There are scams, and there are scams. But a truly miserable scam is the fraudulent use of handicapped license plates and placards.
From the Bee's Jim Miller: "California’s Department of Motor Vehicles needs to significantly beef up efforts to prevent fraud and abuse in the state’s disabled person placard program, a new state audit recommends, noting that officials accept applications lacking required medical documentation, issue too many duplicates, and fail to cancel the placards of people who have died."
"Almost 3 million people had disabled placards or special license plates as of June 2016, according to Tuesday’s Bureau of State Audits report. The placards allow people to use reserved parking spaces and exempt them from meters and parking-limit requirements."
"Yet hundreds of thousands of the placards could be in use illegally, based on auditors’ sampling of records. The audit found multiple problems with the DMV’s administration of the program, beginning with its handling of placard applications. In a sample of 96 applications, nearly three-quarters lacked a full description of the illness or disability being used as the basis for the request, auditors found. Similarly, the agency lacks procedures to weed out applications with forged medical provider signatures."
READ MORE: Thousands of currently-active permits likely belong to people who have died -- Ben Bradford, Capitol Public Radio.
Unfortunately, California has been a national leader in the numbers of pedestrians killed by vehicles each year. But that's changing -- finally.
Capitol Weekly's Dave Kempa reports: "Preliminary data by the Governors Highway Safety Organization shows an increase in pedestrian fatalities throughout the United States, rising 12 percent to 5,997 in 2016. Yet California, home to the highest number of pedestrian deaths for years, is finally seeing a drop"
"Between January and June of 2016 the Golden State saw 349 pedestrian deaths, an 11.4 percent decrease from the same period in 2015."
“California’s been a leader on a lot of different traffic safety issues,” says Kara Macek of GHSO. “That could be part of the reason they’re seeing more progress than other parts of the country.”
One piece of California's judicial system has received intense scrutiny lately -- the use of bail. Attempts to reform the way bail is imposed is drawing fire, not surprisingly, from bail bondsmen.
From the Bee's Alexei Koseff:
"Hundreds of bail agents convened at the Capitol on Tuesday to oppose Assembly Bill 42, one of two measures moving through the Legislature this year that would largely eliminate the use of money bail
in California. The bill ultimately advanced out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 4-2 vote."
"Among those testifying was Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, star of several reality shows about his work capturing bail fugitives. While acknowledging shortcomings in the current approach, Chapman said it would be unfair to crime victims to replace bail with the proposed system, where anyone not assessed as a danger to the community or a flight risk would be released from jail. He also said bill supporters are wrong to argue that money bail unfairly punishes low-income people
by keeping those who cannot afford high bail rates stuck behind bars."
“Poor people don’t break the law,” he said. “They don’t go outside, they don’t have the money. It’s not the poor man that runs. He has no money to run. It’s just an excuse to say that.”
READ MORE:: Celebrity bounty hunters opposed to bail changes -- Jazmine Ulloa, LA Times.
Meanwhile, experts have taken a close look at the collapse of the Oroville dam spillway.
From the Bee's Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler: "As state officials clamp down on records at Oroville Dam, one of the country’s foremost experts on catastrophic engineering failures has used state inspection reports, photographs and historical design specifications to piece together an autopsy detailing why the spillway at the country’s tallest dam failed so spectacularly this winter."
"The independent analysis by Robert Bea, of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley, points to design and construction flaws dating back to the spillway’s construction in the 1960s. Bea said the gaping crater that formed in the spillway on Feb. 7 was all but inevitable given that the design problems were compounded by inadequate upkeep and maintenance."
"Bea’s 78-page report, which he has shared with The Sacramento Bee and other media outlets, says the spillway was undermined by a variety of factors, including thin concrete, the presence of “soils and incompetent rock” below the concrete and evidence of water undermining that material. Bea’s findings dovetailed with the conclusions made last month by four consultants advising the state on Oroville’s repairs."
L.A. police are making changes in their use-of-force rules in hopes of reducing officer-involved shootings.
Elizabeth Chou reports in the LA Daily News: "The policy has the backing of the union representing the Los Angeles Police Department’s more than 8,000 rank-and-file officers."
"LAPD officials also said the department incorporated recommendations by the American Civil Liberties Union to emphasize de-escalation, but Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill questioned whether the added de-escalation concepts are laid out clearly enough in the policy."
"She said it “troubles me” that de-escalation is not talked about in the policy in specific terms, noting that the revisions were only added to the preamble and not to other parts of the police manual."
The University of California has agreed to pay $1.7 million in the case of a student who said she was sexually harassed by the dean of the law school.
From the Chronicle's Nanette Asimov: "The amount may be a record settlement for sexual harassment at UC, topping the $1.15 million won in January by a UC Santa Cruz student to settle her claim that a professor raped her when she was his student in 2015."
"Under the new settlement, released Tuesday by the regents in response to The Chronicle’s Public Records Act request, the employee, Tyann Sorrell, will receive $8,048 a month from UC for a decade. In addition, the university will pay two lump sums: $250,000 to Sorrell, and $600,000 to Sorrell and her attorney, Leslie Levy of Levy, Vinick, Burrell LLP in Oakland. UC will also forgive Sorrell’s $12,000 student-housing debt."
"Sorrell worked as an assistant to Sujit Choudhry, who was forced out of his position as dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law in March 2016 when Sorrell sued him and the university in Alameda Superior Court."
Speaking of UC, we head south to the UCLA campus to learn that a school finance official has been arrested on embezzlement charges.
The LA Times' Sonali Kohli reports: "Between 2008 and 2012, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Carmine Marino took a total of $81,000 from a tuition account at CUNY’s school of professional studies and transferred it to two separate accounts that only he had control over. After an appearance April 7 in federal court in Manhattan, Marino was released on $50,000 bail."
“We are actively reviewing the charges and intend to vigorously defend against them,” his lawyer, David Smith, said."
"Marino worked at CUNY’s school of professional studies from 2007 until May 2012, and then in the university’s City College. In 2013, CUNY fired him after discovering some of the transactions, according to investigators. The complaint said that the university eventually settled with Marino, withdrawing his termination and allowing him to resign instead."
Say hello to the post-oasis landscape -- southern California, where the trees are dying fast.
From the LAT's Louis Sahagun: "The trees that shade, cool and feed people from Ventura County to the Mexican border are dying so fast that within a few years it’s possible the region will look, feel, sound and smell much less pleasant than it does now."
“We’re witnessing a transition to a post-oasis landscape in Southern California,” says Greg McPherson, a supervisory research forester with the U.S. Forest Service who has been studying what he and others call an unprecedented die-off of the trees greening Southern California’s parks, campuses and yards."
"Botanists in recent years have documented insect and disease infestations as they’ve hop-scotched about the region, devastating Griffith Park’s sycamores and destroying over 100,000 willows in San Diego County’s Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, for example."
The powerful but obscure state Board of Equalization is under fire for alleged nepotism.
From the Bee's Adam Ashton: "The California tax board Gov. Jerry Brown sanctioned last week is now facing an expanded investigation into alleged nepotism in its workforce."
"Board of Equalization managers must respond by Wednesday to a survey seeking information about employees who are related to other workers at the tax-collecting agency, which has 4,800 workers."
"Board of Equalization Executive Director David Gau wrote in a message on Monday to the agency’s leaders that the information will be used for a State Personnel Board investigation."