Connect with us

Politics

VA Watchdog Defends Actions in Contracting Report

Published

on

In the Feb. 11, 2015, file photo, House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., conveys a message he reads from his mobile phone to witness, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Miller on March 16, accused the inspector general and other officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs of withholding reports from his panel, despite pledges to be transparent.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

In the Feb. 11, 2015, file photo, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., conveys a message he reads from his mobile phone to witness, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Miller on March 16, accused the inspector general and other officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs of withholding reports from his panel, despite pledges to be transparent. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Call it the battle of the watchdogs.

The inspector general’s office at the Department of Veterans Affairs is defending its actions after the office came under unusual criticism from its counterpart at the Treasury Department.

In a report in December, the VA inspector’s office found that a former VA procurement officer improperly steered $15 million in uncompetitive contracts to a friend’s company. The report also accused the former official, Iris Cooper, of a “lack of candor” during the IG’s investigation.

The VA report sparked a rare and sharp rebuke from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, who said the allegations against Cooper were unsupported and based on a complaint by a VA supervisor that Cooper had complained about for creating a hostile work environment. Cooper is now a top contracting official with the Treasury Department.

Eric Thorson, the Treasury IG, said his review found that while Cooper knew two officers of the company that received the contract, Ohio-based Tridec Technologies, she did not award the contract nor did she improperly influence those who did. Thorson said the VA report “calls into question the integrity of the VA OIG’s actions.”

Maureen Regan, a top official at the VA inspector’s office who wrote the VA report, called Thorson’s letter unfounded and improper. She told a congressional committee Monday night that she stands behind the original report and has referred Thorson’s actions to a committee that oversees federal inspectors general.

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said he found VA’s actions in the Cooper case troubling.

“The implication that VA OIG was acting as a retaliatory arm of a VA executive who had a score to settle with another employee is downright disturbing and demands further investigation,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

Miller’s comment came as he accused the inspector general and other VA officials of withholding reports from his panel, despite pledges to be transparent. The VA’s actions are impeding the ability of Congress to oversee a department rocked by a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up delays, Miller said.

At a hearing Monday night, Miller said more than 100 requests for information from the VA remain outstanding, including 63 that are months past due. VA officials have challenged the need for some of the information he has requested, Miller said, and withheld other information based on “unfounded fears” that the information might be publicly released.

Miller said he won’t tolerate anyone interfering with a congressional investigation.

“Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding: When this committee requests documents, I expect production to be timely, complete and accurate,” Miller said.

While he is willing to work with VA Secretary Robert McDonald and other officials to implement needed reforms, Miller said he is not willing to let McDonald or anyone else “dictate how the committee conducts oversight or performs investigations.”

Leigh Bradley, the VA’s general counsel, said the agency is committed to accommodating congressional requests “as fully and quickly” as possible.

Miller said he was especially disappointed that the VA’s Office of Inspector General has withheld crucial information from the committee, including a report on excessive wait times at the Phoenix VA hospital, the epicenter of the wait time scandal that erupted last year.

The inspector general’s office also withheld for nearly a year a report on over-medication problems at a VA hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin, Miller and other lawmakers said. The Tomah facility was dubbed “Candy Land” by some veterans for its rampant practice of prescribing opiates and other pain killers.

Miller said Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin has ignored laws mandating that inspectors general keep Congress currently and fully informed. Instead, he has “taken the stilted position that other than a semi-annual report,” any other reports to Congress are issued at the IG’s discretion, Miller said.

Regan said the IG’s office has complied with all legal requirements for reporting to Congress and responding to congressional requests.

In the past six years, the IG’s office at that agency has issued more than 1,700 reports, provided testimony at 67 congressional hearings, conducted 400 briefings to members of Congress and staff, and responded “on a daily basis” to telephone calls and emails from the committee and its staff, she said.

___

Follow Matthew Daly: http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activism

Over 500 Attend Police-Free Event to Reimagine Safety in Oakland

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

Published

on

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation Events Held in More Than 50 Communities Across the Country

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

OAKLAND, CA — Over 500 people and families filled Josie de la Cruz Park in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood on Aug. 2 to enjoy performances, kids activities, and mutual aid to celebrate Night Out for Safety and Liberation (NOSL), an annual national event that redefines what safety and joy is without policing. The free community event included free diapers and books for all ages, food, bike giveaways, air purifiers, self defense training, a drag show, and performances from poets and artists such as Lauren Adams, TJ Sykes and Voces Mexicanas.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Night Out for Safety and Liberation started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-centric National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with over 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of community, not cops.

