prosecutors.
The commission released a finding Dec. 18 that said there was evidence to show Flores improperly registered reimbursement payments to staffers for things such as a parade float and "Christmas party music."
The payments totaled more than $7,700 in campaign reports filed in 2006, 2007 and 2008, according to the commission report.
On Monday, Flores gave the example of a float he ordered for the Mission Citrus Parade. He said he recorded a reimbursement payment to a staff member in a lump sum, but the commission wanted him to list the individual vendors that money was used to pay.
The Travis County District Attorney's Office began investigating Flores over discounted air travel he allegedly received from the LaMantia family, which owns a South Texas Budweiser distributorship, and widened to include Flores' land holdings.
Flores acquired his Rio Grande Valley ranch from two convicted drug dealers. Flores recommended one of them, Roel Benavides, for a job with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The TCEQ forced Benavides to resign in August after discovering he had lied about his criminal past, agency employment records show.
Travis County prosecutors in Austin have the authority to investigate allegations against state officials.
The commission also fined another South Texas legislator for not reporting key identifying information for some campaign contributors. Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, left out the occupations and employers of several contributors who gave him $500 or more in 2006 and for the 2008 Democratic primary. He was fined $3,000.
"It was a series of record keeping errors that were made unintentionally and in haste," Oliveira told the Brownsville Herald in a prepared statement released Sunday. "The reports were corrected within 14 days of this being brought to my attention, and I can assure you that my future reports will meet all requirements."
The investigation stemmed from a complaint filed in February by Dave Palmer, an ethics watchdog in Folsom, Calif., who filed complaints against numerous Texas officials.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Tue, 26 Jan 2010 19:22:41 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 08/08/01: Board clears Justice Moyer http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=698:akron-beacon-journal-aug-8-2001-board-clears-justice-moyer&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=698:akron-beacon-journal-aug-8-2001-board-clears-justice-moyer&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – 08/08/01: Board clears Justice Moyer

Doug Oplinger, Beacon Journal staff writer

COLUMBUS: A complaint against Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer that he violated judicial campaign ethics has been dismissed by the court's grievances and discipline board.

David Palmer, a retired Toledo businessman, filed a complaint in May alleging that Moyer violated judicial canons when he attended a Republican Party event this year and, in a backhanded way, urged support for Supreme Court candidate Terrence O'Donnell.

Judges are not permitted to endorse or oppose other judicial candidates.

O'Donnell is running against incumbent Justice Alice Robie Resnick, who has been targeted by business leaders and the Republican Party because of her opposition to tort reform and her position that state leaders have not provided an adequate system of public education.

Republicans made it clear that a defeat of Resnick by O'Donnell is expected to tip the scale on the court on those key issues.

The grievances and discipline board that looked at Moyer's statements said: "There is not sufficient cause to warrant a further investigation." It was signed by three appeals court judges.

Palmer said yesterday that little evidence is needed to warrant an investigation. Moyer's admission that he spoke on O'Donnell's behalf should have been enough.

He called it a "whitewash" by a panel of judges who want to protect their chances of being appointed to other positions.

Moyer's defense was that he was not aware that a newspaper reporter was in the meeting when he spoke. Otherwise, the meeting would have been private, and his comments would have not constituted a public endorsement.

Moyer said yesterday that he was "pleased that they dismissed the complaint."

He also said that Palmer, a retired restaurateur, has been attacking him for about three years. Palmer has been locked in a battle with judges and attorneys over an insurance settlement his wife received after an accident in 1997 that left her disabled.

In some of the cases, the judges had been appointed by Moyer as visiting judges.

Palmer's wife was permanently disabled in the accident. He now spends time at home with her and researching judges and lawyers.

Palmer runs an organization called "The Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Attorneys and Judges" and has researched expense reports and time sheets of lawyers and judges in an attempt to expose abuse. His Web site is http://www.amoralethics.com. Now he is in a feud with the Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court for offering free legal advice, which he advertises on his letterhead.

The court is charging him with "unauthorized practice of law" and subpoenaed him to a hearing 10 days ago.

He refused to attend, despite threats that he would be found in contempt of court.

He responded with a long letter detailing the number of times he had been authorized by judges to act as his wife's attorney.

Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or doplinger@thebeaconjournal.com


dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Tue, 26 Jan 2010 16:23:48 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 06/26/01 – Ohio chief justice asks auditor to investigate double billing http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=605:akron-beacon-journal-june-26-2001-court-seeking-review-of-visiting-judges-pay&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=605:akron-beacon-journal-june-26-2001-court-seeking-review-of-visiting-judges-pay&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – June 26, 2001 – Ohio chief justice asks auditor to investigate double billing

By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
COLUMBUS: Responding to criticism that visiting judges have been paid twice for a single day's work, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has asked the state auditor to step in.
Moyer stopped short of asking for a full-blown audit, but yesterday the chief justice did ask state Auditor Jim Petro to review how visiting judges are paid and reimbursed for their expenses.
As chief justice, Moyer is responsible for assigning and paying visiting judges throughout Ohio.
His system has been under attack by David Palmer, a Delaware County resident and longtime critic of the judicial system.
Palmer, executive director for the Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Attorneys and Judges, turned up the heat recently when he filed 59 charges of theft in office against nine visiting judges, including two Medina retirees, Judith Cross and Phillip Baird.
Last week, Palmer agreed to having the charges dismissed in exchange for access to Supreme Court records and a promise from the Franklin County prosecutor's office to pursue charges against possible criminal wrongdoing.
Steven Hollon, Moyer's court administrative director, sent a letter to Petro yesterday asking for the independent review.
Hollon said the chief justice wants the review because "it is important to retain the public's trust and confidence in this important program for the management of the court dockets statewide."
Moyer's request is limited in nature. He wants Petro to examine payments made to judges only since July 1, 2000, when the court began using an automated payment process.
Petro is also being asked to look at the court's computer system, which is designed to detect errors in payments, and to review new guidelines for assigning judges.
For three years, Palmer has asked Moyer and Petro to look into what he believes is a pattern of double dipping by a number of visiting judges.
Palmer said the entire system should be changed and he dismissed Moyer's limited request as "a sham."
"They're trying to look like they're doing something when they really aren't," Palmer said. "I think the auditor has a duty to root out every instance of double billing. These people don't have the right to keep the money. Most of this was going on well before July."
Palmer said he has only scratched the surface of the system, but has documented more than $50,000 in double billings for wages and expense reimbursements.
Palmer said visiting judges should be banned from working at home or on weekends and holidays, and they should be required to sign in with the local bailiff to ensure they are working the hours they are paid.
Petro's office has said it is not illegal for a judge to bill the state two day's pay in a single day as long as the work was done. But Kim Norris, Petro's spokeswoman, said yesterday the auditor does not know if it is illegal for a visiting judge to bill the state without having done the work.
"To the best of our ability, we can only determine at this point we do not believe it is a proper expenditure," Norris said.
The auditor's actions on the matter could determine whether legal charges are eventually brought against some of the visiting judges.
When Palmer initially complained to the court and the state auditor, Moyer said that visiting judges were not double billing the state.
But since then, the Supreme Court has identified at least $10,000 in double billings from visiting judges and has been repaid $7,060 as of last week.
Judge Cross repaid the Supreme Court $402 after the Akron Beacon Journal brought the double billing to her attention last month.
Last week, the Supreme Court sent a letter to Baird asking to be repaid roughly $2,400 for double billing in 2000.
Dennis Willard can be reached at 614-224-1613 or e-mailed at dwillard@qn.net. Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or e-mailed at doplinger@thebeaconjournal.com.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Wed, 02 Dec 2009 14:18:35 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 06/26/01 – Hearings set in double billing cases http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=610:akron-beacon-journal-june-26-2001-hearings-set-in-double-billing-cases&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=610:akron-beacon-journal-june-26-2001-hearings-set-in-double-billing-cases&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – June 26, 2001 – Hearings set in double billing cases


