The gatekeepers: Striking it rich in the bail bond business

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on March 26th, 2016

Columbus Alive Archive Article

The gatekeepers (Bail bonds)
05/07/1997
FEATURED ARTICLE
The gatekeepers
Striking it rich in the bail bond business

by Bob Fitrakis

Despite a city ordinance prohibiting the soliciting of business by bail bondsmen, “in or around any court or public place,” a month-long investigation by Columbus Alive revealed that the law is routinely ignored. One firm, SMD & HLS Bonding Company, appears to be running its business from the “interview” room next to arraignment Courtroom 4D in the Municipal Court building. SMD & HLS bail bonders linger in the hall and sit in the back of the court and appear to be soliciting business.

The so-called public “interview” room appears to function as a high-powered office for the SMD & HLS Bonding Company, listed in the yellow pages as four different firms: Handler Bonding, Lowell Fox, Sam English and A-Aa Absolute Bail Bonds. Still appearing in the yellow pages entry is a photo of Sam English, who has been dead for several years. As of the writing of this article, the woman who answers the phone at the Sam English firm tells callers that Mr. English “isn’t in.”

Although the courthouse is a no-smoking public building, smoke wafts from the interview room when the door is opened as bail bondsmen hustle family and friends of defendants from the arraignment court to their office equipped with phones and a criss-cross phone directory. As one highly placed law-enforcement source put it, “It’s the old adage. The best place to hide illegal activity is out in the open.”

A non-Handler bondsman pointed out what he saw as an analogous situation. In 1990, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio suspended Judge Ralph D. Dye Jr. of McConnelsville for using public space to conduct private business. The board labeled his free-rent arrangement at the courthouse “inexcusable, unfair to other attorneys and unethical.”

In a letter dated November 21, 1996, in response to a public records request, Municipal Clerk of Courts Paul Herbert, stated: “I have not been designated, nor do I have any authority to enforce the use of the conference room next to Court Room 4D. …The rules for the use of the room have been clearly posted on the door.”

Asked if his bondsmen are soliciting business on the fourth floor, Handler said in a telephone interview: “Totally untrue. I don’t need to solicit. I’ve been in business 25 years. I advertise. People refer other people to me.”

Are his bondsmen running a business out of the Interview room next to 4D? “No,” Handler responded.

Most court officials say that the interview room is set up to serve lawyers and their clients for privileged private discussion. On three different occasions, when Columbus Alive watched the Interview Room, the only people inside were bail bondsmen. The rules, according to a non-Handler bondsman, are “first-come, first-serve. But, it’s like the Old West. [Handler]’s got Woody Fox, a retired Columbus police officer working as a bondsman. He’s got Al Clark, former chief deputy at the sheriff’s department, and when you go up there, Handler’s got the nerve to tell you that you’re not supposed to be there. ‘No soliciting.’ So now I just sit by the phone and wait for people to call for bonds. It’s cheaper. Everyone over there has their palms out; if you pay one, you’ve got to pay ’em all.”

Handler now appears to be the top gun, but not after a fight—literally. In 1994, the Columbus Dispatch reported that “Bondsman Jack Bates said his nose was bloodied and his face bruised when Mark Glaser, a bondsman with Harvey Handler’s bail bonding agency, struck him in the face on the fourth floor of the Franklin County Municipal Court.”

Ironically, bail bondsmen were supposed to be a thing of the past. In 1972, Ohio Chief Justice C. William O’Neill attacked the Ohio General Assembly for yielding to “pressure from bail bondsmen in rejecting rules for criminal procedure” reforms proposed by the Ohio Supreme Court in January of ’72. In a Dispatch article, O’Neill stated that, “In 90 percent of the cases the bail bondsman renders no service and takes no risk, but keeps his profit.”

By 1974, the Franklin County Municipal Court initiated its Pre-Trial Release Program (PTRP) in hopes of eliminating the need for costly and often unnecessary bond fees in most criminal cases. The era of reform is long over in the Franklin County Municipal Court. Herbert acknowledges in his letter that between January 1, 1996 and September 30, 1996 SMD & HLS Bonding Company wrote far more bonds in Municipal Court than any other firm. The breakdown is as follows: SMD & HLS Bonding Company – 3411; Columbus Bail Bonds – 891; Chuck Brown Bail Bond Agency – 603; International Bonds – 424; Bates Bonding – 52; American Bail Bond Agency – 15; other – 75.

Whether it’s legal or not is a question few judges or court officials care to probe. A cozy relationship exists between bail bondsman Harvey Handler—who manages or controls the four different bail bonding agencies in Columbus—and judges, Clerk of Court officials and court employees. Handler is a major political contributor to judicial and Clerk of Court office candidates and sometimes generous benefactor to court employees.

“Handler runs the fourth floor,” said former bail bondsman Bill Neil. “It’s a protected racket. The reason they like the fourth floor of Muni Court is because the felons are initially arraigned there, even though they’re tried in Common Pleas.

“It’s easy money. They can bail somebody out and they know the charges will be dropped within two weeks in Municipal Court because they have to be tried in Common Pleas. They’re just taking people’s money with no risk involved,” explained Neil.

Neil claims he went “broke in the business. Every two weeks, when the clerks didn’t get paid, I had to spend $50 or $60 to get pizzas…. And I had to give a security guard 30 bucks to pass out my business card.”

Under the current system, for example, if you are arrested for felonious assault and your bond is set at $5,000, you must pay 10 percent, or $500, to the court for an “appearance bond” or $500 to a bail bondsman for a “surety” bond. In the case of an appearance bond, you would get all but 10 percent ($450) back when you appear in court. With a surety bond from a bail bondsman, you would get nothing back when you appear at trial. But if you paid a surety bond and failed to show at trial, the bondsman is legally liable for the entire $5,000 bond.

The type of bonds are set at the judge’s discretion. Judges may also set recognizance bonds and release the defendant without posting any cash.

“Judges vary greatly. When I was in the business, if [Municipal Court Judge] Anne Taylor was on the bench doing arraignments, we took the week off,” Neil explained.

Curiously, Criminal Rule 46 of Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure concerning the “Pre-trial release in felony cases,” provides that judges should use “personal recognizance” or an “unsecured appearance bond” as the “preferred method of release.” But few judges besides Taylor appear to follow it.

Since the Municipal Court cannot try felony cases, arrested felons are seen by municipal judges primarily for the setting of bond. Court records indicate that arrested felons are routinely arraigned and bonded on the fourth floor of the Municipal Court building and, just as routinely, the charges are dismissed a short time later. Defendants are told that the case will “be dismissed for possible future indictment.”

A grand jury later meets in the Common Pleas Court and holds a hearing. If an indictment is handed up, a summons is usually issued for a Common Pleas court appearance. Thus, what the bail bondsmen know is that there is little or no risk involved in forfeiting a surety bond in Municipal Court since the charges against the defendants will be dismissed. “It’s a scam,” as one bondsman put it. By not carrying over the bonds from the Municipal Court arraignments of felons to Common Pleas Court cases, Handler and other bondsmen are regularly pocketing thousands of dollars in risk-free money. And defendants are often surprised when they are required to repost bond money when they are summoned to Common Pleas Court.

If Municipal Clerk of Courts Herbert, “wanted to put his foot down, he could end this practice tomorrow,” said a S. High Street bondsman critical of Handler. “I’ve practiced in Marion County, Delaware County, Madison County and Franklin County. This is the only place that allows this to go on,” he added.

Herbert, who is up for re-election this year, is on record defending the practices of his court. “…You must realize that surety bonds provide a valuable service to the criminal justice system. Not only do you have agents with a vested interest in catching and returning defendants to court to stand trial for their conduct, but the court holds the security (in the form of a power) that can be executed against for the amount of the bond if the defendant does not return or the agent does not pay the bond.”

Herbert pointed out in a telephone interview Monday that the interview room is “open to the public, attorneys and bondsmen.” While his office is on the fourth floor, he said he was unaware of any soliciting of business by bondsmen. “I have no idea; I don’t police those rooms.” He suggested that Administrative Judge David Fais or Building Manager Bill Charlton would be responsible. “I try to stay out of that area,” Herbert added.

Asked about his relationship with Handler, Herbert acknowledged that Handler is a political contributor to Herbert and other judges and court-related officials, but not a “big donor.” Herbert did term Handler “very supportive” of his own political campaign.

