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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered a review of hiring practices at all military child care centers, after potential problems with security background investigations were identified at the Fort Myer, Va., child development center.

Panetta’s announcement followed news the Army is investigating hiring practices at all of its child development centers worldwide. The investigation was prompted by the arrest of two Army employees accused of assaulting children at the Fort Myer CDC.

At least 31 people were suspended from two Army day care centers at Fort Myer after officials scrutinized their backgrounds and found criminal convictions, including for fourth-degree sexual assault and drug use, a defense official told The Associated Press.

The escalating scandal angered defense leaders and prompted a late-night phone call Dec. 16 from President Obama to Army Secretary John McHugh, during which Obama expressed concern and urged a speedy and thorough investigation.

Details of the scandal emerged in mid-December, nearly three months after two workers were arrested on charges of assaulting children at the Fort Myer center. The slow pace of public revelations enraged Panetta.

“The secretary believes that the care of our children is paramount, and he will settle for nothing less than the highest standards of care for military children,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

Panetta was “deeply concerned and angered,” Little said, “and is insistent that we do everything we can to ensure we don’t have breakdowns in care at other DoD facilities.”

According to a defense official, 10 of the 31 suspended workers were involved in minor criminal offenses; 13 were involved in assaults; six were involved in drug use; and two were involved in fourth-degree sexual assault.

The official noted that neither person with sexual assault charges appeared on a national registry of sex offenders. In some cases, sexual assaults can involve people over the age of 18 who are having consensual relationships with someone under the age of 18.

Little said he has no information to suggest the problem is more widespread, but Panetta believes it is prudent to look at the other services to determine if there are other breakdowns.

“If there are employees at DoD [child development centers] that shouldn’t be working there, they should be let go,” Little said.

Army officials announced Dec. 18 they will investigate personnel procedures at all of the service’s CDCs, and compliance with those policies and procedures.

“It’s a fundamental responsibility to ensure the highest quality of care for the children of our men and women in uniform, many of whom rely on us to care for their children while deployed,” McHugh said. “These initial findings are not only troubling, they are unacceptable, and we will make certain that adequate policies and procedures are in place, and that they are strictly followed and fully enforced.”



In September, parents complained to the Child Youth & School Services Directorate on Fort Myer that a caregiver had been yelling at children in a classroom of toddlers.

In turn, a special agent with Army Criminal Investigation Command viewed 30 days of surveillance footage in which he saw three caretakers who roughly treated children as young as 18 months old.

In a sworn statement, Special Agent Charles Bibby said that worker, Rebecca Smallwood-Brisco, struck a 2-year-old boy in the head with a toy, and two days later, punched another in the face.

“As a result of the hit, the child’s head jerked back several inches,” the statement reads. “The child then held his mouth and began crying.”

Another worker, Sharon Blakeney, hit a 2-year-old boy’s hands, picked him up by the arm to place him in a corner and kneed him in the back. She later pinched his stomach and held his arm while she “held a white, sticky rodent trap full of bugs right next to his face,” according to the affidavit filed in her case.

Smallwood-Brisco, 57, of Oxon Hill, Md., and Blakeney, 47, of Seat Pleasant, Md., were charged with five counts of simple assault of a minor; they appeared in federal court Dec. 19.

Charges had been dropped for a third worker, Tonya Fagan-Clarke, 30, of Woodbridge, Va.

The Army’s Installation Management Command in October replaced the Fort Myer day care center’s management and “found background issues with a number of employees,” the Army said.

The employees were removed, and the Army temporarily closed the facility “out of an abundance of caution,” relocating the children to the post’s Cody CDC, Col. Fern Sumpter, garrison commander at Fort Myer, said in a statement.

The Army is investigating whether required procedures, including background checks, were performed properly when the employees were hired.

Fort Myer officials also created a panel to review the background files of about two dozen employees to determine whether they should be terminated. The center’s child youth coordinator and deputy were reassigned while those investigations and reviews are underway.

Military child care centers are required to conduct background checks on their employees. Child development programs receive four unannounced inspections each year. Two inspections include a review of personnel records to verify that background checks have been conducted and are current, said DoD spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. The military services’ higher headquarters are required to conduct an annual unannounced inspection of their child development programs, she said.

