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Archive for March 20th, 2015

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse & Beatings of 100s of Prisoners by Elite IDOC Guard Unit

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Attacks in Apparent Violation of Federal Law

East St. Louis, IL – A suit filed in federal court yesterday alleges that last year an Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) guard unit known as “Orange Crush” rounded up and physically abused hundreds of prisoners in “shakedowns” over periods of several days at four Illinois prisons – Illinois River Correctional Center (CC), Menard CC, Big Muddy River CC, and Lawrence CC.

The suit alleges human rights violations, including violation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (42 U.S.C. § 15607).

The class action, brought by a prisoner at Illinois River, names at least 232 Orange Crush officers who “beat, sexually humiliated, and otherwise abused [hundreds of prisoners],” and “gratuitously inflicted punishment for the sole purpose of causing humiliation and needless pain.”

Chanting “punish the inmate,” the Orange Crush team conducted “a humiliating strip search in front of female officers” and ordered prisoners to march in line “so that one man’s genitals were in direct contact with the next man’s buttocks (referred to by the Orange Crush team as ‘Nuts to Butts’),” physically attacked prisoners who refused to comply, and gave “orders to stand in a stress position for several hours.”

The plaintiff is represented by Loevy & Loevy Attorney at Law, the largest civil rights firm in the Midwest, and Uptown People’s Law Center, a nonprofit national leader in prisoners’ rights litigation, both of which have been appointed by federal courts as class counsel in similar prison litigation. In one such case, Young v. County of Cook, Loevy & Loevy obtained a payment of $55 million for the class because of abusive strip searches.  A copy of the suit can be found here: Demetrius Ross v. Gossett, et al., 3:15-cv-00309

Uptown People’s Law Center is a nonprofit legal services organization specializing in prisoners’ rights, Social Security disability, and tenants’ rights and eviction defense. Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the entire country over the past decade.

National Urban League Launches 39th Edition of the State of Black America®

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

New York, NY The National Urban League releases its 39th edition of the State of Black America® – “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice,” which underscores the urgency of each of these areas in America’s quest for full equality. The world watched throughout 2014 as justice was challenged on every front – from the accountability of law enforcement for misconduct and the continual assault on voting rights, to widening economic gaps and partisan education debates more rooted in political agendas than in putting our children first. Simply put, the state of Black America is in crisis, and the State of Black America® report findings provide a sobering, but necessary, look at critical issues that need to be addressed – now.

As the National Urban League continues to press the case for closing growing divides in economic and education opportunity, this year’s State of Black America® presents the 2015 Equality Index™, one of the most critical and respected quantitative tools for tracking racial equality in America – now in its 11th edition for the Black-White Index and its sixth year for the Hispanic-White Index. For the first time, the Equality Index™ includes a special feature on state-level K-12 education, documenting the extent of Black-White and Hispanic-White achievement gaps in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The State Education Equality Index™ also includes supporting data on factors that contribute to narrowing or widening these gaps, including teacher quality, pre-school and course enrollment, and student status and risk factors such as poverty. For the second year, the Equality Index™ also features rankings of U.S. cities from most-to-least equal via the Black-White Index (70 cities) and Hispanic-White Index (72 cities) – again providing a revealing look at local dynamics beneath national trends.

“The 2015 State of Black America® – ‘Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice’ – and its corresponding Equality Index™ findings are a clarion call that a more comprehensive, inclusive and on-the-ground recovery is necessary to ensure a healthy future for our nation and that we cannot expect to successfully move forward when we are leaving so many behind,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “Few times in a nation’s history is its collective conscience shocked and awakened across racial, economic, generational and even ideological lines as ours has been over the past year. We are in that moment, and as long as justice is challenged on any front, we will keep pushing on every front.”