Both Neil and other bondsmen charge that the Clerk’s office allows another infamous “rip-off” of criminal defendants. All bonds include an additional fee collected for the Victims of Crime Fund and the Public Defender’s Office. In felony cases, this amounts to $41: $30 to the Victim’s Fund and $11 to the Public Defenders. When cases are dismissed, or defendants are found not guilty, the money is returned to the bondsman who posted it, not to the defendant who supplied the cash. Legally, the money belongs to the defendants, but all too frequently, bondsmen fail to return the money and pocket it as pure profit. With no court enforcement to return the funds, the bail bondsmen benefit. “Money for nothing,” one bondsman explained. Neil pointed out that since most of the defendants are poor and uneducated, they are “easy marks” who don’t understand the legal system and are unlikely to protest the practice. Plus, their reputation as suspected criminals does not garner much sympathy for their plight.

Asked if the bondsmen are essentially taking defendants’ money twice, Herbert responded, “I suppose they would [be]. You need to ask the prosecutors, they’re the ones that dismiss the cases.”

According to a 1994 Dispatch article, 1,279 defendants released on surety bonds set in Municipal Court skipped bond. Neil and other bail bondsmen charge that Municipal Clerk of Court Herbert and Franklin County Clerk of Courts Jesse Oddi show favoritism to Handler’s firms. “Hell, when I had to pay a bond for a skip, the deputy clerks used to joke that ‘Handler’s guys are never down here,’” said Neil.

The Dispatch article also reported that: “In reality, court officials say more than half of bond forfeitures are set aside by judges. They may forgive the debt at their discretion.” Court records obtained by Columbus Alive indicate that court officials seem to be more forgiving for the Handler firms than others. Take the case of Dean Hinchee, arrested in 1991. Handler posted a $3,500 surety bonded for Hinchee on November 11, 1991. When Hinchee failed to show on January 28, 1992, Handler had 30 days to produce him or forfeit the bond. In a November 1996 billing to the SMD & HLS Bonding Company, a Dean Hinchere is listed instead of Hinchee. Although the names are spelled differently, Alive has obtained copies showing that the case numbers are the same: 29681. In the ’96 Handler billing the court requests only $350 from SMD & HLS Bonding when the full amount that should have been forfeited by Handler in 1992 for Hinchee’s court skip is $3,500.

Either by accident or design, Franklin County Courts are apparently shaving a zero off of Handler’s bond forfeiture bills, in effect billing one of the court’s major political donors at only 10 percent of the amount due.

Asked about the apparent shaving, Herbert said, “It’s currently being litigated” and refused further comment.

Asked about the allegations that bills are being shaved, Handler answered: “Totally incorrect. It doesn’t deserve a response. My attorneys are dealing with it.”

When probed about allegations that court employees have accepted gratuities from Handler and other bail bondsmen, Herbert said, “I don’t think that’s going on; if it is, they need to knock it off. We’re not supposed to be taking anything of value; but it’s a gray area of the law.” Herbert pointed out that, unless there was a quid pro quo, a gift for service, any gratuities or perks provided court officials by bondsmen probably aren’t illegal. “We should avoid the appearance of impropriety, and I’ve instructed my people not to accept any gifts.”

The billing of bondsmen seems to be a haphazard system. Herbert and his deputy clerks reportedly have busied themselves of late putting records into “storage.” This may make it all the more difficult to account for the total amount of forfeited bonds owed the Municipal Court by bond firms. In an independent audit by KPMG Peat Marwick LLP for the period January 1, 1994 through December 31, 1994, the report states that the Municipal Court practices “other than generally accepted accounting principles.” In a June 25, 1996 letter, State Auditor Jim Petro—currently lobbying to head the U.S. General Accounting Office—”accepted” the KPMG report “in lieu of the audit required by Section 117.11 Revised Code.” Petro noted “The Auditor of State did not audit the accompanying financial statements and accordingly, we are unable to express, and do not express an opinion on them.”

The obvious beneficiaries of such a system are not the public or poor and uneducated defendants and their families and friends, but the incumbent judges and clerk candidates who receive political donations, and the bonding companies who benefit from court officials’ lack of oversight.

Spook Air

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on March 24th, 2016

Orig Published Columbus Alive 4-22-1999

4/22/1999
FEATURED ARTICLE
Spook Air
by Bob Fitrakis

Something’s rotten at Rickenbacker Port Authority. Maybe it’s just the stench of the bankrupt corpse of Southern Air Transport, or the moldering smell of the $3 million the state pumped into the notorious airline before it folded.

Ohio taxpayers are among the more than 800 creditors now lined up to file claims against “Spook Air.” SAT filed for bankruptcy in Columbus on October 1, 1998, the same day the Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General issued a report linking the cargo hauler to allegations of drug-running in connection with U.S.-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Once lauded as a coup for central Ohio development, landing Southern Air Transport’s business at Rickenbacker eventually turned into a nightmare, as the enterprise became mired in massive debt and was closed under a cloud of suspicion about its true activities. Just how and why one of the world’s most notorious airlines ended up in Columbus in the mid-1990s is a story that hasn’t been fully examined until now.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Columbus Alive obtained a massive number of documents from the Rickenbacker Port Authority and additional records from the Ohio Department of Development showing that the Franklin County Commissioners and the Voinovich administration offered hard-to-refuse incentives to get SAT’s business, despite the airline’s shady history.

“We are proud of Rickenbacker’s growth and believe the addition of Southern Air Transport would represent a significant step forward,” Franklin County Commissioner Arlene Shoemaker wrote Southern Air President William G. Langton in January 1995. SAT officials pitched a proposal involving the construction of a 180,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and air-maintenance facility on leased land in the Rickenbacker Air Industrial Park. They projected the total cost of the project at more than $36 million, and predicted the creation of 300 new jobs within a three-year period.

“I will need and look forward to help from the State of Ohio, the Port Authority, Franklin County, the City of Columbus, the Chamber of Commerce and any other groups or individuals you would suggest, to help effectuate a seamless move to Columbus, Ohio, and the Rickenbacker International Airport,” wrote Langton in a February 14, 1995, letter to the port authority’s Executive Director Bruce Miller. A “seamless move,” in Langton’s estimation, would cost $3 million.

The port authority and the Ohio Department of Development, under the aegis of Governor George Voinovich’s then-Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud, developed an attractive incentive package for SAT. The state development department agreed to provide SAT with a low-interest $6 million loan. The department promised an additional half-million dollars from a Business Development Capital Account to defray the cost of “eligible equipment associated with the project.” The Ohio Department of Transportation agreed to enter into a lease to support $10.2 million in Certificates of Participation to enable Rickenbacker to make “necessary taxi-way and parking improvements to allow SAT to locate in the park,” according to an SAT document. Such airport improvements are usually funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The document goes on to spell out that “the Rickenbacker Port Authority has committed approximately $600,000 to fund other public infrastructure improvements associated with the project… In addition, the port authority has also agreed to make available to SAT up to $30 million in port authority revenue bonds for eligible project related costs.” The SAT document noted that, “Franklin County has also committed to granting a 100 percent abatement for 15 years on real property improvements under Ohio’s Community Reinvestment Area Law.”

Shadowy ties to Ohio

News accounts show that The Limited owner Leslie Wexner played a role in SAT’s relocation to Rickenbacker. Two other key figures in the SAT story have Columbus connections: Alan D. Fiers Jr., a starting tackle on the 1961 Ohio State University football team and a Buckeye assistant coach in 1962, who later became the chief of the CIA Central American Task Force; and retired Air Force Major General Richard Secord, head of air logistics for the CIA-owned Air America’s covert action in Laos between 1966 and 1968, and air logistics coordinator in the illegal Contra resupply network for Oliver North in the ’80s.

Both Fiers and Secord eventually were found guilty of charges in connection with the Iran-Contra affair. On July 9, 1991, Fiers pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges involving illegally supplying weapons to the Contras. According to the recent CIA report on Southern Air Transport, Fiers informed U.S. Senate investigators that the CIA told the DEA early on about Contra leaders being involved in drug smuggling. Secord, who is a 1954 graduate of Columbus’ South High School, pleaded guilty in 1989 to a felony charge in connection with the cover-up of the Iran-Contra affair.

While SAT was busy setting up offices in central Ohio, the CIA was linking the airline to illicit activities. The October 1998 CIA report on Southern Air Transport says that as early as January 21, 1987, the customs office in New Orleans was investigating an allegation of drug trafficking by SAT crew members. The 1987 memorandum noted that the source of the allegation was a senior FDN (Contra) official, and indicated that the official was concerned that “scandal emanating from Southern Air Transport could rebound badly on FDN interest including humanitarian aid from the United States.”

