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Thursday, December 1, 2016


Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

Walsh College has named Marsha Kelliher, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, as its next president and CEO.

Kelliher, 56, will join the university in April, succeeding outgoing president Stephanie Bergeron, who has led the Troy college since 2007 and announced her retirement last spring.

Since joining Susquehanna University in 2013, Kelliher spearheaded the development of four new majors, led the redesign of the school's London study-abroad program, initiated a women's leadership symposium in New York and led the reaffirmation of the business school's AACSB accreditation.

Prior to that, she held leadership roles over 19 years at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, including serving as dean of the school of management and business and overseeing graduate and undergraduate business programs.

Under her leadership, six new majors and six new graduate programs were launched and international programs were expanded, leading to global partnerships and several new minor and degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Kelliher holds a master's of law degree in labor and employment law from the University of San Diego, a juris doctor from South Texas College of Law and a bachelor's degree in personnel management with a concentration in labor relations in 1982 from Indiana University in Bloomington.

She is licensed and has practiced law in Texas and California and was admitted into the National Academy of Arbitrators in 2013.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Original Story: dbusiness.com

Grand Valley State University broke ground Tuesday on Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall in Grand Rapids, a five-story, 84,000-square-foot building, and an accompanying parking area. The new, $46.5 million health campus development will support the school’s College of Health Professions and Kirkhof College of Nursing.

Named after area business leader Raleigh J. Finkelstein, who was the first and lead donor for the project, the new building, located at 500 Lafayette Ave., will include four classrooms, 15 teaching laboratories, a computer lab, and 90 faculty and staff offices and parking spaces. The project also includes student study spaces, student organization space, and work/break rooms.  The College of Health Professions offers more than 15 health degree programs.

With more than 5,000 students enrolled in Grand Valley's health-related courses, officials with the school say its Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, which oped in 2003 on Grand Rapids' Medical Mile, has been over-capacity for the last four years.

Provost Gayle R. Davis says the expansion will allow for additional programming and will accommodate more students to meet the demand for Grand Valley graduates in the university’s 19 health professions and nursing programs.

“We will be able to add new health sciences programs as they become needed by our regional and statewide health care providers,” she says. “Expanding our classroom and laboratory facilities will create more opportunities for students to attain the foundation they need prior to their clinical experiences.” Ferris State University in Michigan offers many healthcare degree programs.

Construction on the project is expected to be completed in May 2018.

Donor support, university-issued bonds, and campus development funds are funding the expansion’s budget — $37.5 million for the building and $9 million for the parking project.

Grand Rapids-based Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, and Huber is the project architect, and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction Co. is the construction manager.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Original Story: wvgazettemail.com

Lawyers for the company that manufactured the chemical that contaminated the drinking water supply for thousands in the Kanawha Valley in January 2014 announced Wednesday that the company had reached a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit over the Elk River spill.

Claims in the lawsuit against West Virginia American Water were not settled as of Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver Jr. pushed the trial back another day to give the sides more time to try to reach an agreement.

Details of the proposed settlement with Eastman Chemical Co., which manufactured the Crude MCHM that spilled into the Elk River from tanks belonging to Freedom Industries, will be filed under seal until after trial. Chemical storage tanks are used for chemicals in virtually every industry, especially those that involve caustic or corrosive chemicals.

Trial had been set to begin with jury selection Tuesday but, on Wednesday, Copenhaver told lawyers to spend Thursday trying to reach an agreement.

More than 224,000 residents and more than 7,300 business owners are part of the class of plaintiffs suing the water company and Eastman.

Before the proposed agreement in the class-action lawsuit is finalized, members of the class must be notified and given the chance to respond to its terms. It’s up to Copenhaver whether to approve of the proposed agreement.

Lawsuits in state and federal courts allege that Eastman didn’t properly warn Freedom about safety concerns related to the type of storage tanks Freedom used. Eastman also is accused of knowing that the Freedom site was unsafe and doing nothing about it. A Charleston class action lawyer is following this story closely.

The settlement announced Wednesday, if approved, would satisfy all state and federal lawsuits against Eastman. Copenhaver has insisted to all sides that a settlement would have to resolve not only the case pending for trial — known as Crystal Good v. American Water — but also a number of state court cases pending before the West Virginia Supreme Court’s mass litigation panel and several other pending federal court cases over the spill.

“We’re very pleased with the settlement,” said Anthony Majestro, the lead plaintiffs attorney for the cases in front of the state’s mass litigation panel. “We think it’s in the best interest of the people who were affected by this spill.”

Earlier this month, Copenhaver ruled against Eastman and denied a motion in which the company attempted to use a legal doctrine known as the “economic loss rule” to prohibit the “wage earners” in the class-action case from recovering damages from the chemical company. Meanwhile, a similar motion by the water company was granted.

After the settlement was announced, an attorney for the water company told the judge he might need to request that the trial be continued.

“I’m happy to receive your motion, but don’t be optimistic,” Copenhaver said. “This case is ready to proceed.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Families who sued Wayne County and several suburban cities last year over what they called illegal tax foreclosures are now being evicted after losing several court cases.

Among them is a Lincoln Park woman who says she lost nearly all her belongings Friday, when she was evicted her from her home while she was at work. Her attorney, Tarek Baydoun, said she should have been notified that a court hearing was held to issue an eviction order and that once it was posted, she should have had 24 hours’ notice to leave. A Traverse City real estate lawyer is following this story closely.