Through thought-provoking articles from Morial and a stellar line-up of contributors, the 2015 State of Black America® offers insightful solutions across critical areas including job creation, transportation, education, city revitalization, criminal justice, entrepreneurship and media images. Contributing authors include: Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser; Film/Television Producer Debra Martin Chase; Attorney Benjamin Crump; U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx; Gary, IN Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; NEA President Lily Eskelsen García; Radio One, Inc. President and CEO/TV One Chairman and CEO Alfred Liggins; Sacramento, CA Mayor/U.S. Conference of Mayors President Mayor Kevin Johnson; W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron; and “The Three Doctors” (Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins).

For the first time in its history, the State of Black America® is being presented in an all-digital edition that will offer a multimedia and social experience providing more interaction with readers, enhanced searchability, and year-round updates. The full suite of 2015 State of Black America® offerings includes an e-book, featuring full data sets and analysis for each Equality Index™, full ranking lists, and complete articles; a seven-part Web Series, sponsored by AT&T, that gathers some of the nation’s leading influencers for discussions around the State of Black America® theme, topics and report content; and a new website – www.stateofblackamerica.org – which will serve as the digital hub for visitors to access select data and report findings, the Web Series, press materials, infographics and charts, e-book purchase information, and year-round updates featuring new contributors.

Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services Announce Over $27.8 Billion in Returns from Joint Efforts to Combat Health Care Fraud

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Administration Recovers $7.70 for Every Dollar Spent on Health Care-Related Fraud and Abuse


More than $27.8 billion has been returned to the Medicare Trust Fund over the life of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) Program, Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced today.  The government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered $3.3 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 from individuals and companies who attempted to defraud federal health programs, including programs serving seniors, persons with disabilities or those with low incomes.  For every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, the administration recovered $7.70.  This is about $2 higher than the average return on investment in the HCFAC program since it was created in 1997.  It is also the third highest return on investment in the life of the program.

“As the innovative and collaborative work of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program proceeds, more taxpayer money is being recovered, more criminals are facing justice, and more fraud is being punished, prevented and deterred,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The extraordinary return on investment we’ve obtained speaks to the skill, the tenacity, and the inspiring success of the hardworking men and women fighting on behalf of the American people.  And with these outstanding results, we are sending the unmistakable message that we will not waver in our mission to pursue fraud, to protect vulnerable communities, and to preserve the public trust.”

“Eliminating fraud, waste and abuse is a top priority for the Department of Health and Human Services,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell.  “These impressive recoveries for the American taxpayer demonstrate our continued commitment to this goal and highlight our efforts to prosecute the most egregious instances of health care fraud and prevent future fraud and abuse.  New enrollment screening techniques and computer analytics are preventing fraud before money ever goes out the door.  And together with the continued support of Congress and our partners at the Department of Justice, we’ve cracked down on tens of thousands health care providers suspected of Medicare fraud – all of which are helping to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.”

The recoveries announced today reflect a two-pronged strategy to combat fraud and abuse.  Under new authorities granted by the Affordable Care Act, the administration continues to implement programs that move away from “pay and chase” to preventing health care fraud and abuse in the first place.  In addition, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), run jointly by the HHS Office of the Inspector General and the Justice Department, is changing how the federal government fights certain types of health care fraud.  These cases are being investigated through “real-time” data analysis in lieu of a prolonged subpoena and account analyses, resulting in significantly shorter periods of time between fraud identification, arrest and prosecution.

Increased funding from the administration and Congress has allowed HHS and the Justice Department to build on early successes of the Medicare Strike Force by expanding into nine geographic territories – Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Brooklyn, New York, Southern Louisiana, Tampa, Florida, Chicago and Dallas.  Since its inception, Strike Force prosecutors filed more than 963 cases charging more than 2,097 defendants who collectively billed the Medicare program more than $6.5 billion; 1,443 defendants pleaded guilty and 191 others were convicted in jury trials; and 1,197 defendants were sentenced to imprisonment for an average term of approximately 47 months.  Through the Strike Force and other efforts, in FY 2014 alone, the Justice Department opened 924 new criminal health care fraud investigations.  Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in 496 cases involving 805 defendants.  A total of 734 defendants were convicted of health care fraud‑related crimes during the year.