The memo continues, “A February 23, 1991, DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency] cable to CIA linked SAT to drug trafficking. The cable reported that SAT was `of record’ in DEA’s database from January 1985-September 1990 for alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking. An August 1990 entry in DEA’s database reportedly alleged that $2 million was delivered to the firm’s business sites and several of the firm’s pilots and executives were suspected of smuggling `narcotics currency.'”

How did such a notorious company come to set up shop in central Ohio? Perhaps it was the efforts of Langton to keep the airline’s history in intelligence operations at arm’s length that assured Ohio officials of SAT’s success. In March 1995, Langton told the Columbus Dispatch that his company was “no longer connected to the CIA.”

“Too good to turn down”

It remains unclear exactly why Franklin County Commissioners were so willing to bring the scandal-ridden airline to central Ohio. Commissioner Dorothy Teater, currently running for mayor of Columbus, told Columbus Alive this month that she was not aware of Southern Air’s ties to the CIA. “If it’s true, that’s awful,” she said, adding the push to land SAT in Ohio came from the state Department of Development. “We commissioners were an afterthought. They asked us at the last second to sit in the audience at the press conference.”

When asked last week if she was aware of SAT’s past CIA links or allegations of drug running, Commissioner Shoemaker answered, “Certainly not.”

Documents obtained by Columbus Alive show that local officials did not balk at the notion of an enterprise at one time linked to drug smuggling and covert operations worldwide setting up shop here. They were apparently willing to overlook any danger signals in an effort to please local commercial enterprises that might benefit from SAT business. In 1996, SAT spokesperson David Sweet told Columbus Alive the airline moved to Ohio because “the deal [put together by the development department] was too good to turn down.”

The Franklin County Commissioners created the Rickenbacker Port Authority (RPA) in 1979 in order to utilize excess military land at Rickenbacker Air Force Base for industrial, distribution and air cargo purposes. In February 1992, the county commissioners created a Community Reinvestment Area for five years, making the Rickenbacker Port Authority a lucrative investment zone.

In a 1994 corporate report, which Columbus Alive retrieved from the Rickenbacker Port Authority’s files, Langton downplayed the airline’s controversial past and its crucial role in the Iran-Contra scandal, describing it as “an all-cargo airline operating schedule, charter and wetlease service for shippers, freight forwarders, the Department of Defense, relief organizations and individual customers around the world.”

On April 13, 1994, William B. Holley, executive vice president for economic development for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, wrote the Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit Authority under the Ohio Department of Development, urging that the airline receive tax credits for relocating from Miami, Florida, to Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus.

Edmund James, president of James and Donohew Development Services, told the Columbus Dispatch that negotiations with Southern Air had begun “exactly one year ago today,” speaking at the March 16, 1995, press conference announcing that SAT was locating to Columbus. He let it be known that “much of the Hong Kong-to-Rickenbacker cargo will be for The Limited.” James said, “This is a big story for central Ohio. It’s huge, actually.”

The day following the press conference, Brian Clancy, a cargo analyst with MergeGloban Inc., was quoted in the Journal of Commerce: “Limited Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, is based in Columbus, a fact that undoubtedly contributed in large part to Southern Air’s decision.”

That same day, the Dispatch noted a meeting between Langton, Governor Voinovich and “other officials yesterday to discuss the air cargo carrier’s plans.” Governor Voinovich is quoted saying, “This will be a new window to the world for Ohio business… It will be a boon for exports.” Within a week, SAT announced it would be flying twice-weekly freighters from Hong Kong to Columbus on behalf of The Limited.

In an article titled “Touchdown in Columbus,” SAT’s company newsletter featured an artist’s rendering of the proposed state-of-the-art headquarters on its cover and lauded “the very pro-business attitude of the State of Ohio and City of Columbus.”

That pro-business attitude is evident in a 1995 letter from SAT’s Langton to the Rickenbacker Port Authority. Although in response to Alive’s records request, former Governor Voinovich’s staffers claimed no records exist linking the governor or then-Chief of Staff Mifsud to the SAT deal, a February 22, 1995, letter from SAT chief Langton to Miller of the port authority stated: “I was very pleased with my visit with Mr. Paul Mifsud and Governor Voinovich, and after meeting with the State of Ohio it is my understanding that they will make the appropriate changes in funding amounts that we require in our Response to Proposal… I would expect to have a decision on the matter on or before March 10, 1995.” Numerous other SAT correspondence were carbon-copied to Mifsud at the governor’s office.

Repeated calls and a fax sent to Senator Voinovich’s office seeking comment for this article were not answered.

The next day, a letter from Ohio Department of Development Director Donald Jakeway to Langton begins, “Pursuant to your recent meeting with this department and Paul Mifsud, we are responding with this revised commitment letter…” Jakeway outlined a “revised preliminary commitment” worth an estimated $7.2 million in services, benefits, tax credits and low-interest infrastructure loans.

Jakeway is no longer with the Department of Development and was out of the country this week and could not be reached for comment. Calls to the Department of Development for comment were not returned by presstime.

On March 16, 1995, Langton joined then-Governor Voinovich and officials from the Rickenbacker Port Authority to announce officially the relocation of SAT from Miami to Columbus. In the Columbus Dispatch’s coverage of the announcement, an exuberant Voinovich gushed, “I am extremely pleased to welcome Southern Air Transport to Ohio, as it will be the first airline to have its world headquarters located at Rickenbacker Airport. This will help Columbus tremendously in becoming a world-class inland port.”

Shoemaker, representing the Franklin County Commissioners, said, “We’re deeply grateful to the governor and all those who helped make it possible to welcome Southern Air to Franklin County.”

Langton called Rickenbacker “an opportunity waiting to happen.”

By the end of the year, Langton was not sounding quite so positive. In the SAT newsletter, he stated: “As we close out 1995, I am sorry to report that we have the first loss year in recent history for Southern Air Transport.”

Spying the friendly skies

Apparently, the airline was in better shape financially when it was engaged in covert and possibly illegal activities. Officials of SAT, which was founded in 1947, acknowledge that their airline was owned by the CIA from 1960 to 1973. In 1960, the CIA purchased SAT for $300,000 and rapidly expanded the airline’s business into the Far East and Latin America. At one point, SAT was the CIA’s largest “proprietary”–a private business owned by the CIA–with estimated assets of more than $50 million and more than 8,000 employees worldwide.

In 1973, the CIA sold SAT to “the official who had run it on behalf of the CIA, with a $5.1 million loan from First National Bank of Chicago, known to be a CIA-used bank,” according to the National Journal. The airline retained informal ties with both the CIA and the National Security Council. The current principal owner is Miami attorney James Bastian, former CIA lawyer, who chaired the investment partnership of the management group that acquired SAT from the CIA. In 1979, Bastian acquired the company’s outstanding stock.

The airline’s activities after that suggest that it was still heavily tied to the U.S. national security apparatus. During the 1980s, Southern Air Transport carried a variety of military supplies, arms and equipment to the Contras. Southern Air President Langton admitted in an affidavit in the civil trial of SAT employee Eugene Hasenfus that SAT flew TOW anti-tank missiles from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to Israel. Southern Air crews then loaded the missiles onto Israeli-owned planes that flew them into Iran.

At the time, President Ronald Reagan was officially urging the world to embargo Iran, a country he called “Murder, Inc.” In 1986, SAT secretly shipped 90 tons of TOW missiles to Iran as part of the Reagan administration’s secret arms-for-hostages exchange. Proceeds from the sale of the missiles–some $16 million–were diverted to the Contra resupply effort in Central America. The scandal broke when on October 5, 1986, a Southern Air Transport C-123 cargo plane carrying 10,000 pounds of arms was shot down over Nicaragua.

The flight logs of the downed Southern Air Transport C-123 linked it to a history of involvement with the CIA, cocaine and the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia. The logs documented several Southern Air Transport flights to Barranquilla, Colombia, during October 1985, the same time Wanda Palacios, a Miami FBI informant, told the FBI that the airline was running drugs.

(It was also the same airplane that Louisiana drug dealer Barry Seal used in a joint CIA-DEA sting operation in 1984 against the Sandinistas. Seal acquired the plane through a complicated airline swap with the Medellin cartel, according to declassified government documents, and the plane was fitted with hidden cameras by the CIA at Rickenbacker Air Force Base. Seal reportedly flew weapons for the Contras and returned to the United States with cocaine. He was murdered in New Orleans in 1986 by Colombian hitmen.)

