Ah, the Quirky World of Big-Time College Football Coaches

USA Today did a great FOI-driven sports story looking at the crazy stuff included in coaches’ contracts….

USA TODAY Sports reporters and editors analyzed thousands of documents in calculating salaries for the 124 FBS head coaches and nearly 1,000 assistants.

While combing through contract after contract – after contract after contract – we also came across a few interesting contractual “quirks.” Some involve relationships with supermarket chains, golf clubs and gun shops. Others are bonuses that can be earned by reaching certain on- and off-field goals. Here are a few examples:

Texas coach Mack Brown:

Brown was paid $60,000 to serve as the chairman of the board for the University of Texas Golf Club. While it’s a pittance compared to his football earnings, Brown’s off-the-field benefits also included a $750 gift card to McBride’s Guns in Austin.

And this gem:

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian:

The university pays the cost of having Sarkisian’s family travel to all away football games, all postseason events in which the football team participates and two additional business-related trips each fiscal year if he so elects.

Poor guy needs travel money….

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Overtime Records Always, Always Generate Stories!

Here is yet another:

Patients with serious mental illness are treated at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany. It’s just one of the facilities run by the State Office of Mental Health, also known as “OMH.”

The agency regulates, certifies and oversees 4500 programs across New York, from suicide prevention to counseling. But as NewsChannel 13 learned, the employees that get all that done, rack up a lot of overtime.

Records we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show overtime expenses at OMH spiked nearly eight-million-dollars over the last two years, topping 82 million dollars…and taxpayers foot that bill.

Some of the agency’s employees made more than twice their base salary.

Just consider at what a secure care treatment aide at a Bronx OMH facility pulled down in overtime last year: nearly $116,000. That’s 240% over his base salary of $48,000.

Here in the Capital Region, a mental health therapy aide earned $88,000 in overtime on top of her annual salary of $43,000.

And a psychiatric nurse, earned nearly $80,000 in overtime over her base pay of nearly $56,000…

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Watch Heather Brooke’s TED Talk on the Parliament FOI Story…

OK, full disclosure: I am HUGE fan of Heather, having chatted with her often through the years about FOI stuff, so I HAD to pass this along!

If this doesn’t get you pumped up about the power of FOI to change the world, I don’t know what will! And best of all, you can then read an excerpt from her new book, The Revolution Will Be Digitised…

 

 

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A Great Records-Rich Story on a Tennessee Property Tax Soak

Memphis Commercial Appeal reporters Marc Perrusquia and Grant Smith (a former student!) just published a series that peels away the curtain to reveal a law originally intended to keep farmers from losing their farmland turned in to a cash cow for rich landowners.

From the first story:

An investigation by The Commercial Appeal and its sister publication, the Knoxville New-Sentinel, found Lightman and many other savvy property owners across Tennessee are reaping dramatic tax savings — often paying pennies on the dollar — because a 1976 law to prevent farmers from being taxed off their land is full of loopholes and timidly enforced by many of the state’s 95 assessors.The newspaper found more than half of the land in Tennessee — nearly 15 million acres — is enrolled in the program protecting farmland, the vast majority in rural counties where agriculture is the dominant industry. Yet, in urban areas the tax rolls evidence significant abuse — from wealthy estate owners living in mansions on huge tracts to real estate developers escaping much of their annual tax bills by declaring a woods a timber preserve, a manicured lawn a pasture, a future subdivision a farm. And, by all accounts, it’s legal.

It’s a great read, and without access to records, it’s not possible.

The Commercial Appeal

The Commercial Appeal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Many People Are Trapped in Elevators on Your Campus?

Here is a cool little FOI-driven story

elevator

elevator (Photo credit: Jose R. Borras)

from the student paper at the University of Texas-Arlington:

Brushing shoulder to shoulder, a group of eight Phi Mu Alpha fraternity members crammed into a Fine Arts Building elevator at 8 p.m. in October of last year. Hungry and matted with saturated sweat from marching band practice an hour earlier, the students talked about showering and going out for dinner.

Ding — The elevator passed the third floor. Suddenly, the elevator made an unfamiliar beeping noise, jerked slightly, tossing them, and then stopped.

Music education senior Andres Soto pressed the emergency button to call police and the dispatcher told him the bad news. The dispatcher estimated the men would have to wait about an hour before an elevator technician would arrive and open the doors, Soto said.

Their incident was inconvenient, Soto said. However, it’s not rare. Nearly 800 reports of people trapped in elevators were made between Jan. 1, 2002, and Aug. 26, 2012, according to open records obtained by The Shorthorn in August.

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The Detroit Free Press Weighs in With a Massive FOI Project

Parole long has been a rich area of investigative reporting. Few outlets have gone to the lengths the Detroit Free Press went to in this GREAT FOI-driven series! Kudos to the reporters and editors who toiled on this important series and to the newspaper’s editorial board, who have been hammering away at the state for its lax oversight of criminals released with little or no supervision…

See the whole project here. It’s a must read for anyone interested in seeing some of the best reporting on the subject ever — and for FOI junkies interested in the knockdown, dragout battles to obtain the information that built the series.

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Assange: An Enemy of the State?

THE US military has designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as enemies of the United States – the same legal category as the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency.

Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with “communicating with the enemy”, a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.
Read more here here. And here

Julian Assange (1)

Julian Assange (1) (Photo credit: bbwbryant)

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