Friday, April 25, 2008

Regency Headed to Bankruptcy?

A lot of tears in West Des Moines right now. Regency Homes is laying off employees as a result of the housing crisis. I'm told it's 103 employees. That's on top of the 26 the company let go in January. A letter handed out at the company warned of "deep layoffs". It didn't mention bankruptcy. It said, "our (Regency's) debt outweighs our current obligations."

No comment from Regency yet.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One More

It's 3:35pm. The jury is ready to give its verdict. Defendants Jane Barto and Karen Tesdell have arrived from their hotel. We're still waiting on the other defendant, Dan Albritton.

This is the Day

The jurors WILL reach a verdict today in the CIETC salary scandal trial in Davenport. Guarantee it. No, just kidding. Just wishful thinking. Gone are the back-to-back days of beautiful, sunny days with temps in the 70s. It still might be close to 70, but it's crummy outside today. Dark and rainy. Appropriate for our mood as the jury drags into its third full day of deliberations.

There's just not a lot to write about. We think the jury is getting lunch again at the Starting Line bar down the street again. We ate there Tuesday. They ran out of chicken and iced tea. Good thing I didn't want either of them. I did order chicken wings. Apparently, wings were in ample supply. No luck if you are more of a breast guy.

We had good Italian yesterday for lunch. I had the all-you-can-eat spaghetti. Although, much to the disappointment of my table mates, I only had one plate. Not sure what today brings. We like to wait until the jury orders, so we know it's safe to leave the building.

Yes. There's not much happening yet. But when it does, we want our bellies full.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A CIETC Diversion

Day 2 has been far from titillating so far here at the federal courthouse in Davenport. Sure would be nice to be a fly on the wall in the jury room, wouldn't it? Just what are those 12 people talking about?

Meantime, how 'bout that Presidential race? It ain't over just yet. Hillary Clinton had to win Pennsylvania. No doubt about it. Some of the pundits figured she really needed a double digit win to win over undecided superdelegates or at least convince them not to go for Barack Obama yet. Obama has to be disappointed. Sure, his people will say he closed a 25 point deficit or so. But it does seem like early on, the campaign downplayed how hard it would play in Penn. Based on the money and time he spent there though, it's hard to say the campaign didn't try to win. It just didn't happen. Question is now (at least one of the questions is) can Clinton raise enough cash just to keep going? Will she dig into the Clinton bank account again and lend herself some dough? Can't her hubby just go give another high dollar speech someplace? If you have relatives in North Carolina and Indiana (who both hold their primaries May 6th), you can bet they'll be getting some extra attention in the next few weeks.

Here's what the two candidates are sending out to supporters...

Dear Dave,

Thanks to you, we won a critically important victory tonight in Pennsylvania. It's a giant step forward that will transform the landscape of the presidential race. And it couldn't have happened without you. There will be much more to do beginning tomorrow. But tonight, let's just celebrate the fact that you and I are part of a remarkable community of people tough enough, passionate enough, and determined enough to win big when everything is on the line.

Thanks so much for all you do.

Sincerely, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Dave --

Votes are still being counted in Pennsylvania, but one thing is already clear. In a state where we trailed by more than 25 points just a couple weeks ago, you helped close the gap to a slimmer margin than most thought possible. Thanks to your support, with just 9 contests remaining, we've won more delegates, more votes, and twice as many contests. We hold a commanding position, but there are two crucial contests coming up -- voters will head to the polls in North Carolina and Indiana in exactly two weeks. And we're already building our organization in the other remaining states.

But it's clear the attacks are going to continue, and we're going to continue fighting a two-front battle against John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

I need your support right now. Please make a donation of $25:

Thank you for all that you're doing to change our country.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Why exactly did we hurry here to the federal courthouse in Davenport this morning? I suppose it's paranoia. I didn't want to be lolly gagging at the hotel while the jury came back with a verdict in the CIETC salary scandal. No worries. Definitely, no worries.

If it weren't for the company of fellow reporters, the federal marshals, that mocha espresso, and, of course, the sheer bitterness of looking out through the window at this postcard-perfect sunny day, there wouldn't be much to keep us awake.

Unlike when I was here last time, there are no people in the "waiting room" outside the courtroom. No one's waiting to testify. No supportive family members help pass the time. It's empty. Of course, at this point, there's no reason to be here.