Reports of SAT involvement with drug runners surfaced early on in the Congressional Iran-Contra inquiry. In August 1987, the New York Times reported Palacios informed Congressional investigators that “she witnessed drugs being exchanged for guns intended for the Contras.” Palacios identified Southern Air Transport planes involved in the gun and drug running in two separate incidents in 1983 and 1985. Initially SAT denied any connection to the CIA and dismissed accusations of drug running as absurd.

Although SAT issued an internal memo denying any post-Iran-Contra connections to the CIA, during the Gulf War in 1990-91, Southern Air Transport played a key role in logistic support for the U.S. military. And in September 1990, the Air Force awarded SAT a $54 million contract for “air transport services.” Early 1996 opened for SAT with the same story line when it garnered a 90-day contract to transport construction supplies, equipment and civilian personnel from Zagreb, Croatia, to Tuzla, Bosnia, one of the world’s military hot spots.

The end of the runway

By the end of January 1996, company officials assured the Dispatch that SAT “isn’t backing away from the central Ohio hub,” but SAT officials were dragging their feet on plans to begin construction on a hangar at Rickenbacker.

SAT’s lack of action did not stop the state’s Controlling Board from approving, in May 1996, a half-million-dollar grant “related to the overall project of constructing a 180,000-square-foot facility.” Documents show that Doug Talbott of the Ohio Department of Development hand-carried a $500,000 check to an SAT official on August 5, 1996.

On December 19, 1996, the Dispatch reported that SAT was “delinquent in paying a $277,000 personal property tax bill.” SAT spokesperson David Sweet insisted that “the company is financially sound and intends to proceed with its Rickenbacker plans. `It’s not that we don’t have the money to pay the tax; we just dispute the amount,'” according to the Dispatch.

Langton, SAT’s president of 15 years, left abruptly in March 1997, handing the reins back to the airline’s owner James Bastian. Eight months later, SAT issued layoff notices to 100 of its 750 employees. Two months after that, Southern Air Transport publicly announced it would lay off 54 of the 65 maintenance workers at Rickenbacker and 43 of the 175 employees at the company’s temporary headquarters on Kimberly Parkway. Rickenbacker Port Authority now lacked any airport maintenance facility.

SAT, which had promised 300 new jobs within three years–and had already taken at least $3.5 million in state money–admitted that it hadn’t begun work on the maintenance facility project it had promised.

Marlo B. Tannous, deputy chief legal counsel for the Department of Development, issued a memo trying to figure out what “the exact job numbers” were submitted by SAT to the state. In June 1998, SAT announced it planned “to park and sell off most of its fleet of Lockheed Hercules L-100” planes.

That same month, Joseph C. Robertson, director of the state Department of Development, wrote J. Robert Peart, the executive vice president and CEO of SAT, inquiring about the $500,000 grant and an earlier $200,000 grant for new employee training. “It is critical that DOD receive an accurate assessment of your company’s situation related to these agreements,” Robertson wrote.

On July 30, 1998, Daniel F. Dooley, the chief financial officer of SAT, informed Lewie A. Main of the Department of Development that “Southern Air’s project will not proceed as planned at Rickenbacker due to severe financial difficulty.”

Fine Air Services of Miami announced a plan to purchase the financially troubled SAT on July 23, 1998. Robert Dahl, a consultant with Air Cargo Management Group, summed up SAT’s financial woes by pointing out “there are fewer belligerent circumstances in the world today than there were during the Cold War.” Apparently Spook Air needed the Soviets and the Red Menace to survive. Fine Air backed out of the agreement to purchase SAT “after getting a closer look at its books,” according to the Journal of Commerce.

Kitty Hawk Inc., the world’s largest operator of air cargo planes, signed a letter of intent shortly thereafter to buy SAT. Three weeks later, Kitty Hawk terminated the agreement. Neither Fine Air or Kitty Hawk gave reasons for their decisions not to purchase Southern Air.

Blanca Hernandez, a Southern Air spokesperson, denied rumors that the company was going to seek bankruptcy protection after the Kitty Hawk deal fell through. Three days later, Southern Air Transport grounded all its flights and fired 450 employees. Hernandez admitted that the company was “considering ways to liquidate assets.” The Dispatch reported that the Ohio Department of Transportation would not try to “recoup” $3 million it had loaned SAT.

Telephone calls to Southern Air Transport seeking comment for this story were referred to Columbus attorney Randy Latour. Citing pending litigation, Latour declined to comment.

The Dispatch managed to put a positive spin on the death of Spook Air: “But there were plenty of good times for Southern Air. Its Hercules fleet became the pack mules of the skies, transporting odd-size cargo, including Keiko, the whale, and taking part in humanitarian airlifts to Bosnia and Somalia.” Like local officials, the Dispatch ignored the mounting evidence of SAT’s ties to cocaine smuggling.

More recently, on April 4, the Dispatch reported that the airline’s already messy bankruptcy may be further complicated by allegations that $32 million in the private account of SAT owner Bastian’s wife Mary Bastian are company funds.

On October 1, 1998, the CIA Inspector General issued his report outlining allegations of Southern Air Transport’s involvement in drug-running. That same day, Spook Air filed for bankruptcy in Columbus.

Why it Could be President Bush and VP Kasich

Posted by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman on September 20th, 2015

Get ready: the Republicans may not know it, but they’ve all but certified their ticket for 2016, and they will probably win.

The saturation bloviation that followed this week’s Republican presidential debates missed some monumental moments, including:

(1)   There was one (and ONLY one) candidate on the stage that had anything meaningful to say. It was Rand Paul. What he said about war and marijuana were of serious significance.

(2)   The GOP hard core on the stage and in the audience certified their obeisance to a free pass for the horrific presidency of George W. Bush, thereby opening the door for his brother, who can almost certainly win if he runs with the guy from Ohio.

Let’s deal first with Rand Paul. Like his father (and unlike virtually anyone else in the GOP) the Senator from Kentucky seems to have some actual principles. Both Pauls have been firmly committed to the legalization of marijuana for many years, and have not wavered.

When Rand (who’s a medical doctor) discussed pot in the debate, he couched it in terms of those who are struggling to get medical marijuana treatment for their children. Rather than slamming him, Jeb Bush then sheepishly admitted to having smoked it many years ago, puffing it up with the obligatory joke about his truly terrifying mother.

That’s old news. What’s new came from Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor has proudly proclaimed that as president he would send the drug gestapo even (or especially) into states where pot has been legalized to “enforce federal law.”

But when confronted with Sen. Paul’s lament on medical marijuana, Christie whimpered that NJ also has medical marijuana, and that he would not interfere with that.

It was utterly ridiculous. But it underscored how far pot has moved toward full legalization. These were the REPUBLICANS! Only Carly Fiorino jumped in with a lament over the death of her drug-addicted step-daughter, which somehow seemed to support her desire to jail all pot smokers.

Those of us in Ohio were then treated to a high-production-value commercial (it ran at least twice during the debate) featuring a Buckeye mother complaining that her daughter suffers from seizures, and that she and her husband have been forced to move to Colorado to get medical marijuana.

Bordering on the surreal for those of us living in the midwest, the ad was sponsored by a very well-funded group of corporatists who’ve put a legalization measure on the ballot here.

That initiative might fail. But Toledo has just voted to decriminalize and the floodgates feeding full legalization are clearly open. That the national Republicans (Fiorino and Christie aside) have finally stopped falling over themselves to slaughter anyone who even mentions legal pot is good news.

It should be further noted that when challenged, none of the other candidates joined Jeb in admitting that they inhaled. But here in Columbus we are surrounded by former college classmates of Governor Kasich who swear without reservation that he was (and may still be) a major pothead.

There are also those who claim he’s bisexual, but that’s another story. (We will be publishing CITIZEN KASICH, a study of the man who may be Vice President, in early 2016).

Rand Paul’s powerful denunciations of foreign intervention in general and the Iraq war in particular were also significant. His father Ron has delivered some uniquely cogent denunciations of our disaster in Vietnam.  Rand has been equally clear about the on-going imperial fiasco in the Middle East.

Here again we saw a mixed bag on stage. There was serious hemming and hawing about how bad George W. Bush’s plunge into the quicksand really was.

But Jeb was ready. “He kept us safe,” he said of his older brother.

It was an astonishing lie. It was W running the country when 9/11 happened. New York and then the nation were permeated with toxic dust that poisoned our persona and gutted our civil liberties.

