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VA workers sent $1 million in landscaping work to family’s company, special counsel says

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Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner wrote a Jan. 25 letter to President Donald J. Trump requesting immediate action against an allegedly corrupt employee of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusets.

“The landscaping scheme came to OSC from a persistent whistleblower who led investigators to nearly $1 million in improperly spent or documented purchases at the Bedford VA,” said a release from the Office of the Special Counsel in Washington.

Dennis J. Garneau, a maintenance and grounds supervisor, and his daughter Heather Garneau-Harvey, also a Bedford VAMC employee, allegedly directed procurement contracts for landscaping services to Earth Creations Landscaping, a company owned by Garneau’s son, who is unnamed in the report.

Garneau resigned in 2015, but Garneau-Harvey has remained a VA employee, and was demoted only one rank after allegedly defrauding the VA for a period of years.

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“By allowing an employee who engaged in this conduct to remain with the agency, the VA demonstrates a shocking degree of indifference to government ethical standards, procurement regulations, and public integrity,” said Kerner.

The whistleblower, identified as Kevin Cornellier, a tools and parts attendant, disclosed suspicious, frequent, and significant purchase orders for landscaping materials, such as rock salt, mulch and crushed stone.

Cornellier said the majority of these orders were never delivered to the facility, despite payment being made. He persisted for years contacting local authorities regarding his concerns to no avail before finally contacting the Office of the Special Counsel.

“Mr. Cornellier persevered and was ultimately successful in stopping serious procurement fraud,” said Kerner

Cornellier asserted during the investigation that the failure to ensure Harvey-Garneau’s sequestration from the unit where such significant, substantiated wrongdoing occurred constituted gross mismanagement,” Kerner said.

Kerner’s letter to the president said that in June 2016, when Garneau Harvey was first interviewed by investigators, she had claimed to have no knowledge that Earth Creations Landscaping was owned by her brother. Over the course of a two-year criminal investigation, Kerner remained in her federal position.

Kerner wrote:

I strongly urge the VA to ensure that Ms. Garneau-Harvey is removed from any position where she could interact with the Engineering Service or participate in procurement matters, and further encourage the VA to take appropriate measures to ensure that conduct like this does not occur in the future, and to suitably discipline employees who have committed serious wrongdoing.

This disclosure comes on the heels of allegations of mismanagement at a VA medical facility in Temple, Texas.

An internal VA investigative board found that employees funneled $1.3 million through a contractor called Whitetail Industrial Parts and Service, which reaped approximately $400,000 in undue profit by deliberately charging for services that it never rendered.

VA supervisors at the Texas facility are also accused of stealing landscaping equipment and benefitting from the labor of veterans in a vocational training program, whom they instructed to build fences, repair sprinkler systems and perform other landscaping duties at the homes of VA supervisors and their family members.

Peter D'Abrosca is an investigative journalist from the state of Rhode Island. He is the Senior Reporter at Big League Politics. Follow him on Twitter by clicking the icon below.

 

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2018 Midterms

Democrat Senate Candidate Buys Bizarre Ad in WaPo: ‘Did You Ever Stare at a Picture of a Naked Child?’

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A Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate from Maryland employed a bold advertisement in the Washington Post. 

“Yes, I am a socialist, and you might be one too, listen to your body,” said the ad bought by Jerome M. Segal.

After that, it gets strange. Research analyst Anna Massoglia first posted photos of the ad to her Twitter account:

“Did you ever stare at a picture of a naked child?” the ad begins. “Full frontal? And did it stick in your mind? Did it bring about emotions, ones that might have surprised you? Like that cover of Newsweek with the naked, crying Vietnamese girl, desperately following in a line of desperate Vietnamese, not having a clue what was happening to their country, or why?”

Perhaps the intro is meant for shock value – to capture the attention of the reader. But the ad gets weirder.