The jurors have been going at it since 8:30 this morning. The only activity so far is a request from them to again look at a c.d. that had audio recordings of an old CIETC board meeting. It's after 4pm now. You wonder if they'll quit for the night soon and try again tomorrow.

No sign of any of the defendants or their attorneys. They are all just a phone call away though when the jury reaches a decision. Whenever that is.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Price Likes Obama: David Endorses Barack

You know, they say we reporters need to stay neutral. We need to stay unbiased. Don't let who we like get in the way of our job. But it's time for David Price to tell the world who he likes. David Price believes Barack Obama is the best choice out there to become President of the United States.
No, not this David Price.

THIS David Price.

This Price is a former poli sci prof at Duke and current N Carolina Congressman. He's also an all-important superdelegate. Perhaps, a lot more important than that other David Price.

Sing Us a Song

(This was my view at Billy Joel. Yeah, I know the camera phone pic stinks. I'm looking for a new phone).

Billy Joel was the entertainer last night at the "Well" in downtown Des Moines. It wasn't a sellout. But he did still pack 'em in. A couple of interesting moments... During the second or third song, all of a sudden, he just stopped singing. He said he "swallowed a bug" or something. I was a bit skeptical. He had been coughing quite a bit (away from the microphone) earlier and continued to do so throughout the concert. He even made mention of some type of throat spray he was using to help. He said Madonna also uses it, so maybe he would start dressing better. ???

He also brought up the obvious...his appearance. He introduced himself as "Billy Joel's dad". He definitely has aged since I remember him. Of course, he's lived a pretty hard life. Maybe that has something to do with it.

The biggest ovation probably didn't come for him. But rather, it came for a "roadie" as Joel called him. He said this guy had been following the band for years and tried out for American Idol but wasn't "telegenic" enough (I think he was kidding). He said the band was going to give this guy a chance to sing and it would be some type of religious or spiritual song. He added maybe it would resonate with us as we were heading home after the concert. We soon found out why. It was hardly spiritual. It was "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC. And it was great! The guy was awesome...this middle-aged guy, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt that maybe fit him 20 pounds ago. He brought the place to its feet and then some. BTW, the Piano Man was good, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Smokers, Go Outside

Today, Governor Chet Culver signed the smoking bill in the Statehouse rotunda before I'd guess 300-400 people who gathered on two floors to watch. In case you weren't sure, that's his picture above. He's the one with the nameplate put in front of the temporary table set up for the event.

Lots of handshaking and smiles. Not a lot of time for us media folk. We assumed the Gov would want to talk about "this historic day" after the bill signing and what it means for Iowans' health. We assumed he'd have time for us. Was he worried at all about talk of a class action lawsuit from bar owners who are ticked off that casinos got a pass on the ban? Was he concerned the ban would be tough to enforce?

Trips to Disney World, the Master's in Augusta, Georgia, Kosovo and campaigning for Barack Obama in Pennsylvania have kept him away from the state he governs in recent weeks. Since he's back in Iowa now, we thought we'd be able to catch up with him. We were wrong.

BTW, I'm told the legislative session should end next week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Attention, Herb Lovers

I don't even know how many emails our station has received from people who are "interested" in the University of Iowa researchers looking for people willing to help out with a pot study (they may also get 600 bucks to do it). Quit emailing us acting like you are just "curious". Here's how to get a hold of the guy:

By the way, what do you think of legalizing marijuana? It's not exactly a hot topic at the Iowa Statehouse, but just wondering what you think of the idea.


Congrats to me (well, and Carroll's Dave Olson, Charles City's Brian Fiser and Council Bluffs' Matt Baker). We just won the league bowling championship last night at Plaza Lanes in Des Moines. Not that I'm bragging about our group of B-Rollers:)

More importantly, we want to send our best wishes to Ed Bangs. Ed manages Plaza Lanes. He had a heart attack at work Thursday night. He is set to undergo a double bypass today in Des Moines. Ed is a guy who's always willing to give you a tip (for free) and patient enough to wait around until you get it right. He's also a former New York city cop who doesn't put up with any crap in his bowling alley. Good luck, Ed. We can't wait to see you back at work soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Soggy End

Richard Running took the stand too uncomfortably close to the end of the day for us. We were pushing to get our stories ready for the 5pm news. Running didn't walk into the courtroom until going on 4:30. Not all that much excitement, at least from what I could tell. He did offer a juicy headline. He said CIETC was "the problem child" for similar agencies in the state because of its history of money problems.