Bush2 then presided over one of the nation’s most grotesque military failures, followed by an utter dereliction of duty during Hurricane Katrina, leading to the destruction of an entire great city and many unnecessary deaths. And that’s just for starters.

It is safe to say our nation will never recover from W’s eight years of unelected misadventures.

But the GOP faithful did not groan and puke over Bush3’s defense of his brother. They applauded! Wildly!!

This, of course, in the lair of the Grand Illusionist, the Ronald Reagan who covered his own catastrophic regime with the B-movie madness of endless upbeat enthusiasm, even while delivering a saturation disaster.

Suddenly all the common wisdom that the GOP would not go for Bush3 evaporated. Here was the brother and son of previous Republican presidents, standing tall on a stage filled with utterly boring haters, hacks and one very rich performance artist. The Bush pall suddenly turned to sheen, at least in GOP eyes. Don’t “misunderestimate” that moment, as Bush2 might say.

The poll numbers still seem to favor Trump. But he is too much of a wild card for America’s oligarchs. On three key issues he actually veers left. He supports a single-payer health care system; he says he wants the tax loophole closed for hedge fund financiers; and he clearly believes that children’s vaccines can cause autism.  Sooner or later, the corporate/media hammer will come down on Trump, and he’ll have to decide whether to run third party.  If he does, the GOP (which learned a major lesson with Ross Perot in 1992) will have to decide whether they’ll let him live.  THAT will be the real moment of truth in 2016.

Only Kasich said anything else of significance. Briefly but not too subtly, he commented essentially that he has a lock on Ohio. It was an apparent throw-away comment early in the game, missed by most.

Kasich’s latest insult to Hispanic voters is emblematic of his tone-deaf nature. Within the party, it will pass.

But come next fall, one need only do the quick math: Bush carries Florida, Kasich counts Ohio, game over.

Do not “misunderestimate” the fact that 80% of the votes in 2016 will be cast on electronic machines, with access controlled on electronic registration rolls. With this comes a network of private, partisan, for-profit companies that favor the Bushes.

The GOP has both governors and secretaries of state in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Arizona. There are many others, but those five swing states could be more than enough.

(We’ll deal with this in THE SIXTH JIM CROW: ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT & THE STRIP/FLIP OF 2016, also to be published early next year).

Unless something is done about it between now and November 2016, there is no public recourse on any of the machines on which this election will be conducted. They are privately owned. The source code is proprietary. The boards of election have no access. There will be no meaningful recounts.

No matter how the public votes, wherever the governor and secretary of state are of the same party, the outcome can be altered with a few keystrokes in a few seconds. And unless things change, there will nothing to be done about it, especially in light of the billions the Koch Brothers and other GOP stalwarts are spending to buy the White House.

The voter rolls can be stripped and the vote count flipped with Republican spare change.

Yes, this is conspiracy theory. But anyone who doubts the conspiracy has not closely looked at the selections of 2000 and 2004.

The ones that brought us George W. Bush, who “kept us safe.”

——————————————

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-written six books on electronic election theft. They will publish two new ones this election season: THE SIXTH JIM CROW: ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT & THE STRIP/FLIP OF 2016, and CITIZEN KASICH.   Watch for them at www.freepress.org.

Fight Back – Episode: 04/24/15 Mayoral Candidate James Ragland

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on April 28th, 2015

Fight Back – Episode: 04/24/15 Mayoral Candidate James Ragland Play –
http://www.talktainmentradio.com/podcasts/Fight%20Back%20042415.mp3

http://www.ragland4mayor.com/
See more at: http://tinyurl.com/pjlg9vl

Fight Back – Episode: 03/27/15 Columbus City Council Candidate Will Petrik

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on April 1st, 2015

Fight Back – Episode: 03/27/15 Columbus City Council
Will Petrik Guest
https://www.facebook.com/will.petrik

See more at:

http://www.talktainmentradio.com/shows/fightback.html

Fight Back – Episode: 03/20/15 Siddique Hasan announcing the hunger strike at the Ohio State Penn Play – See more at:

http://www.talktainmentradio.com/shows/fightback.html

Submitted by fightback on Sun, 03/22/2015 – 5:23pm
Bernardine Kent Columbus School Board No Child Left Behind

Bob talks with Bernardine Kent about her campaign for Columbus School Board and her whistleblowing on the No Child Left Behind tutoring scandal
Artist: Bob Fitrakis and Kennedy Kent
Title: The Other Side of the News March 23, 2015 – Bernardine Kent, Columbus School Board member

Conference on the PUCO carbon-nuke bailout in Ohio

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on March 28th, 2015

Join us at the conference on the PUCO carbon-nuke bailout in Ohio
Sunday
April 12, 2015
1-5:30PM
STOP THE CARBON-NUKE BAILOUTS!!!
CrbnFreeNucFree
Win a Carbon/Nuke Free Ohio
Move to Renewables and Efficiency
Mini Conference – SUNDAY APRIL 12, 2015, 1-5:30pm
Free and open to the public
Columbus State Community College Center for Teaching and Learning Innovation
339 Cleveland Avenue at the southwest corner of Grove Street
Parking is in the lot by the building.

AGENDA
1:10 pm: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog with Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, MD. Topic: Davis-Besse nuclear reactor, a threat to Ohio and the Great Lakes.
1:50 pm: Carolyn Harding, Organizer with Radioactive Waste Alert and the Columbus Community Bill of Rights. Topic: Challenging fracking in Columbus and Ohio – from injection wells to community rights.
2: 30 pm: Break
2:45 pm: Ned Ford, Veteran Ohio energy activist and consultant. Topic: EPA’s Clean Power Plan; Ohio’s Senate Bill 310; the big picture on Clean Energy in Ohio and what the PUCO, EPA and the Governor are wrong about.
3: 25 pm Neil Waggoner, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club Coal Campaign. Topic: Stopping coal and Davis-Besse bailouts at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the PUCO decision on AEP.
BREAKOUT
4: 05 pm Breakout with small group brainstorming on ideas for carrying our energy work forward and uniting the work of the various organizations.
4:50 pm Report back from small groups
5:15 pm Closing remarks
——————–
MONDAY APRIL 13, 2015 – Day of Action to Stop FirstEnergy Bailouts
11:00 am: Morning rally at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio offices, 180 East Broad Street
Lunchtime presentation [Time/Place TBD]. Bailout overview and planning future actions
Phoning the PUCO and Governor Kasich’s office, handwriting letters to the governor.

Participating organizations: Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Public Citizen, Columbus Free Press, Columbus State Social Science Department

RSVP: solartopia@gmail.com

The Free Press has obtained a copy of a shocking Statement by concerned employees of the Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility (FCCBCF). They describe an understaffed facility with overworked employees, rampant sex among the inmates, virus epidemics, ignored suicide attempts, illusionary and inaccurate data, and tyrannical management personally invested in a training manual and soon-to-be book intended for profit.

The facility houses felony offenders as part of the Ohio penal system’s diversion program. Diversion facilities tend to take prisoners at the end of their sentence, inmates with alcohol and addiction problems, and those with mental illnesses that are not being served by incarceration. The facility is centered around the core cognitive behavioral therapy program known as the Responsible Adult Culture Program (RACP).

The RACP’s central premise is if inmates change their negative self-centered thinking, their behavior will be adjusted so that they can function outside of the prison system. Former FCCBCF Director Bud Potter who retired in 2013 created and implemented the system. Potter continues to serve as a consultant to the facility.
Employees charge that Potter hand-picked current Director Molly Robbins because of her promotion of his RACP system.
The 17-point Statement, sent to numerous government officials and bodies including the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Ohio Inspector General, raises specific concerns as to the operations of the FCCBCF institution.

The Free Press met with an employee of the FCCBCF and went over internal documents that substantiate the allegations. In point 2 of the Statement, employees allege that “In November 2013 due to a lack of non-alcohol hand sanitizer and hand soap, a ‘Noro Virus’ outbreak occurred…” The Statement claims that “The facility was without soap for three days” and that “approximately 50 resident inmates, more than one-fifth of the facility’s population, was affected.”

The Statement alleges that “Resident inmates were not allowed to be transported to the hospital for their symptoms,” and that the case managers, “who have no medical training were pulled from their caseloads and mandated to work extra shifts providing for the dispensing of medication….”

