Illinois Mayor Pleads Guilty to Taking $5,000 Bribe—Son-In-Law Becomes Mayor
December 20, 2021
In the Village of Crestwood, Illinois, Lou Presta resigned as mayor one day before pleading guilty to taking a $5,000 bribe from someone who was cooperating with the FBI.
The village trustees in turn chose Presta’s son-in-law, Kenneth Klein, to succeed him as mayor, The Chicago Tribune reported.
“He is a very good person, a very outgoing person,” Klein said of his father-in-law. “Lou didn’t do anything to the village to put a mark on the village."
Presta, 71, a Democrat, was first elected in 2013 and won re-election to a third term in April,with Klein running alongside him.
Presta was charged last year with accepting $5,000 cash in March 2019 from Omar Maani, “an executive at clout-heavy red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC,” The Tribune reported.
Maani was cooperating with the FBI and the exchange was caught on camera.
At the time, Presta was running for Cook County commissioner, and took the money while promising to help SafeSpeed get more red-light cameras in the village, boosting revenues from cameras by approving more violations, according to his plea agreement.
Presta resigned on Nov. 16, the day before pleading guilty to the charges.
Besides the cash bribe, Presta admitted that he solicited $4,100 in campaign donations from Maani in January 2018, during his unsuccessful run for commissioner. The two agreed to disguise the payment by having Maani pay cash to cover an invoice from an advertising firm, according to the plea. Both men knew it was in exchange for Presta’s help to ensure SafeSpeed’s red-light camera revenue would continue to “creep up higher,” the plea stated.
That doesn’t sound like a “very good person” as his son-in-law described him. Let’s hope new Mayor Klein doesn’t sell out his village and its residents the same way.
Troubled NYC Housing Authority Chief Gets $515,000 Salary – More Than Mayor and Governor Combined
December 21, 2021
While public housing residents suffer from a plethora of issues, the chief of New York City’s troubled Housing Authority made more than half a million dollars last year — more than the mayor and governor combined.
The $515,000 paid to Vito Mustaciuolo, general manager and chief operating officer of NYCHA, was more than any other municipal employee, news outlet The City reported.
NYCHA residents face serious problems in their apartments and buildings, from elevators that are chronically broken, to heat and hot water that disappear for days or weeks, to bug infestations, to mold infestations, and toxic lead that have spurred lawsuits and a federal monitor to oversee the agency.
Mustaciuolo collected the huge sum because he was allowed to cash in more than double the limit for unused vacation days, The City reported.
When Mayor bill de Blasio asked Mustaciuolo to serve as general manager of NYCHA in 2018, Mustaciuolo said he would only leave his position as a top official with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development if he could take with him 662 unused vacation days he’d accrued over 39 years on the city payroll.
While the department only allows employees to cash in 261 unused vacation days, and NYCHA normally would only accept a transfer of 54 days, they made an exception and allowed Mustaciuolo to cash in twice the limit.
In the 2021 fiscal year that ended June 30, Mustaciulo collected a $258,000 salary, with another $257,000 for accrued time off.
Taxpayers are being milked twice: first by having their taxed pumped into a public housing system that only gets worse and secondly by funding huge paychecks for the bureaucrats who do nothing to improve it.
The 50 States Total Debt Just Surpassed $1.5 Trillion
December 22, 2021
The debt of all 50 states totaled $1.5 trillion at the end of 2020, severely underfunding pensions and other postemployment benefits. That’s according to Truth in Accounting’s 12th annual Financial State of the States report, which ranks states based on their financial status.
This year’s surveys the fiscal health of the 50 states during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The five best states were Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and South Dakota, while the five worst were Hawaii, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut.
At the end of 2020, 39 states didn’t have enough money to pay their bills, the report found.
Collectively, the 50 states’ unfunded pension liabilities were $926.3 billion.
That means for every $1 of pension benefits promised to its workers, states have only set aside 64 cents on average.
That becomes a problem when enough workers retire to exhaust the pension savings and states can no longer can cut pension checks.
On top of that are other postemployment benefits, or OPEB, for which the 50 states underfunded by $638.7 billion.
For every $1 of those promised benefits, mostly for retiree health care, states have only set aside 8 cents on average.
Unsurprisingly, even with federal assistance, state debt got worse at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and the short recession that followed in early 2020.
Beyond their financial issues, the transparency score went down overall among the states.
Without transparency in government finance, residents don’t know what their state government is costing them, and elected officials are able to spend more than they’re taking in, sinking further into debt.
State governments should not only come clean about how and why they spend taxpayer money, they should take concrete steps to spend that money more wisely and avoid additional debt.
In 1977, Pentagon Misused $52.3M Worth of Aircraft—Valued at $237 Million Today
December 23, 2021
The Pentagon used military aircraft for personal and support flights so much that it cost taxpayers $52.3 million — $237 million in 2021 dollars — a Department of Defense audit found, in 1977.
That massive misuse of the planes won the Pentagon a Golden Fleece award from Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who gave the awards for wasteful and nonsensical spending.
The DOD audit found that the military planes were often used for low priority missions — support and personal flights — instead of for combat training and for flights where available commercial transportation was many times cheaper.
"What we have here is the picture of every high-ranking officer or civilian in the Pentagon simply being able to request government transportation free regardless of its cost or mission — simply on the basis of rank," Proxmire said then.
While he scolded the Pentagon brass for adding substantial additional costs to flying these plane, he said the Defense Audit Service “should get a commendation for uncovering the massive misuse of government aircraft for non-essential and wasteful purposes.”
The audit found that at one Army command, 119 support aircraft valued at $24.9 million in 1977 would no longer be required if current cost effectiveness standards were applied.
It also found the Air Force often used 104 T-39 jets designated for wartime readiness training as support aircraft instead, costing $26 million in excess flying time and 24 million gallons of wasted fuel.
“It is a classic example of putting the privileges of rank and the logistics tail before the combat teeth," Proxmire said.
National Institutes of Health Slow Walks 633 FOIA Requests — During a Pandemic
December 24, 2021
The influx of requests and unavailability of custodians in response to the pandemic has overwhelmed the NIH FOIA Office. NIH says they are currently working to respond to numerous other FOIA requests, including cases with court-ordered deadlines, and are working with limited resources.
“Additionally, because of the unavailability of custodians to assist with the review process, the sheer number of FOIA requests and litigation NIH is working on, and the need to consult with multiple agencies in the review process, NIH is unable to process potentially responsive records at a rate greater than 300 pages per month," stated a NIH spokesperson.
The agency claims that processing potentially responsive records at a rate greater than 300 pages per month would cripple NIH’s ability to meet agreed-upon and court-imposed deadlines in other FOIA litigation cases and to continue responding to new and pending requests.
That’s probably the same reason the FDA recently said it would take 55-years to process a FOIA asking for the background on the COVID-19 vaccine approvals!
So for the trillions of dollars in COVID aid spent by Congress to bailout everyone, someone forgot to give the necessary resources so the people and the press could hold NIH and other federal agencies accountable.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.