Another powerful tool in the effort to combat health care fraud is the federal False Claims Act.  In 2014, the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices obtained $2.3 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered more than $15.2 billion in cases involving health care fraud.  These amounts reflect federal losses only.  In many of these cases, the department was instrumental in recovering additional billions of dollars for state health care programs.  In FY 2014, the department continued its enforcement of the civil False Claims Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and opened 782 new civil health care fraud investigations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is also adopting a number of preventive measures to combat fraud and abuse.  Provider enrollment is the gateway to billing the Medicare program, and CMS has put critical safeguards in place to make sure that only legitimate providers are enrolling in the program.  The Affordable Care Act required a CMS revalidation of all existing 1.5 million Medicare suppliers and providers under new screening requirements.  CMS will have requested revalidations by March 2015.  As a result of this and other proactive initiatives, CMS has deactivated 450,000 enrollments and revoked nearly 27,000 enrollments to prevent certain providers from re-enrolling and billing the Medicare program.  Both of these actions immediately stop billing.  A provider with deactivated billing privileges can reactivate at any time, and a revoked provider is barred from re-entry into Medicare for a period ranging from one to three years.  CMS has also issued a regulation requiring prescribers of Part D drugs to enroll in Medicare and undergo screening.

CMS also continued the fiscal 2014 temporary moratoria on the enrollment of new home health or ambulance service providers in six fraud hot spots: Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and Philadelphia (which includes some counties in New Jersey).  This extension will allow CMS to continue its actions to suspend payments or remove providers from the program before allowing new providers into potentially over-supplied markets.

Similar to the technology used by credit card companies, CMS is using its Fraud Prevention System to apply advanced analytics to all Medicare fee-for-service claims on a streaming, national basis.  The Fraud Prevention System identifies aberrant and suspicious billing patterns which in turn trigger actions that can be implemented swiftly to prevent payment of fraudulent claims.  In the second year, the system saved $210.7 million, almost double the amount identified during the first year of the program.

The HCFAC annual report is available at www.oig.hhs.gov/publications/hcfac.asp.

For more information on the joint Justice Department-HHS Strike Force activities, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov/.

For more information on the fraud prevention accomplishments under the Affordable Care Act visit: www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/02/medicare-fraud02142012a.html.

Source: Department of Justice


Loretta Lynch Deserves a Confirmation Vote. Let’s Make Her Our Next Attorney General – Sign The Petition

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

From: U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy

MAJOR UPDATE: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now threatening to delay the Senate’s confirmation of Loretta Lynch for attorney general — indefinitely.

Last week, Senator McConnell promised to finally schedule a vote. But now, he’s broken that promise and is holding her nomination hostage.

Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is now being forced to wait longer than any other attorney general candidate in history. That is unfair. It’s unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the U.S. Senate.

Will you join us in collecting 40,000 signatures urging Senate Republican leadership to bring Loretta Lynch up for a vote, without delay?

Click here to sign the petition today.

TAKE ACTION »

Breaking news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced just yesterday that he’ll finally schedule a vote on Loretta Lynch to be our next attorney general.

It’s been four long months since President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to be our next attorney general. She’s been through confirmation hearings, meetings with individual senators, thorough vetting — and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.

And still, Senate Republicans dragged their feet on her nomination — the longest confirmation process in over 30 years. Loretta Lynch is one of the best qualified and most experienced nominees for attorney general we have ever seen, and the Senate should confirm her right away.

Let’s take this opportunity, right now. The American people deserve to have Loretta Lynch as their next attorney general, and she deserves Senate confirmation — immediately. That’s why we are joining together and starting a petition calling on Senate Republicans to confirm Loretta Lynch. Will you sign on?

Click here to urge Senate Republicans to confirm Loretta Lynch’s nomination without delay.

We are both impressed with Loretta Lynch’s remarkable credentials. She’s a straight shooting federal prosecutor with a sterling reputation. Loretta has brought countless terrorists and cyber-criminals to justice, and she absolutely has what it takes to become our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Despite all of this, Republicans have delayed her nomination. It’s just not right. Our country deserves to have Loretta Lynch as our attorney general.