“The feeling is like you are totally broken,” said Brandy Gutierrez, 32, who added she found her locks changed and a mound of her possessions on the curb.

She is among the 18 families who sued the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office in December in U.S. District Court to stop their evictions. They allege they didn’t receive foreclosure notices and in some cases were told by county officials they had more time to save their properties. The county sold the homes to suburban communities, including Lincoln Park and Garden City, which resold them to developers to fix.

Treasurer Eric Sabree maintained his office followed the law and that many homeowners were foreclosed when they missed payments.

The evictions were on hold while courts considered the cases. U.S. District Judge Judith E. Levy dismissed the case in September in part because she said she didn’t have jurisdiction. Separately, several Wayne County judges upheld the evictions. An Austin real estate lawyer represents clients in multi-family housing, retail, commercial, and industrial property legal matters.

At least four of the 18 have been evicted, said Baydoun, who represents the families and is appealing Levy’s ruling.

Gutierrez said she went to her part-time job at a roofing company Friday about 6 a.m. When she returned about 8 p.m., she said the house had new locks, piles of her belongings were at the curb and an eviction notice was on the door. She said she did not see any notice when she left for work.

She said she’s missing most of her belongings including dozens of power tools, jewelry and about $800 in cash.

“I don’t even have a bed sheet to give my kids,” said Gutierrez, who sent her two children to live with their grandmother months ago while the home was in limbo.

An attorney for Warren-based JSR Funding, which bought the homes from Lincoln Park, said the eviction was the “result of years of non-payment of taxes.”

“We are very confused by her claim that she was surprised by the eviction because surely her attorney should have advised her as to the legal significance of losing an appeal to set aside a court ordered eviction,” Tony Taweel wrote in an email. A Philadelphia real estate lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Officials with the 25th District Court in Lincoln Park didn’t return calls for comment. Evictions are initiated by property owners but are enforced by court officers.

Gutierrez said she fell behind on taxes because her estranged husband never told her he wasn’t paying until the unpaid bill accumulated to nearly $12,000. She borrowed money to pay about $8,000 in December 2014 and got on a repayment plan.

County officials said they foreclosed when she fell behind on those payments.

Gutierrez contends she didn’t get foreclosure notices. County staffers told her she was caught up enough to avoid foreclosure, she said, and had until December to pay. She went to the city with a $4,000 cashier’s check, but it was too late. The home was mortgage free.

Gutierrez said she is now living out of her car, sleeping at work or her sister’s couch.

Another Lincoln Park homeowner, 38-year-old Tim Padden, said he got an eviction notice Friday but was given until Monday to move out by a court officer. Padden also said he thought he had more time to pay, didn’t get foreclosure notices and was given bad information by county staffers that he had more time.

“We’ve been in that house for 14 years,” said Padden. “The city (of Lincoln Park) should have notified us. That would have been the right thing to do.”

The family of four, with two teenage sons, is now living apart at the homes of friends and family.

Allegations of botched foreclosure notices aren’t new to the county.

State law requires officials to reach out to anyone with possible interest in the properties when it is headed to foreclosure — through First-Class and certified letters, newspaper notices and personal property visits, including posted notices if no one is home.

The Detroit News obtained records of certified mailings through the Freedom of Information Act and sampled 1,000 of the 333,000 sent by one contractor in late 2014. More than half were still listed in the U.S. post office's tracking system as “in transit,” The News found.

County officials acknowledged they haven’t always received proof from the post office that a person signed for the letter or that delivery was attempted, but said there was no evidence the post office didn’t try to deliver the letters.

Family of both Padden and Gutierrez have set up online fundraising sites to help pay for their relocation.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Original Story: upnorthlive.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) -- As the weather in northern Michigan is heating up for summer, so is the real estate market.

Homes are selling quickly after being put on the market. A Traverse City real estate lawyer is following this story closely.

"We do have low inventory right now which is great for sellers but can be frustrating for buyers," said Century 21 Northland realtor Meagan Luce.

It's a seller's market for real estate in Traverse City.

"The homes are selling within 97 percent of the list price, there is no 5 to 10 percent discount, you're wasting your time and it just shows that you're uniformed," said Versatile Mortgage owner Randy Brown.

More people than ever are trying to buy homes in Traverse City, but there is not enough inventory to keep up.

"I had just listed a home yesterday and we've already received an offer on it and are expecting a second offer this evening," said Luce.

For many buying, it's not their first home. A Traverse City real estate contracts lawyer represents clients in real estate transactions.

"I would say almost 70 percent of my business is second home buyers," said Luce. "All the time I'll go on listing appointments and I'll have my seller say to me, 'my buyer's coming from Chicago, my buyer's coming from New York, my buyer's coming from Texas' and a lot of our higher end second home buyers are cash buyers and they're actually coming from our region."

But the lack of inventory is hitting one group of buyers particularly hard.

"It's very difficult to find something under 200 thousand and so they're getting kind of priced out of the market because as the real estate prices keep going up, if wages don't track that then we do have a little bit of a bubble there," said Brown.

And says out of town buyers are contributing to this rising market.