“We have been reimagining what safety means beyond police for our communities for over 25 years at the Ella Baker Center. When we create safe spaces for our community to come together and support each other, when we provide living-wage jobs so people are able to put food on their table, when we empower our children and provide opportunities for them to thrive, when we invest in healthcare and mental health resources, this is how we create real safety,” said Marlene Sanchez, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Through Night Out for Safety and Liberation, communities are creating safety not through policing but through healing and restorative justice, through creating gender affirming spaces and protecting trans and LGBTQIA communities, through reinvesting funding into community-based alternatives and solutions that truly keep communities safe.

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

“We don’t need more police in our streets. We don’t need more surveillance. What we need is resources!” said Jose Bernal, Organizing Director with the Ella Baker Center. “What we need is housing, diapers, legal resources, jobs. This [Night Out for Safety and Liberation] is what keeps us safe. This is resilience.”

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson

The event was emceed by Nifa Akosua, Senior Organizer and Advocate with the Ella Baker Center, and TJ Sykes, author and community activist–both natives of Richmond, California. The show included entertaining performances from Oakland Originalz break dancers, Voces Mexicanas mariachi band, singer Lauren Adams and a drag show from Afrika America.

“Night Out for Safety and Liberation is about neighborhood love and neighborhood safety. It’s about connecting, showing up for each other and staying connected as a community. That’s how we keep each other safe,” said Nifa.

More than 20 organizations and vendors participated in Tuesday’s event, offering community resources, face painting, giving away 500 books for all ages, and free diapers. Those participating included: Help A Mother Out, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, ACLU of Northern California, TGI Justice Project, Urban Peace Movement, Ella Baker’s Readers & Cesar Chavez Public Library, Alliance for Girls, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Centro Legal de la Raza, Common Humanity Collective, Street Level Health Project, Malikah – Self Defense, East Bay Community Law Center, Unity Council, Young Women’s Freedom Center, East Bay Family Defenders, Bay Area Workers Support, L’Artiste A La Carte, Education Super Highway, Cut Fruit Collective, and WIC.

Other Night Out for Safety and Liberation events were held in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Waco, Hampden, Conway, Washington D.C. and other cities. Follow the conversation and see photos from events in other cities using #SafetyIs and #NOSL22.

Continue Reading

Activism

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Published

on

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

By Kitty Epstein

For decades Black people in Oakland have obtained 9% or less of the work hours on publicly funded construction projects. So…for jobs that are paid for by all of our tax dollars, Black residents, who make up 23% of Oakland’s population, get only 9% of the relatively well-paid work doing construction.

How is that possible in this city that is believed by the world to be very progressive? Most of the work goes to members of the construction unions that have historically and currently excluded Black people through a complex set of membership requirements.

Nationally, only 7.2% of the carpenters’ union members are Black; 8.3% of the electricians’ union members and so on. The City of Oakland has done two very thorough reports of these racial equity issues. You can find this important information at the end of this story.

But the leadership of the construction trades now insist that that they should obtain an even larger portion of the construction hours and that this practice should be set in stone by something called a Project Labor Agreement. It is now being inaccurately called a “Community Workforce Agreement,” which is nonsense because it doesn’t help the community.

Why would progressive Oakland consider giving exclusive benefits to organizations that practice well-documented racial discrimination? At least one part of the reason is that the construction unions spend enormous amounts of money on Oakland elections. They were instrumental in former City Councilmember Desley Brooks’ defeat in District 6, for example, because they did not consider her sufficiently compliant with their demands.

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.

The community members proposed that the entire task force work collectively throughout the process of making proposals and negotiating solutions. The City rejected this proposal and began meeting with the building trades alone, saying that they would return with a proposed Project Labor Agreement, although there has been no demonstrated change in the racial exclusivity practiced by the construction trades.

This is outrageous on three levels:

  1. These are the tax dollars of Black residents, as well as others.
  2. The community’s interests in racial justice have not been resolved in any policy venue.
  3. The community belongs at the table throughout whatever process takes place.

The usual arguments for labor/employer negotiations do not apply. The construction unions are NOT city workers. If they were city employees, they would have both the rights (negotiations) and the responsibilities (non-discriminatory hiring) of the city. Since they are not held responsible to Include Black people in their organizations, they should not have the right to exclusive negotiations about anything

I am hopeful, of course, that the City will reject the continuation and expansion of racial discrimination policies practiced by the leadership of the trades unions and will insist on the drastic changes necessary for Black people to obtain 23% of the work hours they are due by virtue of their proportion of the population and tax dollars contributed.