Will you sign the petition today?

Demand that Senate Republicans confirm Loretta Lynch without delay.

We have an opportunity, right now, to honor the legacy of Selma that so many of us celebrated over the weekend. Let’s take this moment to come together and confirm the first African-American woman attorney General in U.S. history.

Thank you for taking action,

Dick Durbin Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator U.S. Senator
SIGN ON »

DC Symposium/Rally For Prison Reform Seeks Congressional Support

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Exodusfoundation.org Beckons Support From U.S. Congress to Reform U.S. Prison System – Public Rally on the Hill (D.C.) March 26, 2015

Washington, D.C. –  ExodusFoundation.org will host a public rally in the Nation’s Capital in an effort to garner support from Congress for a Sense of the House Resolution, a bill that establishes the will of the Congress to move forward on an issue. Exodus Foundation.org and its advisers are preparing the bill.

The initiative is calling on Congress to reform the U.S. Prison System through the implementation of a Restorative Justice program in order to dramatically reduce racial disparities, reduce recidivism rates, reduce mass incarceration and save taxpayers dollars.

A congressional luncheon symposium organized by Dr. Madeline McClenney, founder of ExodusFoundation.org, is scheduled for Thursday, March 26 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. A public rally will take place from 12:00-5:00 p.m. Details can be found on their Facebook page. The events are open to the media and the public.

Space at the symposium is limited and can be reserved at dc@exodusfoundation.org.

WHO:

Opening Remarks – Rep. Danny Davis, (IL) ( 7th Congressional District); Doug Walker, Director,United Methodist Church-Criminal Justice Initiative; and Dr. Harold Trulear, National Director, Healing Communities USA

Panelists – Myra Byarm, 6 year term Survivor of Mass Incarceration; Sebastian Goodson, 25 year Survivor of Mass Incarceration; Dr. Harold Trulear; Rev. Doug Walker; Dr. Bahiyyah Muhammad, Howard Univ. Dept. of Sociology; Rev. Dr. Michael McBride, PICO; Dr. Clarence Newsome, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Barry Roach, Brother of Lifer, Kevin Washington…. and more!

WHEN:

(Symposium) Thursday, March 26 Noon-1:30 p.m. *RSVP REQUIRED*

(Rally) Thursday, March 26 Noon-5:00 p.m.

WHERE:
B-318 Rayburn
Rayburn House Office Building
SW of the U.S. Capitol, bounded by Independence Ave, South Capitol St., First St., and C St., SW

WHY: To examine the bright future available to the U.S. upon the reduction of punishment as the solution to crime, and the adoption of Restorative Justice as the primary approach to public safety.

Follow @redseacrossings on Twitter, and get the latest updates and information at www.Facebook/exodusfoundation.org. For all media-related opportunities, please call Jennifer Colter at (323) 379-4472 or jcolter@srileythomas.com

Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries Confirmed by Illinois Senate

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Erica Jeffries was confirmed as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) by the Illinois Senate in a unanimous vote.

“I am honored with this confirmation, and look forward to working with the men and women of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide great services and support to our Illinois veterans and their families,” Director Jeffries said. “Under the leadership of Governor Rauner, we will strive to improve the lives of our veterans, focusing on mental healthcare, employment, and education.  Our mission is to create opportunities for our veterans to thrive.”

In the corporate world, Jeffries joined Exelis Inc., a global aerospace and defense corporation, in June 2012.  In July 203, she became the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer for the more than 10,000 Exelis employees worldwide. While there she was responsible for all training, learning and development relating to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  She also developed and led the Leveraging Military Leadership Program, Exelis’ signature corporate philanthropy program helping more than 200 veterans to gain employment.

Jeffries served as the Acting Director following her arrival for duty on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, when she took over from Harry Sawyer, who was serving as the Interim Director after the change in administration.

The IDVA’s mission is to empower veterans and their families to thrive and does so by assisting them in navigating the system of federal, state and local resources and benefits; by providing long-term health care for eligible veterans in the four Veterans’ Homes; and by partnering with other agencies and non-profits to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges.

