In July 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into existence, and handed former President Harry Truman the first Medicare card. There was much celebration.

The next day, the struggle began to keep the program solvent.

It’s not much of an exaggeration, really. Medicare was less than a decade old when, in efforts to contain rapidly escalating costs, Health Maintenance Organizations and managed care were born (1973).

At its most basic, managed care is a model for keeping healthcare costs as low as possible without actually sacrificing human lives to save a buck. Read the rest of this entry

Not a Trained Seal

It has come to my attention that I am being misrepresented as playing a role in a local political campaign.

I am not working for any candidate. No one has solicited my support. As of today, nobody’s even asked for my vote.

Don’t get me wrong. Every once in a while, a bright light manages to penetrate the slimy murk that comprises DeKalb politics. I’ve supported candidates in the past (and surely will again) and I reserve the right to endorse people at any time.

But so far, I’ve done neither.

If you missed Monday’s forum for DeKalb mayoral candidates that Kiwanis presented on Monday, click here for video.

Thanks, DCO.

The NIU Faculty Senate is examining actions taken by NIU President Doug Baker. A vote of no confidence in his leadership appears possible.

Michael J. Haji-Sheikh of NIU’s Department of Electrical Engineering has collected emails regarding the hiring of contractors and affiliate employees of NIU from the beginning of Baker’s tenure. He compiled the most pertinent into a summary of events, and presented it to the Senate this week. Find the summary and supporting documentation here. Among the issues that Haji-Sheikh says are being investigated, or that should be investigated, are the following:

  • Contractors billed NIU for activities outside the scope of normal university business, such as meeting with the owners of the University Village apartment complex.

  • NIU Foundation accounts were used to pay employees and consultants, which bypassed the usual NIU accounts for these types of payments.

  • The full NIU Board of Trustees apparently did not know about, and therefore did not provide oversight for, projects such as development of a private corporation called College Town Partners, and a “super university” plan.

  • A no-bid consulting contract was written for $19,999, which is one cent under the threshold for requiring an open bid — and the billing for the work ultimately exceeded the threshold amount.

  • The Faculty Senate also sent Baker a list of nine questions regarding a December article in which Baker referenced a report and admitted to “limited compliance violations” related to state employment rules. A copy of Baker’s response is here.

    Freedom of Information Act requests have been submitted to NIU for the specific report that Baker was referring to in the article, but the requests have been denied, presumably due to confidentiality requirements surrounding an active investigation. Baker is under investigation by the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General.

    City of DeKalb’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, contains a letter to management from the auditors that discusses a “significant deficiency” in DeKalb’s internal accounting controls.

    The DeKalb city council is set to discuss the report during its Committee of the Whole meeting January 9 at 5 pm.

    Here is how the auditor defines “significant deficiency” in the management letter (my emphasis):

    A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct, misstatements on a timely basis. A material weakness is a deficiency or a combination of deficiencies in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the City’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected, on a timely basis. A significant deficiency is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control that is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit attention by those charged with governance.

    Read the rest of this entry

    Recently I came across this City of DeKalb memo circulated via a council meeting agenda in October:

    With former Commander Smith’s retirement in June, the City faced an immediate crisis by not having on-call IT personnel who are familiar with the City’s specific computer systems and able to keep them operational at all times. On June 29, 2016, the City Manager entered into an agreement with Mr. Smith to provide IT support services to the City’s public safety computer system. An agreement to retain Mr. Smith until a new IT Director is hired needs to be approved by the City Council in the event the contract exceeds $20,000.

    And here’s part of the resolution accompanying the memo:

    WHEREAS, the City’s Purchasing Policy states: If any City purchase increases the total over $20,00 for the current fiscal year, the contract must be presented to the City Council for approval; and

    WHEREAS, the ratification of said agreement constitutes approval to the exceed the $20,000 staff spending limitation; and…

    Sounds like city manager Anne Marie Gaura can spend on anything she wants, as long as the tab comes in under $20,000, right? Sure seems like it sometimes. Read the rest of this entry

    City of DeKalb candidates for municipal offices in the spring elections are not all using the same ballot petition forms.