"Prices are up and lot of that is influenced by people that are coming to Traverse City from other markets where they understand that Traverse City is still cheap compared to where they're coming from," said Brown.

Realtors say right now the average home in Grand Traverse County is on the market for just over 100 days, but if it's priced right it will go even quicker than that.

They also say this spring they will likely see bidding wars on homes and buyers will actually pay above the listing price.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Original Story: npr.org

Almost two decades ago, Dr. Lars Aanning sat on the witness stand in a medical malpractice trial and faced a dilemma.

The South Dakota surgeon had been called to vouch for the expertise of one of his partners whose patient had suffered a stroke and permanent disability after an operation. The problem was that Aanning had, in his own mind, questioned his colleague's skill. His partner's patients had suffered injuries related to his procedures. But Aanning understood why his partner's attorney had called him as a witness: Doctors don't squeal on doctors. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer is following this story closely.

The attorney asked the key question: Did Aanning know of any time his partner's work had been substandard?

"No, never," Aanning said.

Now, Aanning, in a stunning admission for a medical professional, has a blunter answer: "I lied."

While it's impossible to know to what extent Aanning's testimony influenced the outcome, the jury sided in favor of his colleague — and, ever since, Aanning said, he has felt haunted by his decision.

Now, 77 and retired, he decided to write about his choice and why he made it in a recent column for his local newspaper, The Yankton County Observer. He also posted the article in the ProPublica Patient Safety Facebook group. Aanning, who is a member, called it "A Surgeon's Belated Confession." A Hackensack medical malpractice attorney represents clients injured due to the negligence of a medical professional.

"From that very moment I knew I had lied — lied under oath — and violated all my pledges of professionalism that came with the Doctor of Medicine degree and membership in the [American Medical Association]," Aanning wrote.

Aanning, who has become an outspoken patient advocate, now assists the medical malpractice attorney who represented the patient in the case in which he lied for his partner.

There's no way to tell how often doctors lie to protect their colleagues, but ProPublica has found that patients frequently aren't told the truth when they are harmed. Studies also show that many physicians do not have a favorable view of informing patients about mistakes and that health care workers are afraid to speak up if things don't seem right. Many doctors and nurses have told ProPublica that they fear retaliation if they speak out about patient safety problems.

ProPublica spoke to Aanning about his unusual column and why he decided to confess all these years later. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. A Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Why did you tell the lie?

I did it as a matter of course. And I did it because there was a cultural attitude I was immersed in: You viewed all attorneys as a threat, and anything that you did was OK to thwart their efforts to sue your colleagues. I just accepted that as normal. It wasn't like, "I'm going to lie." It was, "I'm going to support my colleague."

Did you feel pressure from your peers to never criticize a colleague?

Pressure is the prevailing attitude of the medical profession. The professional societies like the AMA and the American College of Surgeons say you should be a patient advocate at all times. But that goes out the window because here you are, banding together with your peers. Because if you don't, you'll be like a man without a country.

Why are you telling the truth now?

I'm retired now. The big benefit is they can't hurt me, but I can't go to the clinic for any help. All my doctors are out of town. I came to America from Norway in '47 and grew up in New York. I've always been a rabble-rouser. This testifying falsely at this trial was not like me, so it stands out. It's not how I do stuff.

I also told the truth about my lie because I have been helping some of these plaintiffs' lawyers with their cases. It seems that the courtroom is not the arena for adjudication of medical right or wrong. I shared my story to give an explicit example of why you can't always rely on physician testimony in court. I think that's the big reason. There's got to be a different way to help people who have been medically harmed. Looking to the legal system is like mixing oil and water.

Do you feel like it's your fault the patient lost the case?

I haven't touched on that question. It would make it painful for me. I would be moved to tears if that whole case revolved around just my testimony. I was on the stand so briefly. But cumulatively between what I said and the other testimony — it was never a level playing field for the plaintiff. People don't recognize it. How the judges don't recognize it and the system doesn't recognize it is beyond me. It's something I'm coming to grips with.

Have you thought about talking to the patient's family?

The attorney said something about meeting the patient's widow in his office, or something like that. I worry about whether my testimony weighed on the final verdict or not. It's something that you just have to face up to. It's too late to deflect it.

Do you feel any better or worse now that you've gone public with your moral failure?

I'm not altruistic. I'm not a crusader. I got into writing this column accidentally, so I just kind of find myself in this position. I get a great satisfaction out of defining what I see and writing about it. I hope nobody's going to come back at me and accuse me of bad conduct. Although that's what it was. I felt bad about it.


Original Story: cnn.com

The U.S. Labor Department is reviewing both open and closed whistleblower complaints against Wells Fargo amid allegations that the bank retaliated against employees who called the ethics line.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received "a number of" whistleblower complaints from Wells Fargo (WFC) employees over the past five years, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a letter to Elizabeth Warren on Monday.

The majority of these cases have been concluded, through "settlement or other actions," Perez said. "At least a handful of complaints" are still being investigated, he said.

The whistleblower issue has resurfaced since Wells Fargo admitted to firing 5,300 workers over the past few years and creating as many as 2 million fake bank and credit card accounts. An Atlanta whistleblower lawyer is following this story closely.

Nearly a half-dozen former Wells Fargo employees told CNNMoney exclusively they were fired after trying to put a stop to these practices by calling the ethics line.