Hearings set in double billing cases
Franklin County judge agrees to hear evidence
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
COLUMBUS: Charges against nine so-called "visiting judges" who were paid two days' wages for one day of work are to go to hearings in Franklin County Municipal Court later this month.
Judge David Jenkins, after grilling maverick judicial critic David Palmer, agreed to hear further evidence on May 30.
Palmer, who said he is looking out for taxpayers, said he obtained Ohio Supreme Court payment records showing numerous instances in which retired judges submitted bills for judicial work in two counties on the same day and received $804, or the equivalent of two days' pay.
The going rate is $402 a day, or an annualized pay rate of $104,520.
In 1997, Palmer brought the double billing to the attention of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Moyer, who is responsible for recruiting and assigning retired judges to counties that need temporary help. In 1998, Palmer brought the issue to the attention of State Auditor Jim Petro.
In each case, Palmer was told the problem had been rectified.
So this week, he submitted documents and filed charges against nine visiting judges who continued the practice of double billing through the year 2000.
He said there may be more.
Among the nine are retired Medina County Common Pleas judges Judith Cross and Phillip Baird.
Cross has taken issue with one of the two dates and said she has reimbursed the state for the other.
Palmer has raised questions about nine dates in 2000 for Baird.
Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor David Buchman attended the hearing as a representative of the state and asked Palmer to provide a list of potential witnesses.
In another courtroom yesterday, Municipal Judge Charles A Schneider set a hearing for May 24 to consider Palmer's charges against retired Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Yarbrough regarding his meal expenses.
Lawyer Michael Close, representing Yarbrough, said he will show that Palmer's math is wrong and that he can't read paperwork.
While in Columbus, Yarbrough stayed in the apartment of Ohio Rail Development Commission executive director James Seney and paid Seney for that. Palmer contends that Seney should have reported the payments in his annual ethics disclosure statement.
Judge Schneider dismissed the complaint on a technical issue. Palmer said he will resubmit it.
Dennis Willard can be reached at 614-2224-1613 or at dwillard@gn.net. Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or at doplinger@thebeaconjournal.com.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Wed, 02 Dec 2009 14:33:28 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 05/31/01 – Double billing allegations http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=622:akron-beacon-journal-may-31-2001-double-billing-allegations-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=622:akron-beacon-journal-may-31-2001-double-billing-allegations-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – May 31, 2001 – Double billing allegations

Charges on judges dropped

But court, others still pursuing double billing case

By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger


COLUMBUS: Fifty-nine counts of theft in office filed against nine visiting judges, including Medina's Judge Cross and Phillip Baird, were dismissed in a Franklin County court yesterday. But the matter of judges' double billing the state and local counties is far from settled.


David Palmer, the citizen who brought the complaints, agreed to drop the charges for now after being promised he could work with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and be given full access to billing records at the Ohio Supreme Court.


Also yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court send a letter to Baird, stating he billed the state six times for working in two different counties on the same day in 2000 and would have to repay $2,400.


Although attorneys representing the judges said the dismissals were because of their client's innocence, the turn of events continues to raise embarrassing questions about the assignment of visiting judges by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.


For three years, Palmer has been pestering Moyer to investigate improprieties in the payment and expense reimbursement claims by visiting judges. As chief justice, Moyer picks and assigns visiting judges statewide.


Jay Wuebbold, a Supreme Court spokesman, said the court is developing a computer program to ensure all payments to visiting judges are accurate and it is working on a uniform method for visiting judges to bill the state.


Craig Wright, a former Supreme Court justice representing seven judges, including Cross and Baird, said Palmer had misread the public records and brought serious charges that tarnished the reputations of law-abiding judges who had never been charged with anything in their long public careers.


"I hope this is the end of this because it is a disgrace," Wright said.


Palmer said he will pursue charges against visiting judges if records at the Supreme Court indicate a pattern of abuse.


He said he was willing to quit pursuing judges who could prove they had not overbilled the state or those who, like Cross, had made a single billing mistake.


Franklin County Prosecutor David Buchman said he will work with Palmer to determine whether charges should be filed in the future.


"Out of fairness to Mr. Palmer, these are not straws pulled out of the air," Buchman said. "There are issues that need to be addressed."


Palmer filed charges against Cross for allegedly double billing the Supreme Court for working as a visiting judge in Huron and Lorain counties on March 8, 2000.


When the double billing was brought to her attention by the Akron Beacon Journal, Cross repaid the Court $402.


Baird was paid for 10 days by the court for spending the same five days in courtrooms in Summit and Stark counties.


Janet Robinson, the high court's human resources director, said Baird is being asked to pay the state back for those five days in 2000 and an additional day, April 3, in which he sent a bill for two days of work.