    For example, of the four mayoral candidates, three of them are filing as “independents” and one of them filed a “nonpartisan” form. A similar pattern has occurred with the aldermanic candidates.

    There are differences. “Independent” signals that a municipality has partisan elections, but the independent candidate has decided on the independent label instead of a party label, and the independent doesn’t “get primaried” like the party animals do. “Nonpartisan” means there’s always just one election, and nobody in it has a formal label at all.

    Nobody ever “gets primaried” in DeKalb. Does that mean DeKalb has nonpartisan elections?

    If you said, “Yes,” you are wrong, according to the State Board of Elections, which has confirmed that they have DeKalb categorized as partisan. It’s easy to see why many of us think that, though. We have a long tradition of “not primary-ing” anybody, and this has morphed over time into an assumption that DeKalb has nonpartisan elections (hence the regular appearance of nonpartisan petition sheets). The clerk’s office doesn’t even post the deadlines, signature requirements and election dates for municipal primaries in the same place as it lists them for other local elections, which adds to the confusion.

    By the way, Board of Elections also says the specific form doesn’t matter as long as the content requirements (e.g., numbers of signatures) are met.

    I have suggested to the county clerk’s office that they add primary information in the future, which would help us remember that we have the right to primaries if we want them.

    We should discuss the pros and cons sometime.

    ***Update 12/13: I did not make the meeting last night, but have been told that the RFP discussion has been tabled or postponed.***

    ***Update 12/12: Some of the comments about the RFP on Facebook are interesting.***

    A memo accompanying Item G8 of tomorrow’s DeKalb city council agenda starts like this.

    The Information Technology Department conducted a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for the replacement of physical and virtual servers for the Police and Fire departments. Responders were required to provide a solution that would provide the departments with the servers and storage to replace the present systems as well as provide that ability to expand both the processing power and expansion of the storage in the future. There were two respondents to the RFP, Sun Dog, Inc (Sun Dog) with a proposal of $119,182.37, and Syndeo Networks Inc. (Syndeo) at $88,341.20.

    The budgeted amount is $150,000, so they’re doing great, right? Not so fast.

    As part of the RFP, disaster recovery was requested of the proposal for emergency purposes. In case of a major disaster this would allow all systems to be replicated and operational at an alternate location. Syndeo’s proposal was for $179.643.00 and Sun Dog did not provide this option. Since the proposal from Syndeo was over the budgeted amount, they were asked for another solution that would allow staff to stay within the budgeted amount. They were able to provide a third alternative that was $151,029.25. Sun Dog was then contacted to provide pricing for solutions 2 and 3. Those two prices were an estimated $199,182.37 for solution 2 and $249,182.37 for solution 3.

    To be very clear: the budgeted amount of $150,000 (p. 188) was specifically for server consolidation and storage. That’s it. Somehow, other goodies got added along the way so they could spend the budgeted amount and more.

    Can’t wait to see if council calls out the bait and switch.

    Ald. Jacobson’s Budget Remarks

    Many thanks to DeKalb County Online for isolating DeKalb council member Dave Jacobson’s comments of November 28 on the proposed 2017 budget.

    The two men showing disrespectful body language are Mayor Rey (far right) and Fourth Ward Ald. Bob Snow (second from right).

    Remember this from October?

    This week, city staff asked the city council to waive the residency requirement for the IT director candidate that they like. It was presented as super-urgent, and council went along.

    The problem with this (besides their ongoing preference for carpetbaggers, I mean) is that it goes against a policy set by council that identified the IT director as an emergency response position. That is, this person has been categorized by council as needing to be close to hand in case of emergency.

    Council should have insisted that the policy be followed, at least until the matter could be revisited for deliberation at a public meeting. Instead, the city manager’s convenience was prioritized over a public safety consideration.

    Were you perhaps puzzled about how the top IT candidate got so far in the interview process when residency was an issue for him? I’ve got yer answer lying in my email inbox. Out of five ads placed for the IT director, there are zero mentions of the residency requirement.