The employees state in point 4 that because of a long waiting list, programs have been dramatically cut back under Robbins so that they no longer meet Ohio Department of Corrections minimum standards.
Point 7 is also related to programs offered by FCCBCF. Employees claim that there has been high turnover among the case managers and that the overworked and understaffed employees are incapable of administering the promised programs.

Point 8 specifically outlines that while the facility “…accepts felony offenders who have severe mental health challenges,” the under staffing has eliminated the number of escorts who are needed to take the prisoners for mental health therapy. Thus it takes an extended time for inmates to earn the right to go to mental health treatment on their own. Sixty to eighty-five days is a long time for a resident to wait to see a certified psychiatrist, the Statement says.

The employees go on to document that the promised GED classes are no longer being offered at the facility and rather are being outsourced to the Alvis House. Because of a lack of escorts, the inmates cannot meet the requirements to earn their GED.

Employees issued the Statement anonymously “…due to our fear of retaliation, retribution, and revenge by administration, specifically at the hands of Director Molly Robbins….” The employees are requesting that they be put under oath by state investigators.

“We are sworn to protect the community by assisting in the rehabilitation of felony offenders sentenced to our facility…we request your government agency address this situation by launching an immediate and thorough investigation of our allegations,” the Statement reads. The employee who met with the Free Press emphasizes that the facility should practice what it preaches. The Statement ends, “We can remain silent no more. We teach resident inmates to own their irresponsible lifestyles, their past mistakes, how they’ve hurt victims, family and friends. We hold them accountable for their actions and do not allow them to make excuses.”

Associated Files:
CBCF Statement.pdf

or as follows:

