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Newsmonger: State rejects GEO's bid for psych hospital, Fusion Centers under fire, Ethics probe heads to hearing

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DHS has continued to store "troubling intelligence reports from fusion centers on U.S. persons, possibly in violation of the Privacy Act."

Ethics probe heads to hearing

Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni was set to head before the city's Ethics Review Board for an informal hearing Tuesday night to discuss whether he violated the city's ethics code. The board could decide to set a formal hearing to review the case later this year. Or they could flat-out reject the notion that DiGiovanni did anything wrong when he: 1) Stayed on a selection committee this summer for the $300 million Convention Center expansion contract awarded to Zachry Corp, and 2) simultaneously negotiated with construction-firm head David Zachry over a new job as CEO for the nonprofit Centro Partnership, where Zachry sat on the executive board tasked with vetting and hiring DiGiovanni.

The city's ethics rules state a city employee should step aside from the decision-making table in order to avoid the "appearance and risk of impropriety" — including whenever a city employee has sought or been offered a job from someone or some business with a financial stake in that employee's actions at City Hall.

Rather than wait for someone to file a complaint against him, DiGiovanni wrote a letter to the city's Ethics Review Board last month asking for an opinion himself. Even should the Ethics Review Board opt for a formal hearing, the board's history proves it more paper tiger than a serious vehicle for local government oversight. As the E-N points out this week, the vast majority of allegations that have come before the board have been dismissed. And even when the board does find wrongdoing, it favors chiding the ethically lapsed party with a letter rather than actually handing down punishment. Case in point: former Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos, who last year went before the board on allegations she helped bat for her then-employer, WellMed, at City Hall. Included in the charges was an instance when Ramos got other council members to sign a letter supporting a contract between WellMed and the San Antonio Housing Authority, a letter bearing Ramos' signature and City of San Antonio letterhead but written by Ramos' WellMed boss. The ERB dismissed the most serious allegations against her, finding her guilty only of using city computers to send emails that were private-work related. She received only a letter of admonition from the board.

*Update: Found guilty. Read the whole story here.

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