DoD has the authority to make unannounced visits to selected programs to ensure they are following regulations. In the last fiscal year, DoD started accompanying the services on their inspections.


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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone at Mega Group Online! Our office will be closed on Tuesday, January 1st for the holiday

and will reopen at 8:30am PST on Wednesday, January 2nd. Best wishes for a fantastic new year!

Holiday Hours

Mega Group Online will be closed on Monday, December 24 through Wednesday, December 26 in observance of the  holiday.  Our office will reopen at 8:30am PST on Thursday, December 27.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a fantastic 2013!


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – When physician assistant Ashley Wharton reported for her first day of work at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital on Monday Dec. 17, the staff literally rolled out the red carpet.

The management council met her at the door, and cake was served. The reason for the celebration: Wharton was the 1,000th employee hired by the hospital.

Her hiring is seen as a symbol of the turnaround the rehabilitation hospital has undergone in the past year and a half, since deciding to remain independent rather than merge with another hospital.

“We’re excited,” said Kent Riddle, Mary Free Bed’s chief executive officer. “Everyone here is working so hard, we haven’t focused on the growth that much. Then this milestone came up.”

In June 2011, when Mary Free Bed officials launched a regional network that would expand its reach, the 80-bed hospital had 733 employees. Another 267 have been hired since then.

“The average census was approximately 50 percent,” Riddle said. “Now at times we are totally full.

Hospital officials compared the caseload for the 17 months before July 2011 with the 17-month period following. Inpatient admissions were up 39 percent to 1,654. Total hospital admissions – including outpatient and professional services care – rose 19 percent, to 15,041.

Wharton was little taken aback by all the fuss, but pleased by the celebration. A 2011 graduate of Grand Valley State University’s physician assistant program, she is eager to join Mary Free Bed’s staff. Her previous job was in family practice and urgent care.

“I worked in rehab as a tech before grad school,” she said. “I really like rehab medicine.”

She will work in admissions, evaluating new patients for treatment, working with inpatients and helping with discharge planning.


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When interviewing for a job, make sure to point out your good work ethic!


Unless an exception applies, New York General Business Law § 399-ddd, effective Dec. 12, 2012, mandates that most employers in New York refrain from requiring that employees disclose their full or partial social security numbers, and from denying to employees “any service, privilege or right” due to nondisclosure.

Two statutory exceptions are potentially quite broad, and the courts will need to clarify their scope. First, the restrictions do not apply if the employee “consents to the acquisition or use of his or her social security account number.” Because an employer typically would need to ask an employee for his or her social security number before the employee could consent, it is uncertain whether a court would deem that an employer that has merely requested a social security number has “required” it for purposes of the statute.

Second, employers may compel the disclosure of social security numbers “for purposes of employment,” which include claims and benefits administration as well as the administration of any “procedure related to the individual’s employment . . . including the individual’s termination from employment, retirement from employment, [or] injury suffered during the course of employment.” This exception also allows an employer to procure a social security number “to check on an unemployment insurance claim of the individual.” Guidance from the courts will be necessary to clarify precisely what the terms “purposes of employment” and “procedure related to . . . employment” cover. This exception does not address explicitly the use of social security numbers in hiring and promotion decisions.

Other statutory exceptions permit employers to obtain the social security numbers of employees and applicants for one or more of the following purposes:

  • Disclosures of social security numbers explicitly mandated by federal, state or local law, such as disclosure on a Form I-9 or to comply with New York reporting requirements
  • Fraud investigations or internal verifications;
  • Any business function that the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act authorizes;
  • Consumer reports or investigative consumer reports authorized by law and credit dealings between the employer and the employee initiated by the employee;
  • Direct deposit or investment services on the employee’s behalf;
  • Tax compliance;
  • Blood or organ donations, collection of child support or alimony, or criminal record verification;
  • “[A]ny interaction with a governmental law enforcement agency or . . . the enforcement of a judgment . . . by a sheriff or marshal”; or
  • Confirmation of a current or prospective employee’s eligibility for a marketing program targeted exclusively at certain age groups.

In addition to the purpose-specific exceptions above, the statute also categorically exempts certain types of employers, such as banks and their affiliates, from these restrictions.

