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Member since: Mon Apr 20, 2015, 05:44 PM
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Unemployment agency didn't ensure background checks for 5,500 staffers. Some had prior crimes

How is it that people who were fired or quit were still allowed computer access to the system for weeks? In at least one instance, an employee fired for approving fraudulent claims for kickbacks, continued to do so for weeks after being fired. First action usually taken when someone leaves a company is to disable their log in access, but not here. And no one has been held accountable.

Unemployment agency didn't ensure background checks for 5,500 staffers. Some had prior crimes, audit says

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency failed to ensure background checks were conducted for more than 5,500 employees as the agency ramped up its numbers under a wave of new claims at the start of the pandemic.

The audit found 169 workers had prior convictions including financial crimes, and 71 of those 169 were still employed at the time of the review.

The agency also allowed departed workers continued access to the unemployment system, leading in at least one case to about $3.8 million in fraud, according to an audit of the agency's personnel management. The agency has yet to hold the staffing agencies responsible for employees who committed fraud.

A total of 63 of 139 departed workers sampled by the Auditor General's office had continued access to the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) "to view and make unauthorized changes to claims for an average of 32.6 days after their departure," the audit said.


Elections official in Michigan charged with ballot tampering

FLINT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A former township clerk and current county elections supervisor in Michigan has been charged with ballot tampering in the August 2020 primary.

Kathy Funk also is charged with misconduct in office, the Michigan attorney general's office said late Friday. Both charges are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison upon conviction. Funk faces arraignment in Genesee County's 67th District Court.

Funk was Flint Township's clerk when authorities allege she purposely broke a seal on a ballot container, according to the attorney general's office. Under Michigan law, that prevented votes inside the container from being counted in an anticipated recount. No recount was ever performed and Triplett, who was appointed to replace Funk as township clerk in November, told MLive-The Flint Journal that she asked for a recount after the election after having noticed suspicious activity at the township hall in the days surrounding the primary.

“Election officials must uphold the integrity of their positions,” Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said Friday in a release. “Those who abuse that commitment undermine the very foundation of our democracy.”


UM study: Detroit parents less likely to vaccinate themselves, their kids

A University of Michigan report released this week indicates Detroit parents are less likely to vaccinate themselves than nonparents, which is leading to low youth vaccination rates in the state's largest city.

Just under half of Detroit parents and guardians of children under 18 reported at the end of last year that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 75% of adults without children, according to the report from the Detroit Metro Communities Study, supported by UM's Poverty Solutions Initiative. About 86% of unvaccinated parents responded that they were concerned regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Additionally, 76% of parents cited doubt about the effectiveness of the vaccine as contributing to their decision to not be vaccinated.

Less than half of Detroit's eligible population has received a vaccine dose, compared to 65% of Michigan. The study noted there was no evidence of ethrecoracial differences in vaccination rate among parents; however, White Detroiters said they were more likely to vaccinate their kids.

Detroit's Chief Health Officer Denise Fair Razo said she can't speculate on the findings of the survey but is aware that vaccination rates for young children are the lowest of any eligible age group. As of Tuesday, just 12.7% of Detroit's children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose of vaccine and less than 10% are fully vaccinated. As for children ages 12-15 years old, 27% are fully vaccinated, according to the Detroit Health Department.


Former clerk rewrites SCOTUS contenders' Wikipedia bios

A former law clerk for a potential Supreme Court nominee embarked on a Wikipedia editing spree over the past week, bolstering the page of his former boss while altering the pages of her competitors in an apparent attempt to invite liberal skepticism, according to a statement from his fellow clerks.

After POLITICO began inquiring about the changes on Friday, a group of former law clerks for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson identified the anonymous editor as Matteo Godi, another former Jackson clerk. Godi did not respond to multiple emailed requests or a phone call.

In a statement, the former clerks for Jackson — who requested anonymity in order to identify the online editor — said Godi has edited his former boss’s Wikipedia page “as a matter of course” for several years. They said Jackson was not aware of Godi’s edits on the pages of other judges.

Those edits display a pattern: The page for Jackson, seen by many as a Supreme Court frontrunner, was tweaked to paint her in a more favorable light for a liberal audience, while the pages for other potential nominees — South Carolina federal district court Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger — were altered to make them potentially less appealing to a left-leaning audience.


Virtual only schools should return to classrooms, Whitmer says

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview Thursday that Michigan school districts that are currently offering only virtual instruction should return students to classrooms for in-person learning.

“98% of our districts in Michigan are in person right now," Whitmer said during an appearance on WDET's "Detroit Today." "We’ve got some big ones that are not. I want to work with those districts to help support them so they can get kids back in school."

The governor made the comments the day after her fourth State of the State address, in which she said students "belong in schools." The subject has become the topic of intense political debate with Republicans attempting to tie school closures to Whitmer as she seeks reelection.