Baird submitted a bill to the court on March 21, 2000, for February that indicated in worked in Stark County for the last two days in February and the first three days of March.


Eight days later, Baird submitted another bill to the court for the month of March indicating that he worked in Summit County on Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 and the first three days of March.


Robinson said the court did not catch the double payment until the Beacon Journal brought it to the court's attention yesterday because Baird submitted the bills in two different pay periods. 


"He did double bill. He submitted in two pay periods. We're sending a letter out asking him to repay," Robinson said.


Robinson said the court notices the April 3 double payment after further review yesterday. Baird said he was aware of the April 3 problem and gave Wright, his attorney, a check for $402 last week to reimburse the court.


He said the dates are wrong on the five days in Summit and Stark counties.


"I got that straightened out, I thought. Summit should have been the third week in March," Baird said.


Jim Porter, assistant director for court services, said the Supreme Court overpaid judges $8,808 in the past two years.


The court has been repaid $7,060 and is still owed $1,748.


Those figures do not include the $2,400 the Supreme Court believes Baird owes.


Dennis Willard can be reached at 614-224-1613 or dwillard@qn.net. Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or doplinger@thebeaconjournal.com.


dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Wed, 02 Dec 2009 15:26:56 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 05/15/01 – Chief Justice Moyer accused of breach http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=444:akron-beacon-journal-may-15-2001-chief-justice-thomas-moyer-is-accused-of-breach-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=444:akron-beacon-journal-may-15-2001-chief-justice-thomas-moyer-is-accused-of-breach-&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – 05/15/01 – Chief Justice Moyer accused of breach

Doug Oplinger
Beacon Journal Staff Writer
Toledo retiree files ethics grievance against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer for publicly voicing support for court colleague’s opponent
The high-stakes game of capturing control of the Ohio Supreme Court has landed Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in hot water.
Retired Toledo-area businessman David Palmer has filed an ethics grievance against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer for publicly supporting the opponent of Justice Alice Robie Resnick – a possible violation of the judicial canon, or code of ethics.
Palmer cited disclosures that at a recent Ohio Republican Party event, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer supported Republican Appellate Judge Terrence O’Donnell over Justice Alice Resnick in the November election.
Gwonger News Service, a daily record of Ohio government, said that Chief Justice Thomas Moyer spoke of Judge Terrence O’Donnell as a judge who knows the “limits” of the court in regards to the state legislature. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said without naming names that some of his colleagues on the Ohio Supreme Court have gone too far in overruling lawmakers.
Justice Alice Resnick, however, is the only one fitting the description who is up for election this year.
“What they are doing, in my view, is overruling the will of the people,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said. “I don’t think we have the authority to do that,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said.
While he [Chief Justice Thomas Moyer] wasn’t specific, there are two high-profile cases that have put the court at odds with the General Assembly and the governor. The ability of citizens to seek unlimited damages and the funding of public schools.
Replacing Justice Alice Resnick could tip the delicate 4-3 balance on both of those cases.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said that based on Judge Terrence O’Donnell’s record as an appellate court judge, it is apparent that O’Donnell knows “how important that (hands-off) philosophy is,” Gwonger reported.
Judge Terrence O’Donnell has been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party. Justice Alice Resnick, who has been a Ohio Supreme Court justice since 1988, is a Democrat.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has been chief justice since 1987. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said he is confident of the re-election of Republican Justice Deborah Cook, who is running against Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Tim Black.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer differentiated between a public and private gathering.
Palmer said it makes no difference when it was said – a justice [Chief Justice Thomas Moyer] isn’t supposed to endorse a candidate at any time.”
“That’s akin to saying, “I wouldn’t have shoplifted if I knew there was a camera there,” Palmer said.
In his complaint, Palmer cited a judicial canon, prohibiting judges from making speeches “on behalf of a political organization or another candidate at a political meeting or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for another public office.”
Palmer, is a retired Toledo area restaurateur whose wife was permanently disabled in an accident in 1987. he now spends time at home with her and researching judges and lawyers.
Justice Alice Resnick told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week she was contemplating an action against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer herself.
Justice Alice Resnick was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Court procedure keeps all complaints confidential unless they are elevated to a disciplinary level.
When the complaints involve Supreme Court justices, the investigation is handled by the disciplinary council at the appellate court level.
Campaign contributions are expected to be a key to the November election.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce ranks Justice Alice Resnick as the most anti-business high court justice.
The court now has five Republicans and two Democrats, but two of the Republicans – Andy Douglas and Paul Pheifer – joined Justice Alice Resnick and Justice Francis Sweeney on the two key court cases.
Last August the four overturned a state law limiting financial liability in lawsuits – known as tort reform.
The law capped awards for pain and suffering at $250,000 or three times the actual economic loss, up to $500,000. It also limited awards for permanent injuries to the greater of $1 millions or $35,000 for each year of the victim’s life expectancy.
It was the third time in 10 years that the court had overturned a similar law.
Justice Alice Resnick wrote the strongly worded majority opinion, chastising the legislature for trying to usurp the court’s constitutional powers.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyers, Justice Deborah Cook and Justice Evelyn Lundberg-Stratton were in the minority.
In the 1997 decision on the constitutionality of Ohio’s system of public schools, Cook, Stratton and Chief Justice Thomas Moyer were again in the minority, saying the court had no jurisdiction in what should be a legislative matter.
A second decision on school funding is expected sometime in the next several weeks.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Mon, 14 Sep 2009 21:08:24 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 05/10/01: Billing storm embroils judges http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=722:akron-beacon-journal-may-10-2001-billing-storm-embroils-judges&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=722:akron-beacon-journal-may-10-2001-billing-storm-embroils-judges&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – 05/10/01: Billing storm embroils judges

