Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Brown Vows to Collect on Millions of Dollars in Worker Debt; Sutter Health Sued for Fraud; Barack Obama Says What's Up

By Ellen Cushing
Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Happy National High Five Day, East Bay. Herewith, stories you shouldn't miss.

1) Governor Jerry Brown intends to crack down on the various state agencies that've apparently failed to collect millions of dollars in worker debt in recent years. According to an audit released last year by State Controller John Chiang, some eleven agencies have failed to follow up on about $13.3 million that workers owe the state from salary and travel advances. Brown condemned the agencies' shoddy bookkeeping and mandated that agencies clear all debts within 30 days in a statement released yesterday.

2) A new report by the US Energy Department finds that Berkeley's Lawrence Livermore Labs allowed some of its subcontractors to hire employees with invalid documentation, according to the Associated Press. Inspectors apparently found that of the 236 I-9s they inspected, some 32 employees weren't authorized to work in the U.S., and many were using dead people's Social Security numbers — a security risk as well as an employment- and immigration-law violation. A lab spokesman corroborated the Energy Department's findings and said the lab intends to provide more oversight for subcontractors.

3) State insurance commissioner Dave Jones has joined a lawsuit against Sutter Health for allegedly perpetrating a hundred-million-dollar-plus billing fraud over the course of the past decade. According to Jones, the Sacramento-based nonprofit hospital chain has been overcharging insurers for anesthesia services for years and at all of its 24 hospitals (including, presumably, Berkeley's Alta Bates). The health provider has, unsurprisingly, dismissed the charges.

4) Jurors in the Chauncey Bailey trial watched a potentially damning 62-minute video secretly taken of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV in court yesterday. The tape — which judge Thomas Reardon allowed prosecutors to play despite requests to the contrary by one of the defendants' lawyers — apparently shows Bey threatening to arrange various murders, laughing about Bailey's death, planning ways of evading charges, and more.

5) As we reported yesterday, the OPD seized about 2,300 plants — or $2 million worth of weed — Wednesday morning in one of the city's bigger marijuana busts in memory.

6) Cupertino's Apple continues to do gangbusters business, having nearly doubled its profits in the most recent fiscal quarter over the same period last year. Bolstered by its new deal with Verizon, the company sold a whopping 18.65 million iPhones in the three months that ended March 26 (though it sold fewer iPad 2s than industry analysts expected.)

7) And finally, in case you have literally been living in some kind of news-free alternate universe for the last 72-plus hours (welcome back!!), President Obama visited the Bay Area yesterday. He stopped by Facebook HQ in Palo Alto for a town hall, where he apparently slammed recent GOP budget cuts; afterwards, he attended two fundraisers, with another this morning.


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