In government service, Jeffries served as a White House Fellow (2010-2011), and worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she focused on building domestic and international public-private partnerships. Her primary role was in developing investment strategies with international corporations to provide sustainable solutions at the state and local levels.  She later received an appointment to serve as the Senior Advisor to the EPA Chief Financial Officer.

Prior to her White House Fellowship, Ms. Jeffries was an Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton where she specialized in defense strategy and national security policy supporting government clients both domestically and internationally.

Following her graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Jeffries served as an active duty Army aviation officer. She was a platoon leader and an Executive Officer in an Aviation battalion as a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and later as the Assistant Secretary of the General Staff (ASGS) for all of III Corps and Fort Hood, one of the Army’s largest installations. She was medically retired from the Army in 2003.

Jeffries holds a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point; a Master of Arts in National Security Studies from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; and a Master of Business Administration from the Pamplin School of Business at Virginia Tech University.

Jeffries established her home in Illinois in 2014 and currently resides with her family in Chicago.

Illinois’ long and proud history of service to veterans began in 1886 with the establishment of the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home for Civil War Veterans. Created through legislation enacted in 1945, the Illinois Veterans’ Commission was responsible for state services to veterans until 1976, when it was succeeded by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA). The IDVA, created by Public Act 79-376, is charged with responsibility for the welfare and needs of Illinois veterans, their dependents and survivors. IDVA maintains administrative offices in Springfield and Chicago, four veterans’ homes, and more than 71 full and part-time field offices servicing the 102 counties of the state.

Alton School Cases Brings Illinois History to Life

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

The next installment of the History on Trial series is bringing to life an Illinois lawsuit dealing with school segregation at the turn of the 20th century.

Led by Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman and Justice Anne M. Burke, History on Trial is a program of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission consisting of a statewide group of lawyers and judges to bring greater awareness of historic legal cases and the lessons that can be learned from them.  The Commission, Lewis and Clark Community College, and DePaul University Theatre School are producing a dramatic presentation and a panel discussion to educate the public on the history of school segregation in Illinois.

The presentation follows the legal challenges of Scott Bibb, an African American fireman at the Alton Glass Works Factory, who fought for his children to attend a school close to his home rather than a segregated school more than a mile away.  The case reached the Illinois Supreme Court five different times as the City of Alton repeatedly failed to implement the orders of the Court that validated an 1874 statute requiring that schools not be segregated by race. This case predates the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education by nearly fifty years.

The events will be held at three different venues across the state:
•    April 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm in Alton at the Hatheway Cultural Center on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus
•    April 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
•    May 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm in Chicago at the Feingold Theater at the Spertus Institute

At each venue, the reenactment will be followed by a panel discussion of historians and legal professionals to discuss the evolution of the law and lawsuits concerning the prevention of school segregation in the state.

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education credit will be available for lawyers at each of the venues, through the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.

Last year, History on Trial explored habeas corpus through a dramatic presentation of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith’s cases in Illinois.  Previously, History on Trial explored involuntary commitment based on insanity through a reenactment of the case of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, who was involuntarily committed by her son in 1875; and explored the trial of Mary Surratt who was convicted of conspiring in the Lincoln assassination and who became the first woman executed by the federal government.

Tickets are $10 and are available at http://alplmfoundation.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2648&ActCode=113489.
For details on the events, visit www.historyontrial.org.

For more information, contact John Lupton, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission. 217-670-0890, ext. 1. john.lupton@illinoiscourthistory.org

Attorney General Madigan Recognizes Sunshine Week, Issues 2014 Public Access Bureau Report

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL — In recognition of Sunshine Week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the Public Access Bureau’s annual report detailing more than 4,000 new matters the Bureau received in 2014. The Public Access Bureau monitors compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA), working to foster transparency and openness in Illinois government.

“Since the state’s stronger transparency laws went into effect five years ago, many public bodies have taken important steps to be more accountable to Illinois residents,” Madigan said. “But as this report details, there is continued need for oversight and enforcement.”