"They ruined my life," said Bill Bado, a former Well Fargo banker in Pennsylvania. After refusing to open phony bank accounts, Bado called a Wells Fargo ethics line and sent an email to human resources in September 2013 to flag improper sales tactics. Eight days later, he was terminated for "tardiness."

The whistleblower review is part of a "top-to-bottom review of cases, complaints, or violations" ordered by Perez related to Wells Fargo. That includes allegations that Warren raised in a letter last week that Wells Fargo may have violated federal law by failing to pay workers overtime.

Perez cited the "serious nature of the allegations, the recent action of our Federal partners, and recent media reports."

On the whistleblower front, Perez said he has directed OSHA to review "the entire docket" of open and closed complaints against Wells Fargo since 2010 "to examine the handling and disposition of those cases."

Yet Perez cautioned that "it may not be possible to provide recourse" on Wells Fargo whistleblower cases that took place too long ago under current law. A whistleblower lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

"We want to determine what the facts are, what we can do about them, and how we can learn about this situation," Perez said.

Wells Fargo told CNNMoney it has a non-retaliation policy and that the company makes efforts to protect employees from retaliation. "No team member may be retaliated against for providing information about suspected unethical or illegal activities," a spokesperson said.

"If a team member believes that they or someone else has been retailed against, we want them to report it as soon as possible" to their manager, human resources or corporate employee relations.

The Labor Department is also offering another avenue for Wells Fargo workers. It launched a dedicated landing page for current and former Wells Fargo employees at www.dol.gov/wellsfargo and is monitoring its toll-free hotline (1-866-4USADOL) and email address (TalktoDOL@dol.gov).

In response to allegations of failing to pay overtime, Wells Fargo said, "We pride ourselves on creating a positive environment for our team members, including market competitive compensation" and other benefits.

Former Wells Fargo employees have fought back against the company this week by launching a federal class action lawsuit seeking $7.2 billion.

The fake account scandal and onslaught of legal headaches is weighing on Wells Fargo's stock price, which closed at the lowest level in two-and-a-half years on Monday.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

LAS VEGAS — Officials from 21 states, including Michigan, sued the U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday over a new rule that would make about 4 million higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay, slamming the measure as inappropriate federal overreach by the Obama administration.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, urging it to block implementation before the regulation takes effect on Dec. 1. Laxalt, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama's policies, said the rule would burden private and public sectors by straining budgets and forcing layoffs or cuts in working hours. A Little Rock overtime lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

"This rule, pushed by distant bureaucrats in D.C., tramples on state and local government budgets, forcing states to shift money from other important programs to balance their budgets, including programs intended to protect the very families that purportedly benefit from such federal overreach," he said in a statement.

The lawsuit came the same day that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 other business groups filed a legal challenge against the regulation.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said he was confident in the legality of the rule, describing the lawsuits as partisan, obstructionist tactics. He noted that overtime protections have receded over the years: they applied to 62 percent of full-time salaried workers in 1975 and just 7 percent today. An overtime lawyer has experience representing clients in wage dispute claims.

"The overtime rule is designed to restore the intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States," Perez said in a statement. "I look forward to vigorously defending our efforts to give more hardworking people a meaningful chance to get by."

The measure would shrink the so-called "white collar exemption" that exempts workers who perform "executive, administrative or professional" duties from overtime and minimum wage requirements.

It would more than double the salary threshold under which employers must pay overtime to their white collar workers. Overtime protections would apply to workers who make up to $913 a week, or $47,476 a year, and the threshold would readjust every three years to reflect changes in average wages.

"This long-awaited update will result in a meaningful boost to many workers' wallets, and will go a long way toward realizing President Obama's commitment to ensuring every worker is compensated fairly for their hard work," the Labor Department said in May when it announced the new rule.

Business groups say the changes are too much and too fast, especially as states continue to recover from the recession. A Maine employment lawyer is following this story closely.

“This lawsuit is a slap in the face to working people in Michigan,” said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.

“This new rule is long overdue. Overtime protections have been gutted over the past four decades without a significant adjustment for inflation. The new rule will help protect wages from being eroded by rising costs, and ensure that working people get paid for the work they do.

Other plaintiffs include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, and the governors of Iowa, Maine and New Mexico.

The Eastern Texas district where the lawsuit was filed is known as a "rocket docket" court where cases move along quickly.


Original Story: latimes.com

After leaving the Church of Scientology and its secretive international base in the desert, Ronald Miscavige Sr. settled into small-town life in Wisconsin, his 40-year ties to the religion cut once and for all.

Or so he thought, as he spent his time hawking exercise equipment online and playing trumpet with Dixieland bands in the Milwaukee area. His suburban tranquility was shattered in July 2013, when police told him that two private eyes had been watching his every move for months — and that the church, led by his son David Miscavige, was behind it.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever hit your thumb with a hammer, but when it happens you go numb: It takes a little while for the pain to set in,” the elder Miscavige said in an interview. “I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding.’ ”

Miscavige, 80, has chronicled his life before, during and after Scientology in a book, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me.” It paints an unflattering portrait of his son and the church, and it echoes the views of other disaffected ex-members.

“David runs Scientology with an iron fist and, to my mind, it has become a cult, pure and simple,” he writes.