Although there is no private right of action under § 399-ddd, the Attorney General may prosecute violators. The first violation carries a $500 maximum civil penalty, while each subsequent violation carries a civil penalty up to $1,000. The statute, however, provides a safe harbor for employers that implement procedures reasonably designed to prevent violations of the statute, so long as such violations were not intentional. These procedures should supplement the procedures that New York employers should already have in place to comply with extant restrictions on social security number use, such as restrictions on publishing, printing or electronically transmitting an employee’s social security number under certain circumstances.

Employers that wish to obtain and use their prospective and current employees’ social security numbers should develop and implement procedures to…

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Senator Robert Menendez said he did not know an 18-year-old intern at his office was a sex offender and illegal immigrant until news broke of the intern’s arrest this afternoon.”I just heard … ” Menendez said on MSNBC during a prescheduled interview to discuss immigration reform. The Associated Press reported that federal authorities on Dec. 6 arrested Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, who came to the United States from Peru and allegedly overstayed his visa.

The report also said although the Department of Homeland Security was notified in October that the intern may have been eligible for deportation, it told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold off on the arrest until after Menendez’s November election. The AP cited an unnamed official involved with the investigation. Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, called the report that the agency delayed Sanchez’s arrest until after the election “categorically false.”

“ICE followed standard process in coordination with its federal partners and local prosecutors before taking appropriate enforcement action,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

Menendez, a Democrat, easily won re-election last month with 59 percent of the vote against his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth).

Menendez said his staff found out about the arrest Monday and immediately terminated Sanchez from the intern program. In a telephone interview, Menendez spokesman Tricia Enright said Sanchez had been an intern for about two months and that the senator did not know him. “What we know is we have a nonpaying college intern program. This young man applied to that process, got recommended by the school,” Menendez said on MSNBC. “We ask the status of all of those college interns … And we certainly wouldn’t have known through any background checks, since he is a minor, about any sex-offender status.”

Sanchez committed the offense in 2010 but because he was prosecuted as a juvenile, the exact charge and court records are not publicly available, according to the AP. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office — which first told Homeland Security about Sanchez — did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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Imagine you just inherited some money — what would you do with it? Invest it in the stock market? Make a big purchase? Pay off some debts? What if your boss said you could trust him to invest it for you?

Decades ago, Harry Hanon and his wife, Elizabeth, did what many might do in that situation: They said “no, thanks” to investing their money with Elizabeth’s boss.

The hitch: Her boss was Warren Buffett.

Passing up the Oracle of Omaha’s offer turned out to be one of Harry Hanon’s great regrets, according to Kent Hanon, his son. Harry Hanon passed away in 2004 at the age of 91, and though he may have missed out on the investment opportunity of a lifetime, he certainly didn’t die a poor man, having built a few houses across the country and selling them at a profit. In addition, Hanon also took up casual investing later in life, which didn’t make him a huge amount of money but did become a “valuable and interesting hobby,” according to his son.

“Until the day he died, I reminded him of his thing with Warren Buffett,” Kent Hanon, a 72-year-old retired school teacher living in Bellevue, Neb., told The Huffington Post. “We could have been well-known millionaires along with him.”

Instead of turning his inheritance over to the future billionaire, Harry Hanon put the money into a pyramid scheme, losing the whole sum. Once Buffett became the people’s billionaire — recognizable in photos eating Dairy Queen ice cream, drinking Coca-Cola and hanging out with Jay-Z — all Hanon’s family could do was laugh, Kent Hanon said. They couldn’t believe their mom’s boss, whom they knew as “just a guy,” had achieved such success.

“Everybody gave my Dad a hard time, deservedly so,” Hanon said.

Hanon’s father had access to Buffett’s investing genius early on, thanks to his wife, who was one of the Oracle of Omaha’s first employees, working as a “secretary/whatever,” as Hanon described it.

One day Hanon’s father came into the office to talk to Elizabeth about how to invest some money he had recently inherited.

“He was up there talking to my mother, and Warren Buffett joined in and he said, ‘Give it to me and I’ll put it into my company,'” Hanon said. “Of course, my dad didn’t tell him to his face that he didn’t think he was going to go anywhere.”