In 2014, the Public Access Bureau received 4,032 formal requests for assistance pursuant to FOIA and OMA. The vast majority of the requests came from members of the public. The requests came from every area of the state and involved all types of public bodies – from small villages to large cities and state agencies.

In addition to formal requests, in 2014 the Public Access Bureau fielded up to 25 questions every day through the FOIA hotline and received approximately 240 general inquiries via mail or email. The Public Access Bureau also conducted 30 training sessions for members of the public, government officials, members of the media and students.

In 2014, the Public Access Bureau issued 16 binding opinions. The authority to issue binding administrative decisions was an important component of the 2010 overhaul of the state’s transparency laws, and has allowed the Bureau to issue opinions that clarify the law and increase disclosure. The Public Access Bureau has also helped thousands of members of the public, media organizations and advocacy groups resolve disputes over records and open meetings through informal mediation with public bodies that has led to increased disclosure of government information.

2014 Public Access Bureau Activities

In 2014, the Public Access Bureau received 4,032 new matters. Last year’s numbers once again show that members of the public, rather than media representatives, are the most prolific users of Illinois’ sunshine laws.

4,032 total new matters received by the Public Access Bureau:

3,704 requests for review from those who were denied records under FOIA:

3,129 from members of the public,

542 from the media, and

33 from public bodies.

328 requests for review regarding OMA violations:

272 from members of the public,

47 from the media, and

9 from public bodies.

2014 Success Stories of Illinois’ Sunshine Laws

The members of the public, media and government agencies can seek guidance from the Public Access Bureau as to whether documents should be disclosed under FOIA and guidelines for conducting open meetings according to OMA. “Requests for review” submitted by the public and the media regarding a public body’s FOIA denials or potential OMA violations can lead to either informal or binding decisions to resolve questions over public access to government documents or meetings.

Madigan highlighted some of the Public Access Bureau’s binding opinions and informal mediations that have helped to increase the public’s access to their government:

Ill. Att’y Gen. PAC Req. Rev. Ltr. 26776, issued April 21, 2014 –   A reporter for a Bloomington newspaper filed a Request for Review alleging that the city of Bloomington violated FOIA by withholding correspondence concerning the departure of the former city attorney under sections 7(1)(c), 7(1)(f), and 7(1)(m). The Bureau concluded that the city improperly withheld portions of the responsive records. More specifically, the Bureau determined that (1) a letter from the former city attorney was not part of the city’s deliberative process under section 7(1)(f); (2) disclosure of the letter would not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under section 7(1)(c) because it concerned the public duties of a public employee; and (3) that a separate letter separate letter that did not give or seek legal advice was not exempt under the section 7(1)(m) attorney-client privilege exemption. The city disclosed the information the Bureau identified as non-exempt in accordance with the Bureau’s letter.

Ill. Att’y Gen. PAC Req. Rev. Ltr. 28670, issued July 15, 2014 – A reporter for a Belleville newspaper filed a Request for Review, alleging that the Illinois State Police violated FOIA by withholding investigative reports of five homicides from the 1980s and 1990s under section 7(1)(a), citing provisions of the Juvenile Court Act and the Privacy of Child Victims of Criminal Sexual Offenses Act. The Bureau determined that because the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Court Act do not apply to records concerning the death of a minor who was not taken into custody or subject to a juvenile court proceeding, and because the Privacy of Child Victims of Criminal Sexual Offenses Act only prohibits the disclosure of records that identify minor victims of sex offenses, the Illinois State Police improperly withheld all investigative records under section 7(1)(a). The reporter has now received copies of all responsive records.

Ill. Att’y Gen. Pub. Acc. Op. No. 14-016, issued December 2, 2014 – concluded that the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) violated FOIA by denying a FOIA request for copies of lease agreements, including the financial terms and square footage data for rental space for events at McCormick Place. The decision rejected MPEA’s assertions that the information was exempt because it was a trade secret or would cause financial harm to the public body, noting that the financial terms of the lease agreements directly relate to the receipt of public funds and are therefore expressly subject to disclosure under Article VIII, section 1(c) of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 and section 2.5 of FOIA.