Theft-in-office charges filed against 9, including 2 from Medina County
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
COLUMBUS: On March 8, 2000, retired Medina County Judge Judith Cross spent the morning working as a visiting judge in Lorain County and then traveled to perform the same work that afternoon in neighboring Huron County.
When it came time to be paid for her work, she submitted a bill for two days’ pay - $402 for Lorain and $402 for Huron – to the Ohio Supreme Court, which handles assignments for visiting judges.
That’s the only day she recalls ever billing for two day’s work on one day, but she is not along in the practice.
Today, a probable cause hearing is scheduled in Franklin County Municipal Judge Bruce Jenkin’s courtroom to review more than 50 felony charges of theft-in-office filed against nine visiting judges, including Medina County retired judge, Phillip Baird.
The charges were brought by David Palmer, executive director for the Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Attorneys and Judges.
“I’m doing it for one reason. To expose those who think they have the God-given right to help themselves to taxpayers’ money,” Palmer said. “It’s such hypocrisy to have these people sitting there as penny-ante crooks judging others.”
Palmer said he went to Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer in 1997 with examples of double billing and was ignored. Moyer assigns visiting judges.
He also asked state Auditor Jim Petro in 1998 to examine the pattern of double billing and was told it was legal.
So he has started to file felony charges himself.
His actions yesterday prompted reactions from Cross and state officials.
Supreme Court pays bill
Cross said she wondered whether billing for two counties on the same day was appropriate, but the Supreme Court paid the bills. She said she called the court yesterday after being interviewed by the Akron Beacon Journal, was told it was wrong and now is reimbursing the state.
“I don’t always turn in for a case if it’s only a little bit of work, or just a phone call,” she said.
She remembers clearly the March 8, date.
“I was working in Lorain County. I finished in the morning and went to Huron County in the afternoon,” Cross said. “I remember wondering about it. It was two different assignments.”
She said visiting judges are paid for working any part of a day.
Baird, also of Medina, was paid $2,010 from Feb. 28 through March 3, 2000, for sitting as a visiting judge in Stark County. During those same five days, Baird billed the Supreme Court for an additional $2,010 as a visiting judge in Summit County.
At least eight times in 2000, Baird was paid two full days’ wages for working in two different counties on the same day. He could not be reached for comment.
Michael Grodhaus, Petro’s chief legal counsel, said his office will be talking to the Supreme Court about its practices.
Grodhaus said he sent a letter to the court in1998 after being contacted by palmer and was told the practice was discontinued.
He said there is nothing in Ohio law preventing judges being paid for sitting as a visiting judge in two counties in one day, but the state auditor’s office believes a judge should receive one hour’s pay for one hour’s work.
Chief Justice Moyer was at a conference and unavailable for comment.
Not illegal, but ‘wrong’
Douglas Stephens, the Supreme Court’s assistant director of judicial and court services, said the practice of billing twice for the same day is not illegal, but it’s wrong.
“It’s wrong. The chief [Chief Justice Moyer] will publicly say that it is wrong. He will stand by his previous statement (of 1998),” Stephens said. “Even without Palmer’s involvement, we have been working feverishly to improve our record keeping to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Visiting judges can bill for partial days for more than one county, but not for more than one day, Stephens said.
He said judges “were informed how to bill” following the 1998 issue when Petro’s office raised questions, but Cross became a visiting judge since then.
“We’re very concerned and watching (the probable cause hearing) very closely. The judges involved provide a great service,” Stephens said.
He said that Stephen Yarbrough, a retired visiting judge from Lucas County, also has reimbursed the state.
Yarbrough repaid the state for six days in which he double-billed, but Palmer said he found 12 additional days in which Yarbrough was paid twice for work in two counties on the same day.
Palmer filed those charges against Yarbrough yesterday and he is also asking the court to look into an arrangement between Yarbrough and James Seney, chairman of the Ohio Rail Development Commission.
Yarbrough was routinely reimbursed $55 to $60 a night for lodging as a visiting judge in Franklin County. He said he was paying Seney to stay at an apartment in Columbus.
Seney would not comment, but he did not list any income from Yarbrough on financial disclosure forms he is required to file annually with the state.
Palmer has asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate the rental arrangement between Seney and Yarbrough.
But repaying the state isn’t good enough, Palmer said.
“Repaying doesn’t get you out of a felony. That’s like saying, “Oh, I’m sorry I robbed the bank, ‘If that works for judges, then we’re opening the door for everyone to use that excuse,” he said. “The Supreme Court has no authority to give you absolution for these felonies.”
Palmer also filed a charge against Cross that indicates she was paid June 28 for working simultaneously in Cuyahoga and Ashland counties, but she said he is mistaken.
He said he was using records from the Supreme Court and provided documents to the Beacon Journal that indicated Cross was paid $803.89 for working in two counties on that date.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Thu, 28 Jan 2010 22:04:03 +0000
► Akron Beacon Journal – 04/26/01 – Court seeking review of visiting judges’ pay http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=606:akron-beacon-journal-april-26-2001-court-seeking-review-of-visiting-judges-pay&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=606:akron-beacon-journal-april-26-2001-court-seeking-review-of-visiting-judges-pay&catid=3:witn&Itemid=64 Akron Beacon Journal – April 26, 2001 – Court seeking review of visiting judges’ pay