Running seemed to stick up for Janet Barto, his former Deputy Director at Iowa Workforce Development, a few times. He said she did the job of two people during her time there. He did testify he didn't know about the financial questions about CIETC until a month before the State Auditor's office released its report in April of 2006. He and Barto, of course, were supposed to know, since they headed IWD, which was supposed to oversee the dough at CIETC.

It seems like it's rained the entire time during my two plus days here in Davenport.

And look at the toll it took on my notebook. The wind picked it up...and dropped it...right in the middle of a puddle.

Time to clear out. Loretta Lynn's about to play across the street. Who knew she still performed? I thought I passed Lyle Lovett in the bathroom. I'm not kidding.

Day 2, Part 4

Richard Running is waiting his turn. He's the former Director of Iowa Workforce Development, the state organization that was supposed to watch over the dough given to CIETC. Then-Governor Tom Vilsack canned him for apparently not doing that.

Running has been standing and looking out the window here at the federal courthouse in Davenport. Occasionally, he looks down at some notes laid out on the window sill in front of him. I wonder what's going through his head as he waits to say what he knows about this salary scandal? After all, his former IWD Deputy Director Jane Barto is one of the three fighting to stay out of the state pen right now. I wonder if they've seen each other or talked since they both got fired.

Yesterday, I mentioned we had some awesome, rosemary potatoes at the Urban Grill for our breakfast (we went back there today and I ordered the exact same thing). A smarty-pants person over at the Statehouse sent me her recipe:

Red potatoes, cut them in halves or quarters and put on a greased baking sheet.
lots of olive oil over top

sprinkle w/ kosher salt and rosemary flakes

350 degrees 30 mins? (i usually just eyeball it)

could add garlic too, if that's your thing.

For the record, I already have a similar recipe. But the ones we had here are better:)

Day 2, Part 3

Jack Cline, we know now, also became Ramona Cunningham's gambling partner back in the day. Klein, a former supervisor at CIETC, said he went gambling in Altoona, Council Bluffs and Osceola. He figures Cunningham told staffers they were going gambling "several times a week."

I forgot to mention this from yesterday...Sam Fucolara, "Ramona's b*$%!" as we've now heard that he was called by co-workers, worked on Dan Albritton's garden while he was supposed to be working for CIETC. He said Cunningham asked him to do it. She was there, too. He didn't say she helped...with the garden.

O.K., maybe I'm just a loopy after my Mountain Dew at lunch, which followed by a.m. mocha latte, but do you find this scenario a little funny?-The U.S. Asst. Attorney asks each Polk County Supervisor on the witness stand: "Are you familiar with CIETC?" They respond, "Yes." Hell, my Mom and Dad know what CIETC is. And they live in Illinois!

BTW, the Sups gave $750 grand over 3 years (from 2003-2005) to CIETC. They each testified they thought the money went for job training. They say they knew nothing that the money would go for bonuses.

Day 2, Part 2

We have a quick break, so I need to catch up. Another former CIETC'er, Pamela Jones, said at one point she asked Ramona Cunningham if she had something going on with Dan Albritton. Cunningham, she said, no, because Albritton was "gay". Doesn't quite jive with what others have already said.

I just passed the Gang of 4 in the hallway. They're "on deck". Polk CO Supervisors EJ Giovannetti, Bob Brownell, Angela Connolly, and Tom Hockensmith. The other Sup isn't on the witness list, John Maura. You'd have to figure that's a guy Republicans would love to have seen get wrapped up in this whole mess.

Former Sup, Nathan Brooks is also waiting his turn to talk. He also used to work at CIETC.

My Day 2

Sex, lies and rubber stamps. How can today compare with that? David Stanley is on the stand right now. He's another former CIETC'er. The f-bombs are have found their way back into the federal courtroom here in Davenport.