During her State of the State address on Wednesday, Whitmer said remote learning is "not as fulfilling or conducive to a child’s growth." "In-person learning is critical to social development and mental health," she said during the speech. "That’s why we will do everything we can to keep kids in the classroom."


Detroit lawmakers to sue redistricting commission, allege violation of Voting Rights Act

The maps adopted by Michigan's citizen-led, independent redistricting commission eliminate majority-Black congressional and state Senate districts that currently run through Detroit and reduce the number of Detroit majority-Black districts in the new state House map.

Expected plaintiffs in the lawsuit called on Democrats during Monday's briefing to support the legal challenge, arguing that Michigan Democrats should not embrace maps that give them a chance to win congressional and legislative majorities at the expense of Black voters' representation.

"Don’t leave us out in the rain because you simply want a majority," said former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, an expected plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Before it began drawing its maps, Adelson advised the commission to fix Detroit districts that packed Black voters, referencing a form of gerrymandering in which one group of voters is heavily concentrated in a handful of districts where they are all but guaranteed to see their preferred candidates elected but their influence is removed from surrounding communities.

"We could potentially have people representing our community that don’t have the commitment to our city," said Gay-Dagnogo. "Detroit deserves to have Black leadership."


Detroit lawmakers plan to challenge redistricting maps over racial fairness

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, approved by voters in 2018, changed the way the once-in-a-decade redistricting process is done by giving that responsibility to a 13-member citizens panel made up four Republicans, four Democrats and five non-partisan members.

“Unfortunately, the problem lies in the largest African American majority city in the nation has received the very short end of the stick,” said filing attorney Nabih Ayad. “The new redistricting map lines have unfairly discriminated against the city of Detroit, its residents and its elected officials.”

Overall, the maps adopted by the commission last week decreased the number of majority-Black districts in the proposed maps by stretching Detroit districts into the suburbs. African Americans are an influential voting bloc in the Democratic Party. The spoke-like districts were drawn as such in an effort to increase partisan fairness and "unpack" past efforts to isolate the Democratic vote to certain districts.

While some Detroit Democrats remained disgruntled with the new maps approved last week, larger Democratic groups weren't quick to criticize the maps.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, now chairman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, praised the commission's work as a "success" that shows independent commissions can "produce a fair result.


Nicholas Sandmann reaches settlement with NBC

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against NBC by Covington Catholic graduate Nick Sandmann.

Sandmann announced the settlement in a tweet, saying the terms of the agreement are confidential. This is Sandmann's third settlement with a major news outlet following media coverage of a viral video featuring him at the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019.

Documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky show both parties agreed to dismiss the case without a judgement from the court.

Court records show Sandmann has filed suit in federal court against eight major news outlets including The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Rolling Stone and Gannett. In January 2020, CNN settled. In July 2020, The Washington Post settled.


Opinion: Vaccine mandates may be only remedy for Detroit's disrupted classrooms

Long-term, only a vaccine mandate for employees and students will allow for consistency of learning," Nikolai Vitti wrote in an email to the Free Press this week. "... If we do not move to a vaccine, the challenges disrupting school ... will not end."

Statewide, 61.5% of Michiganders of all ages have gotten the first shot; in Detroit, it's 44%. Broad public access and literal vaccination house calls haven't moved the needle much. (Any Detroiter older than 12 can receive the shot at home by calling 313-230-0505. Vaccines for kids are also available at the Detroit Health Department) The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for teenagers this spring, and for children 5-11 last month. But just 17.5% of Detroiters aged 5 to 19, and less than 5% of Detroit kids 5-11 have received their first shot.

Vitti listed mask requirements, the expense and operational distraction of testing, quarantines triggered by COVID-19 outbreaks, and employee burnout among the chronic pandemic contingencies that continue to disrupt classroom instruction. It's those last two that prompted the district to switch to virtual learning every Friday this month, after outbreaks shut down multiple school buildings.

The closures will also allow time for deep cleaning of school buildings, Vitti said; When I pointed out that public health authorities have long since debunked such cleaning rituals as an effective COVID-19 mitigation tactic, he conceded the point, but added that the community has "continued to raise concerns about cleanliness after positive cases and outbreaks were identified." Vitti had hoped to encourage vaccination by offering staffers $500 bonuses, but it hasn't been enough. National teacher unions have supported vaccine mandates, but the Detroit Federation of Teachers hasn't embraced that position.


Gov. Whitmer says President Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate a 'problem,' report says

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in her strongest public remarks to date about President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for employers, said Monday that the requirement is "a problem" for her and state government, according to a published report.

The Daily News in Greenville reported Whitmer as telling business leaders in Montcalm County that she had the same concerns as some of them that the mandate, if enforced, could lead to workers, including those in state government, walking off the job.

"We’re an employer too, the state of Michigan is," Whitmer was reported as saying. "I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees. That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court."

“But we have a lot of the same concerns that you just voiced and it’s going to be a problem for all of us,” Whitmer added.

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