Miscavige’s book includes no blockbuster revelations, but it has evoked an unusually vehement response from the church, which has mounted an aggressively negative publicity campaign, including a website dedicated to discrediting him.

Dozens of testimonials and blog posts by Scientologists praise David Miscavige and lambaste his father for everything from his musicianship to his morals. He is cast as a liar and an opportunist, on the website and in a church lawyer’s letter to The Times.

“That is a father who is a despicable human being, simply trying to make a buck off of the good name, fame and kindness of his son,” attorney Monique Yingling wrote.

Peter Schless, a longtime Scientologist and composer who worked with Ron Miscavige, used some of the same language in a 12-minute video that castigated him as “vile and disgusting.”

“I know him inside out and that’s all he’s doing is he’s figured out a way to make a buck off of selling out his own family,” Schless said in the video.

Miscavige said he expected the intensely personal criticism posted on the website.

“Clearly, all it is is a character assassination of me,” he said.

Other ex-members say the website is yet another example of the church’s longstanding efforts to dissuade current and former Scientologists from publicly discussing their experiences.

Ron Miscavige has been singled out for particularly harsh treatment because of his relationship to David, said Mike Rinder, once a top church official and now one of its staunchest critics. He said the elder Miscavige also has been targeted by an email campaign and negative online ads.

“This is stuff that is even beyond the normal smear tactics,” Rinder said.

Even if I can’t help myself, maybe I can help hundreds of others forced to disconnect.
— Ronald Miscavige Sr.

Founded in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology has its own “study technology,” vocabulary and long-held secret story of Xenu, a soul-stealing galactic overlord. The church teaches that spiritual freedom — the state of “clear” — can be reached through one-on-one auditing, a form of counseling aided by a polygraph-like device called an e-meter and expensive training courses.

David Miscavige, 56, became the head of Scientology after Hubbard’s death in 1986. As chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, he is the church’s ultimate authority and its ecclesiastical leader. He also is its most controversial living figure.

Ex-members, including Rinder and other top officials who told their stories to the St. Petersburg Times in 2009, have accused him of physical assaults and bizarre behavior — all of which he and the church deny.

His father’s book details the family’s history, some of it fondly remembered, some of it anything but heartwarming. Among other things, he writes about his sometimes abusive relationship with his late first wife, Loretta, the mother of his children.

“It pains me to admit it now, and I regret ever doing it, but there were times when I punched Loretta,” he writes. “I never slapped or hit her in the face but, still, sometimes I did strike her. ... She threw things at me — pots, pans, a pot of boiling water once.”

Miscavige said he regrets that his children witnessed the domestic violence and thinks it might have affected David’s personality.

“When I compare the happy, fun-loving boy I raised to the man he has become, the images of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde spring immediately to mind,” he writes.

David and his three siblings were introduced to Scientology by their father, a musician and cookware salesman. At age 16 he left their home near Philadelphia to join the Sea Organization, Hubbard’s religious order.

Years later, in 1985, Ron Miscavige was accused of an attempted rape. He denied the allegation and, after his son sent lawyers to defend him, the charges eventually were dismissed, according to the memoir and the church website.

Soon after, the elder Miscavige also joined the Sea Organization and he and his wife divorced. He spent 27 years at the sprawling “Gold Base” near Hemet, where Golden Era Productions makes videos, audio recordings and e-meters. Miscavige played trumpet in the Golden Era band.

He and other ex-Scientologists describe long hours and low pay for “Sea Org” members there and demeaning punishments, including stints in “the Hole,” for those who upset David.

“It’s a dark world,” Miscavige said. “It’s a grim existence, buddy.”

In March 2012, Miscavige and his second wife, Becky, drove off the base while pretending to run errands, and eventually wound up in Wisconsin.

Life there was unremarkable until July 2013, when West Allis police arrested private investigator Dwayne Powell on obstruction and prowling charges and found firearms and a homemade silencer in his rented SUV.

For more than a year, Powell told detectives, he and his son had followed Miscavige, eavesdropped on him and spied on his emails. They were paid $10,000 a week through an intermediary, he told police, explaining that David Miscavige was the “main client.”

On one outing, Powell told police, he saw Ron Miscavige clutch his chest while loading his car and thought he was having a heart attack. He called his go-between for instructions, and minutes later a man who identified himself as David Miscavige called back and told him that “if it was Ron’s time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way,” a police report states.

Scientology attorneys dispute that account and last year said that David Miscavige had never spoken with Powell and had no connection to the surveillance of his father. They noted that they sometimes retained private investigators in “matters related to litigation” and have since acknowledged hiring Powell.

Church attorney Yingling said in her letter to The Times that he was hired to follow the elder Miscavige but that it was for his own well-being and “out of concern that people with hostile intentions toward Scientology” would harass him.

“It would be naive to think that the father of the leader of a worldwide religion would not be at risk of harm from people inimical to Scientology,” she wrote.

Yingling also forwarded a signed declaration from Powell, recanting his statements to police about the phone call from David Miscavige.

“Certain statements I allegedly made to the West Allis Police Department have been misinterpreted,” it read in part.

Police in that Milwaukee suburb stand by their account: “There is no confusion in the statements that were made by Dwayne and Daniel Powell,” Chief Patrick Mitchell said in an email.