To: Facility Governing Board – Franklin County Community Based Correctional
Facility: Karen Days, Chairperson, Kort Gatterdam, Clarence Glover, Mary Catherine
Kurila & Joseph Scott
Franklin County Board of Commissioners
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas – All Judges
Franklin County Prosecutor – Ron O’Brien
Franklin County Sheriff – Zach Scott
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction – Director Gary Mohor
Ohio Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice – PREA
U.S. Department of Labor & Statistics
American Correctional Association
February 2, 2015
Statement of Grievances and Request for Redress
We the employees of the Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility
(FCCBCF) provide the following as a true and accurate description of the environment,
culture and happenings at the FCCBCF. Should a government regulatory body ensue
investigation, we assure you these statements will be corroborated via direct sworn
testimony provided by staff members, resident inmates and through documentation
including county electronic mail records, employee files and resident inmate files.
Considering the nature of these allegations, which are true and correct, we ask that a
proper Court order be issued immediately to stay the destruction or withdrawal of records
– files that may lend credibility to these allegations and/or provide clarity which may lead
to the discovery of additional issues of impropriety and misconduct by FCCBCF
administration. We the employees of FCCBCF submit this statement anonymously not
with a “throw a rock, hide your hand” mentality but due to our fear of retaliation,
retribution, and revenge by administration, specifically at the hands Director Molly
Robbins and her immediate subordinate Senior Operations Manager Daniel Shaun Scott.
Outside FCCBCF Director Robbins wields much power and is deeply connected. She
has directly impacted current and past employees’ ability to obtain new employment,
especially in the realm of corrections – testimony is available to corroborate this
allegation. *Names of resident inmates have been withheld due to legal requirements.
Should we be subpoenaed to testify in a investigation or future proceedings we will be
willing to tie names to the situations described below.
Administration as an Institution
FCCBCF is a correctional facility that accepts felony offenders as a means to diversion
from the Ohio penal system. The facility receives funding from the State of Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The Responsible Adult Culture Program
(RAC) is a cognitive behavioral therapy program created and installed by former
FCCBCF director Bud Potter (retired 2013); currently a paid consultant to the facility and
program. The RAC program’s premise is if one changes their negative self centered
thinking, their behavior will follow suit.
The current director of FCCBCF is Molly Robbins (promoted 2013). She is a long term
employee who rose through two ranks of management and was repeatedly promoted, up
to her current position, by former director Bud Potter and the FCCBCF Facility
Governing Board (FGB) which by state statute serves as a board of trustees; essentially a
board entrusted to hold the director and their subordinates accountable for the
performance and care of the facility and the residents entrusted to the facility by the State
of Ohio. Director Robbins per the FCCBCF policy and procedure is the final authority
on all matters concerning personnel; staff discipline including termination, staff and
resident inmate grievances, including those related to EEO complaints and all employee
and programmatic (RAC) adjustments.
Top – Down Management
The declines of the success of the RAC program as well as many other concerns
described herein are the direct result of director Molly Robbins’ dereliction of duty. We
provide the following account:
1) For most of year 2013 and all of 2014 Director Robbins has busied herself by
co-authoring an updated version of “The Equip Program: Evidence Based
Program for the prevention and Reduction of Antisocial Behavior”, the
umbrella program under which FCCBCF’s RAC program is derived. It is by
the usage of quantitative data of resident inmate “success” that the “evidence
base” is provided for the previous and current versions the Equip Program.
We submit that should qualitative data be compared to the purported
quantitative data, which is controlled solely by Director Robbins, a truer and
accurate depiction of the happenings (high rates of recidivism, return to usage
of narcotics) of FCCBCF would be brought to light.
2) In November 2013 due to a lack of non-alcohol hand sanitizer and hand soap,
a “Noro Virus” outbreak occurred at the FCCBCF. The facility was without
soap for three (3) days. Approximately fifty (50) resident inmates, more than
one-fifth of the facility population was affected. The staff nurse at the time
believed the outbreak began in the facility kitchen and spread throughout the
facility, both men and women were affected. Infected residents were
quarantined in the program (GED/AOD) section of the facility. The entire
facility was scrubbed down with bleach. GED and AOD (alcohol and/or
drug) classes were cancelled for two weeks due to the outbreak. All Case
Facilitators (case managers), who have no medical training were pulled from
their caseloads and mandated to work extra shifts providing for the dispensing
of medication, security, distribution of bottles of Pepto-Bismol to those
afflicted. Resident inmates were not allowed to be transported to the hospital
for their symptoms. Resident inmates were given snacks (Oreo cookies and
thirst quencher type drinks) and watched movies during the quarantine.
Telephone calls from the infected to their loved ones were limited and
monitored. Staff was not directly told to not discuss the matter outside the
facility, but in various emails sent by Director Robbins, the message was clear
and understood. At no time should a correctional facility be without sanitary
products. Staff with no medical training should not be mandated to provide
medical care for those afflicted; this is against medical care practices and
surely is outside the scope of employment for case facilitators. Several
resident inmates’ programs were affected due to this outbreak; they were
penalized for not completing classes in a timely manner and ultimately their
programs delayed. Sworn testimony and documents can be provided to
corroborate this allegation.
3) August 2013, a male and female inmate were found having sexual intercourse
in a classroom within the facility. Both residents were placed in separate
isolation cells pending a termination hearing. The male resident, an African
American male (female resident was Caucasian) had a history of past suicide
attempts (3 in total), those attempts were noted in his case file. Per FCCBCF
policy and procedure when residents are placed in isolation and placed on
suicide watch, they must be searched thoroughly up to including a “stripsearch”.
The male resident was not searched per policy and was placed in
isolation. Within an hour of his placement, the male resident had sliced his
wrist open with a cutting object – from his hand upwards to his forearm,
ensuring he would bleed out until he died. When security personnel checked
on him, they found him barely conscious; the isolation cell floor was covered
with a thick coat of blood. Resident was still alive, transported to the hospital
and was immediately terminated the following day by Director Robbins.
Security staff instructed a Resident Advisor (security personnel) to clean up
the blood with a facility mop. It was nearly impossible as several pints had
been lost. A Franklin County “Haz-Mat” team was eventually called to clean
up the bio-hazardous liquid. Director Molly Robbins instructed then Deputy
Director Patrick Monroe to conceal the incident, via omission of facts in a
required report to the ODRC. Deputy Director Monroe refused forcing
Director Robbins to threaten his employment. Director Monroe contacted
legal counsel who thereby pressured Director Robbins to allow him to resign.
She relented, Monroe resigned; investigation closed. Sworn testimony and
documents can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
4) During the Spring and Summer of 2014 a new initiative was given to Case
Facilitators of FCCBCF, in order to meet guidelines of ODRC the minimum
time limit (134 days) a resident inmate needed to successfully complete the
RAC program was lowered to 120 days (in county), out of county resident
inmates minimum time limit was lowered from 115 days to 100 days. Staff
was informed this was happening because the waiting list was very long
(residents purported to be waiting in the Franklin County Corr. Center I and II
for periods of 2 to 3 months). We allege that a more accurate reason for the
change in policy was to prove to ODRC that FCCBCF could handle and had
handled more residents allowing FCCBCF to request an increased budget
allotment. In the RAC Staff Manual and in RAC Staff Training both Bud
Potter and Molly Robbins have stated it takes a minimum of four to six
months for the cognitive behavioral changes to even begin taking effect. Our
primary responsibility is to keep the community of Franklin County safe by
administering the RAC program. By lowering the number of days FCCBCF
essentially put dollars above safety. As front line employees, we know that it
takes 50 to 70 days at minimum for the slightest behavioral change to occur;
most resident inmates have been involved in harsh – violent criminal activities
(including heavy usage of narcotics) for most of their lives. This transition to
the new requirement only lasted 2 ½ months and once our goal was reached,
we returned to the previous standard of 134 (in Franklin County) and 115 (out
of county) days minimum for release. The negative impact was substantial as
tens upon tens of new residents poured into the facility, the culture tipped out
of balance, meaning older residents who could affect and check the negative
behavior of new residents didn’t exist as they had been pushed out of the door.
Many residents from that new group that poured in to FCCBCF eventually
were terminated because they couldn’t comply with the program (they had
been confined for in FCCC I and II for 6 months to a year – from trial to
sentencing). In actuality the program was being administered incorrectly,
essentially for profit; profit for the director by direct state funds and via her
co-authorship of the new Equip Program. Sworn testimony and documents
can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
5) Summer 2014, former Unit Manager Daniel Shaun Scott was promoted to
Senior Operations Manager of Programming, a new position that was created
by Director Robbins specifically for Daniel Scott. This was a substantial
promotion with substantial monetary benefits; he essentially became Director
Robbins’ right hand man. Both the director and senior operations manager
attended conferences together with out the attendance of other management
staff. It is common knowledge that there is an “inappropriate” relationship
between the two as staff employees overheard personal conversations between
the two, which made it totally clear the relationship was more than platonic or
work related. This situation places employees at a disadvantage and skews
the grievance process as Senior Operations Manager Scott is a buffer in the
process between staff and the director. Sworn testimony and documents can
be provided to corroborate this allegation.
6) To highlight the authoritarian nature of leadership of Director Robbins, during
the Winter/Spring of 2014 half of the administration (front office) and middle
management staff resigned from FCCBCF leaving a huge void. This is the
second time during the tenure of Director Robbins this has happened, the first
being during the transitional period between former director Bud Potter’s
departure and her becoming director of the facility. Sworn testimony and
documents can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
Case Facilitator Concerns
7) Turnover of case facilitators, a critical position in the RAC program has been
substantial. Whether the FGB members are aware of the reason is unsure as
employees are allowed to attend FGB quarterly meetings but do not because
of the substantial amount of work associated with their respected caseloads.
For the past two years FCCBCF has been short case facilitators. Ninety-Seven
percent (97%) of the current case facilitators have been employed two years or
less at FCCBCF. Most if not all case facilitators were not trained according to
FCCBCF policies and procedures, many received little to no training, were
self taught or had their official training delayed for 4 – 6 months because of
the severe shortage of managerial and support staff. Recently, in January
2015, case facilitators were notified that a “random” audit of payroll
timesheets had been conducted for a three week period in September 2014.
Administration said that most case facilitators had worked more time
(overtime) than what they placed on their timesheets and that administration
would have to pay out overtime to the employees to cover the deficits. In
addition to the timesheet discrepancies, additional reasons given for discipline
were due to progress notes; summaries and other resident related paperwork
not being up to date. Because of the inconsistency, case facilitators were
disciplined via corrective action (written warning) up to unpaid time off (3 to
5 days). We assure you, the reader of this statement that we are a professional
team of employees, all of whom are college educated and many have years of
correctional experience. The reason progress notes are not up to snuff, is
simply because ninety percent (90%) of current case facilitators have two
caseloads (twenty people). One may say that twenty people is not a huge
amount to manage, but please understand case facilitators not only file
paperwork – we conduct group therapy three times a week and teach classes
three times a week per caseload. Should an employee be on vacation, call in
sick or request other approved time their caseload must be covered. If a case
facilitator has two caseloads those are 12 classes, 1 hour and 15 minutes in
length that must be held each week. We must also counsel residents on
various topics relating to their lives, assist with housing placement, drug
counseling placement, and job searches as well as a host of other
responsibilities. There isn’t enough time in the day to do all that we’re asked
to, but we do our best. We enjoy our jobs so we go about our day with no
complaints. The remaining 10 % of employees who do not have two
caseloads are employees who are awaiting training to become group therapy
leaders and are unable to perform all aspects of their hired position, which
means that the additional work that is uncovered is shifted to the 90% that is
trained. We have been warned by Director Robbins that we are not allowed to
work unapproved overtime, so in an effort to complete our work most case
facilitators arrive early and stay late but do not log those hours. We knew
either way we would be punished; not being paid for time worked was the