For his part, Buffett told HuffPost that Elizabeth Hanon was one of his first two employees, starting in 1962. He couldn’t confirm the rest of Hanon’s tale, however: “Elizabeth Hanon was employed by my partnership, and also by my dad when we officed together in the early to mid-1960s (we split her salary),” Buffett wrote in an email.


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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday about who counts as a supervisor under a federal employment discrimination law. The court also issued orders clearing the way for further challenges to aspects of President Obama’s health care law and rejecting an appeal concerning the insanity defense.

EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION The employment case was brought by Maetta Vance, who was the only black employee in the catering department of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. She said another worker there had subjected her to racial taunts and veiled threats.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows some kinds of lawsuits only if the challenged conduct was that of a supervisor. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, which heard Ms. Vance’s suit, defines “supervisor” narrowly, limiting it to people with the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline an employee.

Other courts consider a supervisor to be anyone with the power to direct an employee’s daily activities.

Justice Elena Kagan, perhaps reflecting on her experiences as dean of Harvard Law School, discussed the difference.

“Professors don’t have the ability to fire secretaries, but professors do have the ability to make secretarial lives living hells,” she said, suggesting that the Seventh Circuit’s approach was too limited.

Her point met with no resistance from the lawyers who argued the case. All of them, to the frustration of some of the justices, said a more flexible approach was warranted.

Justice Antonin Scalia told a lawyer for the university that the court had agreed to hear the case, Vance v. Ball State University, No. 11-556, “principally to decide whether the Seventh Circuit rule was right or not.”

“And you don’t even defend that,” he said. “So there is nobody here defending the Seventh Circuit.”

The lawyer, Gregory G. Garre, said that supporting briefs, including one from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had defended the narrower definition.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. tried to test the limits of the more flexible approach, asking if a senior employee allowed to pick the music in a workplace was a supervisor.

“If you don’t date me,” he imagined such an employee saying to another, “it’s going to be country music all day long.”

Daniel R. Ortiz, a lawyer for Ms. Vance, said such conduct would not be severe enough to qualify.

Justice Scalia said “hard rock” might present a more difficult question. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked about Wagner’s operas.

Chief Justice Roberts said having to listen to music, all day long, that the listener found unpleasant could be more severe than being instructed that “you’re going to be cutting the celery rather than, you know, baking the bread.”

Justice Alito asked whether “chopping onions all day would be enough” to be considered severe, and Mr. Ortiz responded yes.

“How about chopping other things, just chopping?” Justice Alito continued. “You are the sous chef. You are going to be chopping all day every day. Would that be enough?”

It depends, Mr. Ortiz responded.

Some justices were unhappy about the posture of the case in a second sense, suggesting that Ms. Vance could not show that the employee whose conduct she challenged was her supervisor under any definition of the term.

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A former Big Spring Partners employee has been arrested for stealing money from the nonprofit downtown revitalization group, The Times’ news partner WHNT is reporting.

Stefanie Nicole Hamilton-Dryer was arrested Nov. 16 and charged with two counts of first-degree theft of property, plus a single count of second-degree theft of property, according to WHNT.

Dryer’s arrest followed an internal audit that revealed Big Spring Partners was missing $10,300, WHNT reports. She was booked into the Madison County Jail on bonds totaling $25,000 and released the same day.

Her first court appearance on the theft charges is scheduled for Dec. 12.

In a written statement provided to the media Monday afternoon, Big Spring Partners Chairman John Stallworth said the missing money came to light during a financial review of the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial, which was managed by Big Spring Partners.

“The employee responsible for these funds was allowed to resign while we investigated this fully,” Stallworth said. “After the audit, and a more complete investigation, our findings were reported to the appropriate officials.”

All partners on the veterans memorial were later “made whole,” said Stallworth, and the theft did not involve any city tax money given to Big Spring Partners to market downtown.

Located next to the Historic Huntsville Depot, the $3 million veterans memorial honors more than 360 local service members killed during World War I, World War II, Korea, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the global war on terrorism. It opened in November 2011 following a three-year private fundraising effort that included the sale of thousands of engraved brick pavers.

Dryer, 29, was an executive assistant for Big Spring Partners before leaving the organization.


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