Sunshine Week was founded by the American Society of News Editors and is recognized annually every March. More information about Illinois’ sunshine laws can be found at Attorney General Madigan’s website. Anyone seeking assistance from the Public Access Bureau can contact the hotline at 1-877-299-FOIA (3642) or send an email to publicaccess@atg.state.il.us.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company Hosts Free, High Fashion Event Explore: the World of Marie Antoinette Thursday, April 9th at 5:30 P.M.

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Marie-Inspired fashion show and contest to feature Chicago Designers, Authentic French Cuisine From Chez Moi, dj maxime spinning French pop and more

CHICAGO, IL – In celebration of one of civilization’s most famous fashionistas, Steppenwolf Theatre Company hosts EXPLORE: The World of Marie Antoinette, an exclusive fashion show and party, Thursday, April 9 at 5:30pm. Emerging Chicago fashion designers Elena Bobysheva, Sandra Leonard, Satoko Mizuno, Kate Pankoke and Kat Anderson have submitted their high fashion creations, inspired by the over-the-top pageantry seen in Steppenwolf’s current hit production of Marie Antoinette, to be critiqued by a panel of local fashion experts. The fashion show will be hosted by local diva Carolyn Hoerdemann and feature a special presentation by international performance artist Joseph Ravens.

Guests will also enjoy delicious authentic cuisine from the French kitchens of Chicago’s own Chez Moi and DJ Maxime Bonnard spinning house and French pop tunes. Hailed as “a truly Fashion-Week worthy production” (Time Out Chicago), David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette runs through May 10, 2015 in the Downstairs Theatre.

EXPLORE: The World of Marie Antoinette will take place Thursday, April 9 at 5:30pm in Steppenwolf’s Rehearsal Hall, 758 W North Ave. EXPLORE events are free, but space is limited. Please RSVP to reserve your spot by calling Audience Services at 312-335-1650. Round out the experience and purchase a ticket to Marie Antoinette on Thursday, April 9 at 7:30pm following EXPLORE. Tickets ($20 – $86) to Marie Antoinette must be purchased separately through Audience Services or steppenwolf.org. Steppenwolf also offers a special EXPLORE 2-for-1 ticket offer valid only for the April 9 performance at 7:30pm (use code 19959 when ordering).

EXPLORE events invite audiences to celebrate the ideas and themes of the play through a fun, social setting. Each EXPLORE event is a unique experience tailored to create an immersive environment that reflects the world of that play.

This event is produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Fashion Focus Chicago and the Mayor’s Fashion Council. EXPLORE’s event partners are the League of Chicago Theatres and the Alliance Francaise.

Ameriprise Financial is the Corporate Production Sponsor of Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Before Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, there was Marie Antoinette. In David Adjmi’s contemporary take on the young queen of France, Marie is a confection created by a society that values extravagance and artifice. But France’s love affair with the royals sours as revolution brews, and for Marie, the political suddenly becomes very personal. From the light and breezy banter at the palace to the surging chants of “Liberté! égalité! Fraternité!” in the streets, Marie Antoinette holds a mirror up to our contemporary society that might just be entertaining itself to death.

Tickets to Marie Antoinette ($20 – $86) are available through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org. Prices subject to change. 20 for $20: twenty $20 tickets are available through Audience Services beginning at 11am on the day of each performance (1pm for Sunday performances by phone only). Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket; visit steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season; visit steppenwolf.org/groups.

Steppenwolf’s 2014/15 season explores the question, How did I get here?, through five stories about losing—and finding—your way. Do you ever catch yourself in the rearview mirror and think: How did I get here? A jolt of fear. A flash of inspiration. The past may be a mystery, but the future is up for grabs. Are you completely lost? Or are you exactly where you are supposed to be?