Now, in the latest twist in the saga of church-sanctioned surveillance, Powell says he was paid thousands of dollars to sign the declaration after church attorneys summoned him to a meeting last year in Atlanta.

“The whole meeting took less than 10 minutes,” he said. “They said, ‘This is what this is, and this is what it’s for. Goodbye and good luck.’ ”

He furnished no documentation, and Scientology attorneys deny that any such payment was made.

But other records obtained by The Times show that Scientology lawyers, who had publicly sought to distance the church from Powell, kept him on the payroll two years after his arrest — and long after he stopped conducting investigations.

In the spring of 2015, just weeks before Powell signed the declaration, a Scientology attorney paid him at least $16,000 for “security” services in five payments, according to check stubs obtained by The Times. The checks were written on the trust account of Kendrick Moxon, a prominent Scientology attorney in Los Angeles, the records show.

Reached by phone, Powell confirmed the payments but would not comment on them.

But he did say that he had not worked for the church after giving up his Florida private investigator’s license in 2014, when he was indicted on a federal charge of possessing an illegal silencer. It was dismissed when he entered a pretrial diversion program.

Moxon told The Times in a written response that Powell performed “security and research services” for his firm last year.

“The relationship between this firm and any investigators I retain is privileged and confidential,” he wrote. “However, I can categorically state for the record that no payments were made to Mr. Powell for the testimony in his truthful declaration.”

Ron Miscavige spent much of his summer promoting his book. He said he wrote it because his son and the church,  through a form of shunning called “disconnection,” had turned his family against him.

“Someone has to stand their ground and take a position,” he said. “Even if I can’t help myself, maybe I can help hundreds of others forced to disconnect.”

In response, the church has posted a joint statement by his two adult daughters accusing him of “a pattern of physical and emotional abuse” against them and their late mother.

“We know what is right and moral, and what is evil,” they wrote. “Evil is Ronald T. Miscavige. We reject him.”

Miscavige said he was surprised and hurt by their statement. On his 70th birthday, he said, they and David bought him a car; on his 75th they showered him with 75 gifts. Everything was fine, he said, until he spoke out against the church.

“Now all of a sudden I’ve changed into this beast?” he said.

Miscavige said he hopes his story will help “reform” Scientology. He also hopes to someday reconcile with his son.

“I will always hold that hope in my heart,” he said. “Would I put much money on it? No.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Sodus— Immigration politics are colliding with a growing shortage of farm workers in west Michigan, where farmers have turned to a federal visa program to bring workers from Mexico to harvest the state’s fruit and vegetable crops.

Michigan’s participation in the federal government’s farm labor visa program has grown nearly 14-fold in the past five years. Farmers say they desperately need the foreign workers to get their crops picked on time after years when vegetables were left to rot in fields.

“There’s a real shortage of agriculture harvesting labor in west Michigan,” said Fred Leitz, a fourth-generation tomato, cucumber and apple grower from Sodus in Berrien County. “You can’t go anywhere without farmers talking about how bad the situation is to get crops harvested.”

Farmers in west Michigan say the shortage of labor has resulted from fewer migrant workers coming north, a more secure southern border that has slowed the flow of Mexican immigrants and a Congress at odds over immigration reform. An immigration attorney at Hubbell Law is following this story closely.

“If the border’s tightened, we’ve got a lot less of the undocumented (workers) coming up here to work on the farms,” said Leitz, who has about 150 foreign workers with visas on his farm this year.

Both presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, have signaled their willingness to expand the foreign worker visa program to help the agricultural industry. This comes even as Trump has promised to deport an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants if he is elected.

“We’re going to have a very strong border, but our businesses will not suffer,” Trump told The Detroit News during his Sept. 3 visit to Detroit. “We need workers, and we will have all of the workers we need.”

Lorella Praeli, national Latino vote director for the Clinton campaign, said in a statement: “Guest worker and farm labor policies will be addressed as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.”

But some Michigan farmers who depend on workers from Mexico and other countries say neither Clinton nor Trump has laid out a detailed plan for overhauling a visa program that they consider an expensive bureaucratic maze involving at least four government agencies. For information regarding H2A Visas in Traverse City or Leelanau, contact attorney Dan Hubbell.

“We need a workable guest worker program,” said Mike DeGrandchamp, co-owner of a family blueberry and cranberry farm near South Haven. “The H-2A program is cumbersome, expensive, unreliable.

The Michigan Farm Bureau’s political action committee has supported every Republican presidential candidate going back to at least George H.W. Bush in 1988, but hasn’t yet endorsed this year.

Byron Center farmer Dave Miedema, whose family grows sweet corn, cabbage and squash on 1,500 acres in Kent County, said he supports Trump. But the third-generation vegetable farmer said the GOP nominee is trying to balance the needs of the agricultural industry with the conservative wing of his party that is clamoring for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

“I really feel that Trump does understand the problem, but he has to tread softly now because he doesn’t want to be thrown into the amnesty camp,” Miedema said.

Visa program grows

A generation of migrant workers who traveled from Southern and Western states from the 1970s through the early 2000s have become too old to do manual farm work, and their American-born children have pursued careers outside agriculture, farmers said.

“We’re proud to say over the years we’ve had kids who worked here who are now doctors, lawyers, teachers and all kinds of things,” said Leitz, president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers.