These two documents below provide information that is both illuminating and horrifying.

Oakland Equity Indicators: https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Disparity Study – https://www.postnewsgroup.com/disparity-study-examines-patterns-of-discrimination-seeks-remedies-for-city-practices-of-selecting-contractors-in-construction-goods-and-services/

Continue Reading

Activism

The California Department of Aging: There Is Help for Elder Californians

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process. DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

Published

on

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.
Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles California Black Media

The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Commission on Social Action held a community meeting on aging last Thursday in San Bernardino with representatives from the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Held in the sanctuary, the discussion featured state representatives and Social Action Commission members led by former Assemblymember and Commission Chair Cheryl Brown, who represented the 47th Assembly District in San Bernardino County from 2012 to 2016.

Brown spoke with community members and leaders from San Bernardino and Riverside counties about programs and resources available for elderly Californians and the caregivers who look after them.

“The state has set aside millions of dollars to help older Californians have a better quality of life through the Master Plan for Aging. And caregiving is fourth of the five goals established in the state’s Master Plan for Aging,” Brown told California Black Media.

CDA Director Susan DeMarois also attended the meeting.

CDA administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the state. It has a $450 million budget and according to its Strategic Plan, CDA’s first objective is to advance Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Master Plan for Aging.

Newsom’s master plan was introduced as an executive order in the summer of 2019. Conceptualized as a five-point plan, its framework encompasses housing, health, equity, caregiving “that works” and affording aging.

According to DeMarois each point of the governor’s master plan has its own budget and will be implemented over the next eight years.

During the meeting — titled “Lunch, Listen and Learn” — community members expressed their concerns and suggestions specifically regarding how to take care of elderly Black people in the Inland Empire. A major theme of the discussion was ensuring familiar (traditional) modes and channels of communications that were being employed to reach Black elders.

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, spoke about ways in which the county has been involved in addressing those concerns.

“We have staff out there in the community, putting information in hands,” said Nevins.

Nevins emphasized the significance of Black churches and their unique influence on Black elders in California.

“We definitely reach out to the churches. We’ve always done that,” Nevins said.

DeMarois hailed San Bernardino as a model for the rest of the state because the city has been “meeting the needs of the whole person.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), California was tied with Hawaii in 2019 for the states with the nation’s highest life expectancy at an average of about 81 years.

Riverside County has a life expectancy of 80.3 years and San Bernardino County has a lower expectancy at 78.8 years.

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process.

DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

“It’s multi-pronged,” said DeMarois. “We know in the Black community faith is a proven path.”

One of the organizations mentioned during the community meeting – an organization that DeMarois claims she took note of – is the Inland Empire Pastor’s Association.

DeMarois expressed the need for the state and local agencies to implement “coordinated strategies” to approach challenges facing the state’s aging population.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
Activism4 days ago

Over 500 Attend Police-Free Event to Reimagine Safety in Oakland

Digital Issues4 days ago

Oakland Post: Week of August 3 – August 9, 2022

#NNPA BlackPress4 days ago

Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

The City Council established a task force to discuss the racial issues involved in construction and the possibility of a Project Labor Agreement. The task force included some community members, including the publisher of the Oakland Post, and was mandated to address racial discrimination first.
Activism4 days ago

OPINION: Are We About to See the Permanent Exclusion of Most Black People from Construction Jobs in Oakland?

#NNPA BlackPress5 days ago

Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

#NNPA BlackPress5 days ago

Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

#NNPA BlackPress5 days ago

Vice President Harris Addresses NAACP Convention; Urges Black Voter Participation

#NNPA BlackPress5 days ago

Biden Administration Announces Steps to Lower Electricity Bills for Residents in HUD Programs

#NNPA BlackPress5 days ago

Police Force and Top Officials Resign in Kenly, North Carolina After City Council Hires Black Women as Town Manager

#NNPA BlackPress6 days ago

Biden-Harris Administration Announce New Actions to Address Mental Health in Schools

#NNPA BlackPress6 days ago

Will Smith Issues Apology to Chris Rock and Family for Oscars Slap

#NNPA BlackPress6 days ago

Emory University Announces the first African American Studies Ph.D. Program in the U.S. Southeast

#NNPA BlackPress6 days ago

PRESS ROOM: Autism influencer Jeremiah Josey releases a new book about his experience as a Black man with autism

#NNPA BlackPress1 week ago

IN MEMORIAM: Basketball Legend Bill Russell Dies at 88

#NNPA BlackPress1 week ago

REVIEW: ‘Nope’ is a Yes! — Peele Delivers with Follow-Up

Trending