“Did you ever watch a video of a three-way, between two men, one white and one black, and a big dog?” it continues. “One a big fellow another kind (sic) slender? And did you feel strange emotions? Does it come readily back to your mind? Like that video of the sheriff’s deputy in Selma, with his German Shepherd, assaulting freedom fighters from SNCC?”

So far, the ad contains references to child pornography and bestiality, and we have officially entered bizarro world.

But perhaps the scariest part is the anti-capitalist propaganda that follows.

The rest of the ad is a rambling, semi-coherent rant about what socialism and capitalism are, and some of the virtues of each.

“Capitalism is not the same as free markets,” Segal’s ad says, before lavishing praise on the quality of Soviet tanks during WWII. (Stalin’s communism killed 60 million, but they had great military equipment!)

“My name is Jerome Segal. I’m a socialist and proud. I’m happy to be part of the LBGTQ&S community, and you should fess up, and be proud as well,” the ad finishes.

According to the FEC documents that Massoglia provided, Segal paid nearly $25,000 for the ad.

Segal will likely lose to incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with six other Democrat candidates on the primary ballot on June 26.

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Politics

Trump Alpha-Dogged Angela Merkel At G7 With A Starburst

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According to a report from CBS, President Donald J. Trump made quite a spectacle with a Starburst candy at the G7 summit.

“[Trump] stood up, he put his hand in his pocket, his suit jacket pocket, and he took two Starburst candies out, threw them on the table and said to Merkel, ‘Here Angela, don’t say I never give you anything,’” said Ian Bremmer, senior global affairs contributor for CBS.

Bremmer provided little context for the exchange, but context is unnecessary for understanding Trump’s massive power play.

According to Trump, the meeting went well.

“Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel,” he said. “Nevertheless, Germany owes…..”

Trump recently took a swipe at the migrant-laden European nation on Twitter.

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,”  he said. “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

Meanwhile, Merkel is fighting to save her chancellorship and political career, which have been marred by an “open door” policy resulting in the migration of 1.6 million “refugees” from Africa and the Middle East. The wave of migrants has caused devastating crime and employment issues, as well as a housing crisis.

“We are in a serious situation because the question of the migration crisis evolved into a power question,” German lawmaker Kai Whittaker told the BBC. “It could well be that at the end of next week we have a new situation… Probably a new chancellor.”

Whatever the relationship between the two leaders, there seems to be little question about who is in charge.

 

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2018 Midterms

Sen. Claire McCaskill Husband Invested in Hedge Fund In Caymans

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A Senator running for reelection in Missouri has been hit with allegations that her husband is storing investment money in an offshore bank account in order to evade taxes.

“Joseph Shepard’s investment in Matrix Capital Management has earned him between $230,000 and $2.1 million in income since he first invested in 2013, according to McCaskill’s financial disclosure forms. Such forms only show a range of income,” said a Kansas City Star article.

Shepard is the husband of Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

According to the report, Shepard has invested $1 million in a hedge in the Cayman Islands, a “notorious tax haven.” The capital gains tax in the Caymans is much lower than the income tax rate paid by the ordinary American citizen.

Campaign finance law mandates that candidates for office must declare the income of spouses.

McCaskill co-sponsored the 2009 Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, but has declined to release her tax returns until later this year. She will not release Shepard’s tax returns. The bill, which was not passed, targeted the Caymans among countries and would have subjected income earned there to be taxed at the same rate as U.S. Corporations.

“Secretive hedge funds seek outsized profits and are open only to the ultra-wealthy, who are considered sophisticated investors and can withstand big losses,” said the report. “These funds do not have to disclose their investors to regulators.”

So far, mum is the word from McCaskill’s office.

“Claire does not make decisions on public policy based on what’s best for her husband; she makes decisions based on what is best for the people of Missouri,” Meira Benstein, a McCaskill campaign spokesperson told the Kansas City Star.

Big League Politics reached out to McCaskill’s office, but they refused to comment.

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