New England Muckrakers

Notable investigative stories from newspapers, websites and TV and radio newsrooms in the six New England states plus “Citizen Muckraker” reports.

Recent Posts

Gov’t data sharpens focus on crude-oil train routes

FranAois Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images

The recent oil boom in North Dakota has brought the promise of economic prosperity.  However, there's a hitch: trains, not pipelines, are the crude oil's primary mode of transportation. And trains simply aren't as safe as pipelines. From the story: "Much of North Dakota's oil is being transported by rail, rather than through pipelines, which are the safest way to move crude. Tank carloads of crude are up 50 percent this year from last. Continue Reading →

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CT spending cap threatens to squeeze education, other priorities in next budget

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A spending cap from 1991 is effectively squeezing the budgets for education, transportation, and other services in Connecticut. Some spending priorities are exempt from the cap, including aid to poor communities, are exempt.  However, important areas such as education are not.  Debt payments on state bonding is also exempt, and critics say it's being abused by state government. From the story: "When the cap was first created, nearly 40 percent of the budget’s general fund was spent on children, Gibson said, adding this includes elementary, secondary and higher education; school readiness programs; and health care...Now that ratio is about 30 percent as funding to cover the state’s legal obligations consistently eats up most of the allowed budget growth under the cap system." Continue Reading →

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Review shows health licensing boards voted improperly

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Always make sure to enough members present before voting—four Massachusetts health licensing boards are learning that lesson now. This mistake has put into question votes related to disciplinary proceedings and investigations in the health sector. From the story: "Some of the improper votes were procedural, such as approving minutes. But many affected substantive issues, such as approving license applications, deciding whether to investigate complaints, and determining what disciplinary action to take." Read the full story at The Boston Globe. Continue Reading →

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Distance makes oversight hard in prisoner’s rights cases

Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito. VTD/Josh Larkin

Vermont's Defender General Matthew Valerio testified to state lawmakers the difficulties his office faces protecting the rights of prisoners housed outside the Vermont. Valero says prisoners sent to correction facilities in Arizona and Kentucky have a hard time contacting the Prisoner's Rights Office. From the story: "In general lawmakers are against the practice of sending prisoners out of state, except that it is the cheapest immediate solution to overcrowding. Lawmakers are meanwhile working on strategies to reduce the prison population, and legislation to help that process may be introduced this session." Read the full investigation at the VT Digger. Continue Reading →

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Campus Insecurity: Students easily transfer after violent offenses

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In the wake of a federal investigation into sexual assaults on college campuses, an investigation by The Columbus Dispatch reveals college students found guilty of violent offenses can transfer to another school with ease. In one case, a male student initially expelled from a private university for sexual assault was allowed to withdraw to make it easier for him to apply to other schools. From the story: "It is relatively easy for many expelled students to transfer because, at roughly half of all colleges, non-academic disciplinary action isn’t noted on transcripts. And disciplinary histories do not follow students who are allowed to withdraw either before or after being found responsible, as was the case with students who got in trouble at Bowling Green and Virginia Wesleyan University." Read the full investigation at The Columbus Dispatch. Continue Reading →

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Documents suggest WHA work program violated federal regs

WHA Executive Director Raymond V. Mariano discusses the struggle with federal agencies over its A Better Life program. (CHRIS CHRISTO)

The Worcester Housing Authority runs a program called A Better Life.  Individuals who are part of the program sign an eviction clause—a clause that violates federal policy. The clause threatens eviction if the signee fails to show up to work or school.  Participants in the A Better Life program have voluntarily signed the leases including the eviction clause since 2013. From the story: "Though the government has yet to act upon a series of questions it asked the WHA via email on Oct. 14, documents indicate that an eviction clause designed as a prime disincentive for tenants to quit WHA's much-touted A Better Life program is prohibited by its governing body, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development." Read the full investigation at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Continue Reading →

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Unexplained infant deaths to be reported to state social workers

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Each year, dozens of Massachusetts children die suddenly and unexpectedly. But new guidelines — released in a report filed on the medical examiner’s website earlier this fall — already are prompting concern from some families and groups involved in the prevention of unexpected infant deaths, which include sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, as well as accidental suffocation and entrapment, and other unexplained causes. Continue Reading →

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Homeowners sold out by cities? Investors buy tax liens and foreclose

Dartmouth town administrator Greg Barnes (left) auctions off some properties with tax liens to Bill Cowin, managing member of Tallage, LLC. (Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times)

As cash-strapped towns and cities around the Bay State face a mounting stash of unpaid tax liens, they are increasingly turning to for-profit companies to pursue delinquent owners -- prompting concerns among consumer advocates that vulnerable residents are being hit with astronomical fees and sometimes are losing their homes in the process. Continue Reading →

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Poorly rated nursing homes got HUD-guaranteed mortgages anyway

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Nursing homes with even the lowest ratings received financial assistance from the Department of Housing and Development . While an HUD spokesperson says the quality ratings of newly-insured nursing homes has risen in recent years, low-rated facilities are still receiving assistance. From the story: "...Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the American Health Care Association, the leading for-profit nursing home advocacy organization, pointed to the higher percentages of all skilled nursing facilities that have earned the top score, a five-star rating, from the federal government from 2009 to 2013." Read the full investigation at the Center for Public Integrity. Continue Reading →

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Election was awash in cash–but did it make a difference?

 

When the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United, it unleashed a flood of money into politics. It raised concerns that the rich and powerful could buy elections. Two election cycles later, the political impact of Citizens United is becoming clear. From the story:

"This fall’s state election set at least two Massachusetts political spending records: the most outside money dropped on a governor’s race — $16.9 million on the general election alone — and the most cash poured into ballot campaigns, at $28 million. But even in an era of supercharged political spending, it’s not clear that money can buy an election." Continue Reading →

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