Wednesday, April 26, 2000
You'd think Chief Justice Thomas Moyer would be wary of plunging into a political campaign as intense as the race between his colleague, Justice Alice Robie Resnick, and Judge Terrence O'Donnell of the 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland. Yes, intense already. For many observers, control of the Ohio Supreme Court hangs in the balance.
Switch Resnick for O'Donnell, the thinking goes, and the high court's view of the school-funding case changes. So, too, its take on reform of the civil-justice system. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. Still, expect the political money to flow.
Moyer has expressed frustration with the image of the court during his 12 years as chief justice, the fisticuffs, the near name-calling, the judicial activism. He knows well the code of judicial ethics states that an incumbent judge should not make speeches "for a political organization or candidate at a political meeting or publicly endorse a candidate for office."
Yet, that is what the chief justice virtually did at a recent Ohio Republican Party event, all but urging the election of O'Donnell.
Moyer confessed that he might have put things differently if he had known that a reporter sat in the audience, David Palmer, a retired Toledo-area businessman, rightly thinks the excuse lame. He has filed a grievance against the chief justice.
The question all of this raises is: Was anyone really surprised? Moyer and Resnick have been disagreeing for years--in public, in written opinions. It figures that Moyer would favor the thinking of O'Donnell, a fellow Republican. Criticize Resnick? He has done so regularly.
The truth is, Ohioans will be lucky if the Moyer episode is the worst of the Resnick-O'Donnell race. Even the chief justice couldn't resist.
dave@manderes.com (Dave Palmer) Dawg in the News Wed, 02 Dec 2009 14:25:26 +0000