lesser of two evils. The same 90% of case facilitators that are trained is the
same numbers of employees who were disciplined in January 2015. Since
January, two employees, who were disciplined with unpaid leave for the
above mentioned reasons, have been assigned additional duties such as
teaching AOD (alcohol and drug) classes in addition to their current work
load. Per the RAC Staff Manual and FCCBCF policies and procedures and
the employment contract signed by administration and employees, the ratio of
residents to case facilitator is 10:1; that is to say ten residents assigned to one
case manager. It is that model that is successful. It is impossible to
effectively manage two caseloads effectively. We have informed
administration of this for months. We were told by Director Robbins and
Senior Operations Manager Scott that our concerns are related to time
management issues on our part and have nothing to do with the RAC program
overseen by administration. Sworn testimony and documents can be
provided to corroborate this allegation.
8) FCCBCF accepts felony offenders who have severe mental health challenges.
This alone violates FCCBCF policies and procedures as any resident inmate
who has these challenges may pose a safety risk to fellow inmates and/or staff.
Many of these residents have self medicated for years via usage of narcotics.
Due to a shortage of resident advisors (security staff) who operate the
transportation for the facility, case facilitators are unable to schedule
appointments for these resident inmates to attend psychiatrist appointments
with community partners such as Southeast Inc. Per Director Robbins,
residents must wait to attend these types of appointments until they have been
approved for open itinerary (when they can enter and exit the facility,
unescorted with staff approval). Per FCCBCF policies and procedures,
residents can not receive open itinerary until they have reached sixty days
minimum; that approval can actually take up to 85 days in some cases. Sixty
to eighty-five days is a long time for a resident to wait to see a certified
psychiatrist. Many residents suffer from ADHD, Schizophrenia, depression,
delusions, grief/loss and other mental ailments. It is unacceptable and
unreasonable to expect a person with these challenges to work through his/her
RAC program in a positive manner when their mental health is challenged.
So when a resident inmate acts out, violates rules of behavior, etc, is it their
fault or is it the fault of staff for not meeting their needs as we promised them
we would when we accepted them into our program? Sworn testimony and
documents can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
9) On the point of mental health challenges, those resident inmates who have
these challenges are assigned to various caseloads throughout the facility. The
concern of staff is that 95% of case facilitators have received little to no
training in how to handle a resident inmate who possesses mental health
challenges. Imagine working two caseloads with 4 to 5 residents who are
severely mentally handicapped. Sworn testimony and documents can be
provided to corroborate this allegation.
Resident Inmate Concerns
10) Inconsistent discipline of resident inmates has been an ongoing challenge.
Director Robbins and administration will argue that discipline is handled on a
case by case system, we the front line staff members know otherwise. For
example, there were two transsexual (transformation from men to women with
hormone replacement therapy) residents accepted to FCCBCF Winter of 2014.
One of the two residents was known to be a carrier of the communicable and
infectious disease HIV. It was documented via progress notes, informational
write-ups and via direct verbal reports to middle and upper-management that
these two individuals were on occasion coerced into performing and on other
occasions voluntarily performed sexual acts including fellatio on male
residents with whom they were housed. One of the two inmates was
eventually terminated due to repeated minor violations, the other although
guilty of the same infractions was allowed to successfully complete FCCBCF.
The unfairness in discipline comes to surface when one realizes that nontranssexual
male residents have been terminated from FCCBCF for violations
as minor as smoking a rolled cigarette in the bathroom of the housing dorms.
How is it that a resident can perform gross sexual acts time and time again, it
be documented and reported but nothing done? It is because Director Robbins
needed to show ODRC and the U.S. Department of Justice (overseer of PREA
standards) that FCCBCF could successfully pass a transsexual inmate. When
the PREA auditor came to the facility near the end of summer 2014 nothing
was ever mentioned regarding the coerced sexual acts perpetrated upon the
transsexual inmates
11) Untimely discipline – Throughout the past year and especially this past
December many resident inmates who because of rule violations were placed
on possible termination status, waited 2 – 4 weeks for a termination hearing to
be held. The director and senior operations manager are the individuals
responsible for holding these resident discipline hearings; they were
unavailable due to being on vacation, returning on the same date. When a
resident inmate is on termination their entire program ceases, leaving many
residents in a precarious position because if certain milestones aren’t reached
in the program they will not complete successfully and will return to the state
penitentiary. Any resident terminated does not count against the facilities
overall successful completion rate; it’s as if they never entered the program.
Sworn testimony and documents can be provided to corroborate this
allegation.
12) When FCCBCF, by direction of Director Robbins restructured the RAC
programming hours in February 2014 from 8am – 5pm to 7:30am – 9:15pm in
an effort to meet ODRC standards she created another exodus of employees.
ODRC said that FCCBCF needed more programming hours because of the
type (highly likely to recidivate) of offenders we housed. What didn’t happen
was the offering of more classes as ODRC intended, Director Robbins
“stretched” the day out so it appeared we offered more than what we do. At
that time FCCBCF had two GED teachers on staff, one GED teacher
immediately resigned, the other held out but eventually resigned due to
receiving threats of physical violence from resident inmates. These threats
were reported, but were not investigated. The last GED teacher resigned
September 2014. Since then, FCCBCF has sent resident inmates to the Alvis
House for GED testing. Unfortunately, this leaves many residents at a
disadvantage because they are not allowed to leave the facility for again, 60 to
85 days. Since GED classes stopped, no resident inmate has graduated
FCCBCF with a GED, whereas before, most residents who took in-house
GED classes graduated the RAC program with a GED. We now have more
than ever totally illiterate residents who must rely on help from other inmates
to read, write and progress through the program. There is no help for them.
Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Sworn testimony and documents can
be provided to corroborate this allegation.
13) In the fall of 2014, the staff nurse who oversaw the medical care for upwards
of 250 residents, solely, resigned due to stress and lack of assistance. She
solicited on a weekly basis (requests were directed to Lauren Fish, FCCBCF
Clinical Manager) for a part time nurse to help with the burden monitoring the
health of so many resident inmates, many of them who have serious medical
conditions such as Hepatitis B & C, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes as well as other
ailments. When she left, the medical office was a disaster, with thousands of
documents scattered about; violation of HIPPA laws. We do not fault the
nurse for her inability to keep up. She was a great nurse who cared and
showed great concern for the resident inmates. The fault lies with the director
and clinical manager, Lauren Fish who directly oversaw the medical suite.
After the nurse resigned management scrambled to clear the office of the
scattered medical documentation as to not scare away the temporary nurse
who would eventually be brought in from an outside agency. For almost three
weeks resident inmates had to be transported to local emergency rooms for
treatment; all bills and fees associated with these emergency room visits are
billed directly to the inmate, whereas if the inmate were seen in-house nurse, a
$3.00 co-pay would be assessed. Currently those thousands of documents are
in the conference room in the administration suite where upper management
has been sifting and sorting trying to put things in order before ACA’s July
2015 accreditation audit. Sworn testimony and documents can be provided to
corroborate this allegation.
Resident Advisor (Security Personnel) Concerns
14) Untimely &Uninformed Work Decisions – Resident Advisors act as unarmed
security personnel at FCCBCF. We too have been the victims of severe staff
shortages and high rates of turnover, to the extent that resident advisors who
are newly hired are informed that they should expect to work two to three 16
hour days a week; this has been and still is the case. The reason for the high
turnover is partly because of the long hours of mandatory work. FCCBCF
spends huge amounts on overtime for resident advisors which is a slap in the
face of case facilitators who are responsible for the direct administering of the
RAC problem but, can receive no overtime to complete work although they
too are short staffed and have been assigned two caseloads. The two work
groups are not envious of one another, neither are they in conflict, but have
partnered to shine light to the inconsistencies in policy directly related to the
administration of FCCBCF Director Molly Robbins. Resident advisors work a
straight 8 hours with no paid lunch. The resident advisors must eat at the
security desk on the resident halls. They are not allowed to leave the building.
Meaning a work day of 16 hours straight with an inability to relieve one’s self
both to eat and at times to use the restroom; resident advisors can not leave
their posts, they must be relieved by another resident advisor. Sworn
testimony and documents can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
15) Inconsistent discipline – On occasion when a resident advisor is informed of
mandation, resident advisors have on occasion declined to be mandated and
left at the end of their regularly scheduled shift. This goes against FCCBCF
policies and procedures. When complaint has been made to direct
supervisors, middle management and the director; the complaint again falls on
deaf ears. Some employees are disciplined, issued corrective action issued or
disciplinary hearing held others receive no discipline. It is an effort to keep
the troops somewhat happy and to keep staff in place. There is a system of
favorite employees, those who complain are disciplined, those who play nice
are let off the hook. Sworn testimony and documents can be provided to
corroborate this allegation.
16) Untimely Corrective Action & Discipline – Please see above under Case
Facilitator; same concern
Wages & Time Keeping
17) Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics, employers may not use a security
badge system as a measure of employee timeliness and wage pay out. That is
exactly how FCCBCF employees were disciplined for timesheet versus
security badge swipe in-outs. There are currently three time keeping systems
in use at FCCBCF, a new punch time clock installed December 2014,
timesheets – still in use and now the security bade swipes (which are illegal).
By using three different systems, FCCBCF has set its employees up to fail
because naturally all three systems will show a different time depending on
when and where a person is located, which location they arrive/leave etc.
This policy was instituted by Director Robbins. Sworn testimony and
documents can be provided to corroborate this allegation.
Summary
As employees of the Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility, we are
sworn to protect the community by assisting in the rehabilitation of felony offenders
sentenced to our facility. The Responsible Adult Culture/Equip Program as currently
administered by Director Molly Robbins is effective only as much as her leadership is
effective. FCCBCF Human Resources Police #13 states “supervisory staff will be held to
a higher level of compliance than non supervisory staff”. Currently administration,
including the director, senior operations managers and middle managers all are in
violation of this policy. We request your government agency address this situation by
launching an immediate and thorough investigation of our complaint. We ask that you
speak with us individually should an investigation ensue. We also request we be
protected from prosecution as we hold no responsibility for the actions discussed herein.
We request that our disciplinary records be reviewed and corrected. Moreover we
request that the terminations of residents be reviewed for possible malfeasance by the
director and her direct subordinate Senior Operations Manager Shaun Scott. Please
understand we made a real attempt to address these concerns in house but because of the
possibility of being terminated with no redress, we remained silent. We can be silent no
more. We teach resident inmates to own their irresponsible lifestyles, their past mistakes;
how they’ve hurt victims, family and friends. We hold them accountable for their actions
and do not allow them to make excuses. Management must also be held accountable.
Lastly, the concerns listed highlight some of the more egregious acts that have occurred
at FCCBCF. Should an investigation proceed, and we be called to sworn testimony with
the assurance of protection from prosecution, we will provide the documents mentioned
and the any remaining information we have. Thank you for your time, attention and
assistance.
Submitted Respectfully,
Staff Employees of the Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility
Franklin County, Ohio
February 2, 2015

Free Press Free Fourth Tuesday Film Night “Black Lives Matter”

Posted by Webmaster/Moderator on March 17th, 2015

Free Press free film night:
“Black Lives Matter”
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
7:30pm

Free Press free fourth Tuesday film night:
Black Lives Matter Newsreel: Why Columbus Needs a Citizens Review Board
Tues, March 24, 7:30pm, Drexel Theater, 2254 E. Main St.
Police shootings of citizens in Columbus are almost always ruled as justified, the Columbus Dispatch reported. “Of seven cities surveyed by The Dispatch — all similar in size to Columbus — Columbus had the second-highest rate of police shootings, both fatal and nonfatal, in 2013. Last year, the city ranked fourth, at 1.1 shootings per 100,000.”
To highlight the need for a civilian review board to investigate officer-involved shootings, videographer Will Delphia has compiled a newsreel of footage from the local and regional #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Discussion will follow.
colsfreepress@gmail.com or 614-253-2517


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