Tag Archives: scams

Baltimore mayor Pugh resigns from university medical board after her book deal with them is exposed

From Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has resigned from the board of the University of Maryland Medical System following a controversy involving a deal with the hospital system to buy her children’s books.

Last week, Pugh (demorat) and others on the health system’s board were criticized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and top state lawmakers for the financial deals with the hospital system and possible conflicts of interest.

On a financial disclosure form, Pugh listed a $100,000 profit for one year from selling 20,000 copies of her self-published children’s book series “Healthy Holly” to the University of Maryland health system, which runs 13 hospitals including the state’s trauma unit in Baltimore and has connections with the state’s dental and medical schools.

Hogan described the financial contracts, which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as “appalling” and “unseemly.” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called them “self-dealing” and “a huge disaster.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who has been on the board for 16 years, said the unfolding scandal was the worst he’s seen in Maryland politics. He said he, Hogan, Miller and high-level staff from the hospital system will meet in Annapolis on Wednesday.

The deals were first disclosed last week by the Baltimore Sun, which reported that Pugh’s deals with the hospital board totaled $500,000 over several years, and were not fully listed on disclosure forms when Pugh represented Baltimore in the state Senate.

Other board members who had lucrative deals included former state senator Francis X. Kelly, who owns an insurance company and reported $1.6 million in revenue from deals with the hospital system.

Officials at the hospital system have said their contracts are legal. Legislation pending in the General Assembly would ban such arrangements.

In a statement put out Monday explaining her resignation, Pugh, who has served on the board since 2001, said she had “other pressing concerns that require my full attention, energy and efforts.” The Sun reported Friday that she had amended her state disclosure forms from her time in the Senate.

The system’s board members are appointed by the governor and the General Assembly’s presiding officers.

Hogan said Pugh’s resignation was “a step in the right direction. ” Last week, he called on board members with contracts with the health system to step down.

“We’re going to push for major reforms to make sure people either terminate their financial relationship or terminate them from the board,” Hogan said Monday. “One way or another, [we’ll] make sure that things like this don’t happen in the future.”

Read the whole story here.

DCG

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Oregon non-profit secures $1.3M tax break (to create 5 jobs) even though under DOJ investigation for previous tax break project

Spencer Beebe’s got a nice tax-break deal (or two) in Oregon

The non-profit firm Ecotrust was just awarded a tax break of $1.3 million because of their promise to create 5 warehouse jobs in a low income area in a suburb of Portland.

The founder of Ecotrust, Spencer Beebe, is a 51-year-old man who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (even though Ecotrust does have one). What I’ve been able to find out about Spencer:

• He has conservation experience in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America
• He was president of The Nature Conservancy International Program
• He is founding president of Conservation International
• He is (was) a licensed pilot and had his own prop plane

Ecotrust’s mission is “to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental well-being. Our goal is to foster a natural model of development that creates more resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems here and around the world.”

Apparently Ecotrust’s mission is also to create some rather large tax breaks for themselves while not delivering on their promises.

Oregon Live reports that despite being under investigation for a state tax credit with the state over a sawmill deal, Ecotrust requalified for a $1.3 million tax credits with the promise of creating five warehouse jobs in Tualatin.

The Oregon Department of Justice is actively investigating Ecotrust for that sawmill deal. According to Oregon Live:

“Officials at the Oregon Department of Revenue and state economic development agency Business Oregon concluded last year that Ecotrust had not legitimately qualified for the tax credits because it “failed to accurately characterize and disclose the intended use of proceeds,” among other failings, documents show.

Regulators gave the eco-centric nonprofit 90 days to make an above-board transaction to keep the credits.

Ecotrust subsequently proposed giving a local office supplies distributor $3.6 million to buy a Tualatin warehouse, a deal the nonprofit says will create five jobs paying about $15 an hour. Regulators at Business Oregon and the Oregon Department of Revenue approved that redo nearly two weeks ago.”

Oregon Live describes more about Ecotrust’s current tax break deal to create just five jobs:

“Ecotrust originally obtained the tax credits under a state program called the Oregon Low Income Community Jobs Initiative, a state initiative that piggybacked on a federal tax credits program. Its central purpose, according to Business Oregon’s website, is to help “finance investments and create jobs in low-income communities.”

Officials approved Ecotrust’s new plans to invest in privately owned Portland-based office products distributor Office Products Nationwide because the Tualatin warehouse it wants to buy is located in a low-income census tract.
It’s true that the manufacturing part of town where the warehouse is located is low-income. That’s because while Tualatin as a whole has a median household income of $73,000, well above the state average, that particular tract has fewer than 4,000 residents, 20 percent of whom live below the poverty line. If the warehouse, located on Southwest Herman Road, were located on the other side of the street, it would not qualify for the tax credits, as that area is not considered low-income.

Ecotrust told regulators its financing of the warehouse purchase will lead to the creation of five jobs paying about $31,000 a year.”

About that sawmill project?

“During 2018, Ecotrust was in serious jeopardy of losing $1.3 million of its $3.1 million in state tax credits after its executives were found to have misled state officials about its plans for a sawmill project in southern Oregon, actions that were the subject of a story in The Oregonian/OregonLive called “Destined to fail.”

Even with the credits, the deal didn’t pan out. The 70 jobs Ecotrust promised for the Rough & Ready sawmill, situated in southern Oregon’s severely economically distressed Illinois Valley, existed only briefly and were wiped out when the project went belly-up. Taxpayers lost millions along the way.

But regulators told Ecotrust it could keep the $1.3 million in credits if it made a legitimate investment in a low-income community business. So Ecotrust came up with is plan to fund the purchase of the 21,000-square-foot Tualatin warehouse.”

Read all the details about both tax break deals here and here.

Such “fresh thinking” that Ecotrust has developed to be able to scam taxpayers with the state’s approval.

DCG

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