Data breach victimizes veteran; questions whether gov’t has his back

By   /  July 3, 2015  /  Accountability, Federal Government, Minnesota, Technology, Transparency  /  No Comments

Submitted photo

Staff Sgt. Dave Thul thought his days in harm’s way ended when he retired from the Minnesota Army National Guard. But on Independence Day 2015, the 22-year military veteran is on the front lines of a cybersecurity war, a fight for which he never volunteered.

The Owatonna vet ranks among at least 4.2 million current and former federal employees whose personal data was compromised in a massive online attack, which some have linked to Chinese hackers.

He questions whether the government has his back.

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Watchdog Podcast: A Greek tragedy, school choice at the Supreme Court and political spy games in Wisconsin

By   /  July 3, 2015  /  Accountability, Budget and Spending, California, Commentary, Education, Education Blog, Features, Federal Government, Finances, Issues, National, News, Pensions, Podcast, Politics & Elections, State Budgets, State Government, Watchdog Radio  /  No Comments

WatchdogPodcast90

Greece is in crisis after decades of over-spending finally caught up to it.

What lessons does the mess in Greece offer for American cities and states that have piled up debts in the public pension system?

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Vermont business groups question $100,000 awarded to Burlington-based chamber of commerce

By   /  June 30, 2015  /  Accountability, Governor, Issues, Misuse of funds, News, Open Records, Transparency, Vermont  /  No Comments

AP images

Business development groups in Vermont are demanding to know how a $100,000 appropriation for fostering business with Quebec was awarded exclusively to Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to emails obtained by Vermont Watchdog.

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Paperless trail costs Minnesota taxpayers dearly

By   /  June 29, 2015  /  Accountability, Budget and Spending, Local Government, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Steve Jacob photo

On paper, going paperless in government makes sense. Staff armed with iPads can significantly reduce the time spent entering duplicative data for participants in government programs and increase efficiency in providing services, theoretically saving taxpayers.

Yet Winona County is paying dearly for being on the cutting edge of implementing an electronic data management system. What started out as a promised profit center based on selling EDMS software and services to other counties turned into a money pit that may never break even.

“We’re into it for multiple millions, and it was supposed to not be a burden on our taxpayers. It was supposed to be a blessing to our taxpayers,” said Steve Jacob, Winona County Board chair.

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Up in smoke: Cigarette shops, liquor stores default on $140 million in SBA loans

By   /  June 19, 2015  /  Accountability, Colorado, National, News  /  No Comments

Photo By Arthur Kane

While many federal and state agencies are fighting tobacco use and alcohol abuse, about $140 million in Small Business Administration-backed loans to bars, liquor stores and cigarette shops — partly backed by taxpayer money — have defaulted, a Watchdog.org investigation found.

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Success in education lies in hard, relentless work, principal says

By   /  June 19, 2015  /  Accountability, Budget and Spending, Education, Finances, General, PA Independent, Pennsylvania  /  1 Comment

Screenshot from PennCAN report, with legend moved, labels enlarged

While school spending does not necessarily predict success, high poverty rates usually predict low achievement. But six schools in the Pittsburgh area are finding ways to prove the latter wrong.

Flexibility is one of the features that sets apart these schools, says the report and a principal of one of these schools confirms. This seems bolstered by the fact that nontraditional schools make up more than half of the schools either in the high-performing group or on the cusp.

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