By Chuck Shepherd
2:31 PM EDT, August 29, 2011
Roy Griffith, 60, John Sanborn, 53, and Douglas Ward, 55, were arrested in Deerfield Township, Mich., in July and charged with stealing a 14-foot-long stuffed alligator from a barn, dragging it away with their truck, and using it to surf in the mud ("mudbogging"). When the gator's owner tracked down the three nearby, they denied the theft and insisted that theirs is an altogether-different 14-foot-long stuffed alligator. (Ward's blood-alcohol reading was 0.40.)
Government in Action!
• Of the 1,500 judges who referee disputes as to whether someone qualifies for Social Security disability benefits, David Daugherty of West Virginia is the current soft-touch champion, finding for the claimant about 99 percent of the time (compared to judges' overall rate of 60 percent). As The Wall Street Journal reported in May, Daugherty decided many of the cases without hearings or with the briefest of questioning, including batches of cases brought by the same lawyer. He criticized his less lenient colleagues, who "act like it's their own damn money we're giving away." (A week after the Journal report, Judge Daugherty was placed on leave, pending an investigation.)
• Gee, What Do We Do With All This Stimulus Money? The Omaha (Neb.) Public School system spent $130,000 of its stimulus grant recently just to buy 8,000 copies of the book "The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change" — that is, one copy for every single employee, from principals to building custodians. Alarmingly, wrote an Omaha World-Herald columnist, the book is "riddled with gobbledygook," "endless graphs," and such tedium as the "cultural proficiency continuum" and discussion of the "disequilibrium" arising "due to the struggle to disengage with past actions associated with unhealthy perspectives."
• Once hired, almost no federal employee ever leaves. Turnover is so slight that, among the typical causes for workers leaving, "death by natural causes" is more likely the reason than "fired for poor job performance." According to a July USA Today report, the federal rate of termination for poor performance is less than one-fifth the private sector's, and the annual retention rate for all federal employees was 99.4 percent (and for white-collar and upper-income workers, more than 99.8 percent). Government defenders said the numbers reflect excellence in initial recruitment.
• Bats' Rights: In January, Alison Murray purchased her first-ever home, in Aberdeen, Scotland, but was informed in August that she has to relocate, temporarily, because the house has become infested with bats, which cannot be disturbed, under Scottish and European law, once they settle in. Conservation officials advised her that she could probably move back in November, when the bats leave to hibernate.
• Catch-22: NYPD officer James Seiferheld, 47, still receives his $52,365 annual disability pay despite relentless efforts of the department to fire him. He had retired in 2004 on disability, but was ordered back to work when investigators found him doing physical work inconsistent with "disability." However, Seiferheld could not return to work because he repeatedly failed drug screening (for cocaine). Meanwhile, his appeal of the disability denial went to the state Court of Appeals, which found a procedural error and ordered that Seiferheld's "disability" benefits continue (even though the city has proven both that he is physically able and a substance-abuser).