Currently playing: Garage Rep 2015 featuring three Chicago storefront companies playing in rotating rep in the Garage Theatre (now playing – April 26, 2015). The Herd by Rory Kinnear, directed by ensemble member Frank Galati (April 2 – June 7, 2015) will have its U.S. premiere in the Downstairs Theatre. Concluding the 2014/15 Subscription Season is the Chicago premiere of Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck, directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov (July 2 – August 30, 2015) in the Downstairs Theatre.

Steppenwolf’s 2015/16 Subscription Season includes the world premiere adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, adapted by ensemble member Frank Galati, directed by ensemble member Terry Kinney (September 17 – November 15, 2015); the Chicago premiere of Domesticated written and directed by ensemble member Bruce Norris (December 3, 2015 – February 7, 2016); the Chicago premiere of The Flick by Annie Baker, directed by Dexter Bullard (February 4 – May 8, 2016); the world premiere of Mary Page Marlowe by ensemble member Tracy Letts, director TBA (March 31 – May 29, 2016); and the Chicago premiere of Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov (June 23 – August 21, 2016).

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat Garage Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 44 actors, writers and directors. Artistic programming at Steppenwolf includes a five-play Subscription Season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season and two repertory series: First Look Repertory of New Work, and Garage Rep. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Off-Broadway, Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and 12 Tony Awards. Martha Lavey is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Managing Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre and twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr.

Protect Yourself from Springtime Scams

Posted by Admin On March - 20 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – As springtime blooms, so do new scams. Scammers will be going door-to-door with plans to rip-off the residents. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers that now is the time to be on their guard.

“Most of the scams aren’t new but because con artists know how to work them they appear year after year,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “What we want to do is educate consumers on what to look for so they can stay one step ahead.”

Alarm System Scams

No one wants to have their home burglarized and many homeowners pay substantial sums to have their homes protected by security systems. These scam artists, who are often alarm company sales people, comb neighborhoods looking for signs posted in yards warning that the home has a security system. They knock on the door and tell you the system needs to be upgraded. Once inside they give you the bad news that the system cannot protect you against today’s modern theft techniques and offer to “upgrade” your system. In reality, they are disconnecting your service provider and installing a system from their company. If you agree to the “upgrade” and sign their agreement you could be locked into a multi-year contract that can end with a costly penalty if you try to break it.

How to protect yourself:

Never allow anyone into your home who claims to be from your alarm company without contacting the company first.

Ask questions if they are reluctant to provide answers – that’s a red flag

Don’t be frightened by reports from them of an increase of burglaries in your area.

Never sign any agreement where you feel pressured to do so.

Do not sign anything that you have not read thoroughly.

Storm Chasers

Spring can bring severe weather leaving behind hail-damaged roofs. Following the storms are fraudsters known as “storm chasers”. These scam artists sell themselves as roofing contractors. They go town-to-town, door-to door, taking money for work, under performing or not performing at all, and then moving on to the next town before the homeowners can get their money back.

Homeowners can lose thousands of dollars in these scams.

The BBB offers these tips before choosing a roofing contractor:

If approached by a contractor, ask for proof of licensing, insurance and bonding.

Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.

Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.

Check out the company first with the BBB at www.bbb.org/chicago and deal only with reputable contractors.

Get a written contract that specifies the price and the work to be done and a time frame. In Illinois, state law requires a written contract with all costs enumerated for home repair or remodeling work over $1,000.

Prices are often high in the immediate aftermath of a storm. Only buy the services that are necessary to make your home safe and habitable. Wait at least a few days to hire other contractors because the rates are likely to drop.

Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem. Otherwise, pay by check. Never pay in cash.

Be sure that all promises made are put in writing.

Magazine Sales Scams

You open your door to find someone selling subscriptions to magazines. They say it’s a great deal but often the prices are as much as three times the regular price. You pay with a check or credit card and then you receive nothing in return.

What to do to avoid being scammed:

Many municipalities require door-to-door solicitors to have a permit. Ask to see it.

Before paying, check out the businesses at bbb.org.

If the cost of the subscriptions is $25 or more, you must be informed of your 3-day right to cancel. If they do not, assume it is a scam.

For more information on scams, visit www.bbb.org/chicago, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or add us on Pinterest.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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