The number of foreign workers cleared to travel to Michigan this year to work in fields, orchards and packing houses topped 3,800 — according to the Michigan Farm Bureau. In 2011, 276 workers entered the country legally to work on Michigan farms, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report.

“We’ve got jobs for workers that not a lot of people want to do and who’s doing it is mainly the Hispanic work force,” DeGrandchamp said.

Farmers also are seeing record harvests for certain crops this summer, adding pressures to pick, sort, pack and ship their products quickly.

“With a big crop like this, you need double the workers you’re going to have,” DeGrandchamp said. “There just isn’t that pool of workers willing to do this job.”

Trump and Clinton have vaguely similar policy stands on the foreign worker visa program, but otherwise have starkly different approaches to immigration.

The New York businessman has made sweeping promises to deport immigrants who entered the country illegally and committed crimes. He has said he would deport all 11 million illegal immigrants, but vowed any mass removal would be done “in a very humane fashion.” A Traverse City business lawyer is reviewing the details of this story.

Some of the 11 million illegal immigrants could get work visas if they returned to their home country and then re-entered the U.S. through legal channels, Trump told The Detroit News.

“Businesses will be helped by this, not hurt,” said Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has reportedly hired foreign workers for years.

By contrast, Clinton supports providing a legal pathway to citizenship for individuals who entered the country illegally and now may have homes, children and established lives.

“Hillary will introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office that treats every person with dignity, fixes the family visa backlog, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security and brings millions of hardworking people into the formal economy,” Praeli said in a statement.

Consistent policy sought

Michigan’s labor shortage was most noticeable in 2013 when some migrant workers didn’t return to Michigan after an unusual 2012 early spring warming was followed by frosts that wiped out the tree fruit industry.

Recognizing the growing problem, the Michigan Farm Bureau started a company in 2014 to serve as the recruiting agent for foreign workers called Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services LLC.

“We were seeing crops rotting in the field,” said Bob Boehm, a manager for Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services. “They’d have to mow down a crop of asparagus because it was growing too fast.”

The program brought 407 workers to 10 farms last summer and 730 workers to 22 farms this year, Boehm said. Farmers pay their foreign workers a $12.02 minimum hourly wage, though some make more money if they’re more productive, he said.

On northern Kent County’s “fruit ridge,” where the moisture-holding soil and climate are ideal for growing tree fruit, fifth-generation farmer Mark Youngquist bulldozed rows of apples in 2013 “to get it down to what we could manage with less quality help and less quantity of help.”

In 2014, Youngquist Orchards near Kent City became one of the first farms in the state to get foreign workers through Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services. Youngquist’s farm has 28 workers this fall from Mexico helping pick its apples through the visa program, which requires American farmers to pay the workers’ bus fare, food and lodging expenses.

“It’s a definite skill to pick an apple,” he said. “It’s not just grabbing an apple and throwing it in a bag.”

Youngquist said the next president needs to tread carefully with immigration policy so it doesn’t disrupt the farm workforce.

“Whatever the policy, if it could just be consistent every time the White House changes hands, we’ll work with whatever — just tell us the rules and we’ll follow them,” he said.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Original Story: nytimes.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Verizon, seeking to build an array of digital businesses that can compete for users and advertising with Google and Facebook, announced on Monday that it was buying Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash.

The deal, which was reached over the weekend, unites two titans of the early internet, AOL and Yahoo, under the umbrella of one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies. Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion last year. Now it will add Yahoo’s consumer services — search, news, finance, sports, video, email and the Tumblr social network — to a portfolio that includes AOL as well as popular sites like The Huffington Post.

The fate of Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, who came under sharp shareholder criticism for failing to arrest the company’s long downward spiral during her four-year tenure, is unclear.

In an interview, Ms. Mayer said, “I plan to stay. I love Yahoo and I want to see it into its next chapter.” But she and Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, said it had not yet been decided if she would have a role at the company after the deal closed in early 2017.

If she is terminated, she will be due severance of about $57 million. If she received that payout, her total compensation from Yahoo for her service so far would be about $218 million, according to the compensation research firm Equilar.

Verizon, which has a vast amount of information about its customers’ internet use, hopes the combination will help it create a strong No. 3 challenger to Google and Facebook for digital advertising revenue.

Mr. Armstrong said the acquisition strengthens Verizon’s offerings to advertisers and consumers and gives it much more scale, since Yahoo claims one billion users who visit at least once a month.

“This deal is a leap forward from serving millions of customers to billions,” Mr. Armstrong said in an interview. “Yahoo is one of the most powerful brands on the planet.”

Verizon plans to keep most of Yahoo’s current products, including its still popular email service, and invest in them to make them stronger. “Our strategy is to structure ourselves as a house of brands,” Mr. Armstrong said. However, he said that Verizon has not yet decided what it wants to do in search, an area where Yahoo has waged a losing fight against Google for a decade.

The Yahoo purchase carries risks for Verizon, which is well known for its wireless phone and internet services but has little experience in the cutthroat business of digital content. Analysts say that its purchase of AOL has yet to prove its value, although Mr. Armstrong is a well regarded operator.

Yahoo’s leadership team, led by Ms. Mayer, spent the last four years trying to create a viable stand-alone strategy for the company without much success. Its market share among web users and advertisers had fallen, and Yahoo recently acknowledged that its $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, a blogging network that was supposed to help Yahoo attract younger users, was worth about one-third what it paid.

Ms. Mayer said Verizon would help Yahoo get better distribution for its mobile apps in areas like search, mail, news, weather and sports. Verizon, she said, could promote Yahoo services on its smartphones and in its retail stores. A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer is following this story closely.

Although many on Wall Street have strongly criticized her, Ms. Mayer defended her tenure in an email to employees.

“We set out to transform this company — and we’ve made incredible progress. We counteracted many of the tectonic shifts of declining legacy businesses, and built a Yahoo that is unequivocally stronger, nimbler and more modern,” she wrote.

Verizon agreed to pay an extra $1.1 billion on top of the purchase price to cash out Yahoo employees’ restricted stock upon the close of the deal, Yahoo said. Many employees, particularly the senior executives, are also entitled to large severance packages if they are fired by Verizon.

The sale of Yahoo’s business ends the company’s 22-year run as an independent entity. Founded in a trailer in 1994 by two Stanford graduate students, it was the front door to the web for a generation of internet users but failed to keep up with Google in search technology and then missed the social media and mobile revolutions.

“It does mark the end of a particular time period for the company,” Ms. Mayer said. “That said, there are great opportunities for Yahoo, for the brand, for the services, with Verizon.”

After the close of the deal, Yahoo shareholders will still own shares in what is left of the company, essentially an investment fund with two holdings: a 15 percent stake, worth about $32 billion based on its recent share price, in the Chinese internet company Alibaba; and a 35.5 percent stake, worth about $8.7 billion, in Yahoo Japan.

The sale, which still must be approved by Yahoo shareholders and regulators, also does not include Yahoo’s cash and its noncore patents, which it is trying to sell separately. Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc. designs, engineers, and manufactures custom fiberglass chemical storage tanks.

Yahoo was under pressure from shareholders to find a way to unlock the value of its Asian investments, and the sale of its core operations to Verizon was the first step.

“For investors, this came to the expected conclusion: Verizon was the front-runner very early on,” said Robert Peck, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “The real question for investors now is what’s next? Will Yahoo have an efficient liquidation of the Asian securities?”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jury hits U. of C. hospital with $53 million malpractice verdict

Original Story: chicagotribune.com

A Cook County jury has awarded $53 million to a 12-year-old Hickory Hills boy and his mother in a 2013 lawsuit filed against the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was born with a serious brain injury. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer said this will help to pay for the boy's future healthcare.

The jury's award to Lisa and Isaiah Ewing includes $28.8 million for future caretaking expenses, according to a copy of the jury verdict form provided by their lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger of suburban Detroit and Jack Beam of Chicago. Isaiah has severe cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair, and needs his mother to feed and clothe him.

It was the biggest birth injury verdict ever in Cook County, said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Reporter in Chicago.

Their lawsuit outlined about 20 alleged missteps by doctors and nurses after Ewing arrived about 40 weeks pregnant at the hospital and was experiencing less movement by her baby. The mistakes, the lawsuit alleged, included the failures to carefully monitor mother and baby, perform a timely cesarean section, follow a chain of command, obtain accurate cord blood gases, and be aware of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns that indicated distress to the baby, including hypoxia, or a drop in the supply of oxygen.  "The University of Chicago has been, for the last 12 years, completely unapologetic, and even though the evidence was overwhelming that they caused Isaiah's brain damage, they refused to accept responsibility," Fieger said at the news conference Thursday. Ewing hadn't had any problems during her pregnancy, he added.

Before the case went to the jury, the hospital filed for a mistrial.

Fieger's "closing argument shattered the line between zealous advocacy and improper prejudicial comments, rendering it impossible for defendant to receive a fair trial," the hospital's lawyer said in a court filing. "He also prejudicially argued that the defendant's case was built on a falsehood and proceeded to equate defendant's conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany."

Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong said the hospital had "great sympathy" for the family but "strongly" disagrees with the jury's verdict.

"Judge Kirby declined to enter judgment on the verdict, as there are pending motions for mistrial based on assertions of Mr. Fieger's improper conduct," she said, noting that it wouldn't be the first overturned verdict involving Fieger.

She said Isaiah and his mother were treated for infection, which can cause cerebral palsy. "Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels," and the "injury occurred before the care Mr. Fieger criticized."

After the news conference, Fieger said he expected the judge to confirm the verdict. "The jury has spoken," he said. A Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer said this is usually how this procedure occurs.

The jury decided the case in four hours, Fieger said. A list of the damages also includes $7.2 million for future medical expenses. The document was signed by 12 jurors.

Fieger disputed that Isaiah had an infection.

"All of the medical records at the University of Chicago neonatal clinic showed that Isaiah had been suffocated at birth, that he had suffered hypoxia, lack of oxygen, yet the University of Chicago and its lawyers came to court and tried to tell the jury that their own records were false, that their own records were mistaken and that Isaiah really had a phantom infection that infected his brain that they could never have known about," Fieger said during the news conference.

Ewing said at the news conference that she has to bathe Isaiah and help him go to the bathroom. She lives in a two-story town home, so she must carry him up and down the stairs.

She said the verdict will help ensure that Isaiah is taken care of after she dies.