Yesterday, another former CIETC'er, Sam Fucalaro, started the f-bomb train. Apparently, other workers at CIETC used to refer to him as "Ramona's b*!$&". He said he did very little work at CIETC. Sometimes he would go drinking with Ramona Cunningham. Sometimes he would also go with Jane Barto, the former number two at Iowa Workforce Development. One time he said he went to Las Vegas with Cunningham to represent CIETC at a convention. But he said he couldn't tell anything about the convention, because they had no plans to go. The purpose he said was for him to be the distraction. Cunningham didn't want people to know she took the trip so she could have a little private time with her man, and former CIETC board member, Dan Albritton. They were in love, Fucalaro testified. Back to the f-bombs.

Fucalaro said one time Albritton and Cunningham "faked" a big argument at CIETC, just so people wouldn't think they were together. He said they even called him the night before, so he wouldn't "loose his cool" when he saw them fighting. He has quite a temper, he admitted.

Albritton cussed him out and threatened him, Fucalaro said (that's where all the f-bombs come into play here) if he exposed the goings on.

O.K., back to today. David Stanley testified he also saw this "fight" between Cunnnigham and Albritton. Not nearly as juicy as the way Fucalaro described it. But Stanley did say he heard Albritton yelling at Cunningham as he left, "You, f-ing b*$#!". Stanley did ask the judge beforehand if could swear like that.

Mary Zimmerman, another former CIETC'er, said Ramona Cunningham told her to find some work for a woman named Diane Smith. Smith at the time worked part-time for Albritton. Zimmerman testified that Cunningham told her Albritton asked if CIETC could hire Smith because he didn't have full-time work for her.

The sun just came out. It's about time. I got drenched last night trying to tape a piece for tv for 10pm. My clothes still don't feel dry.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

CIETC, part 4

Sex, a rubber stamp and now we have gambling on company time...and your dime. Chuck Brooks, who is Archie Brooks' big brother, said he, Victor Scaglione and Ramona Cunningham would gamble as much as 100 to 125 times over a three-year period while they were on the clock (if there was such a thing at CIETC). Brooks said he was the driver to get the trio to Prairie Meadows (they also went to the former Lakeside Casino in Osceola and Meskwaki in Tama). Normally, Brooks testified they'd gambling on Mondays, Thursdays and sometimes Fridays. They'd usually leave about 10am, he said, and return before 1. That is, unless they went to Lakeside and Meskwaki; then, it was essentially an all-day thing.

Brooks just said Ramona Cunningham wanted him to forge a signature one time, his brother's. She told him, he testified, that he should practice it first. He said Cunningham said it was a "routine document" and that Archie was busy in a meeting. Brooks said he refused to do it.

CIETC, part 3

The rain might be playing a bigger role here in Davenport. This is at least the second time Archie Brooks has asked for a question to be repeated. Each time the rain picks up upside, it gets louder pounding on the roof above us here in the federal courthouse.

Brooks just finished up and left the courtroom.

Dave Reed, the current Boone Co. Supervisor and former CIETC board member just took the stand. He's having problems with the rain, too. He has at least twice asked to have the question repeated to him, one time specifically saying he was having problems with the sound of the rain "going on".

More problems with the sound of the rain. Is this now the sixth time or so this a.m.?

Reed said he didn't know back during the CIETC days, even though he was vice-chair of the board, who got bonuses or how much execs received. He did say he didn't think Karen Tesdell's salary was "excessive".

CIETC, part 2

The man who didn't want to talk to Brooks doesn't seem all that interested in what Brooks is saying on the stand. Well, unless he fully concentrates with his eyes closed and head bobbing. I wish I knew who he was. BTW, he's one of about only four others in this room, who aren't jurors, lawyers, judges, security, defendants or reporters (or our sketch artist Katie, who's really nice and unfortunately battling a little carpal tunnel in her "sketching arm").

This rain overhead is really annoying. It's having the same effect as a faucet running, if you know what I mean. Or maybe it was that espresso I gulped down before I came in here. Although it was worth it. Great breakfast this a.m, btw. We found a cool little place called the Urban Grind just a few blocks away. I had an omelet with grated cheese and mushrooms. But the best part of the meal were the potatoes. Rosemary apparently is the secret ingredient. I checked with the owner, Bill, just to make sure. I need to figure out how to make them. I wish I would have had more than seven minutes to eat them all though.

Back to the testimony... The attorney for Jane Barto (the former head of Iowa Workforce Development) repeatedly made the point with Brooks that he didn't "conspire" with Barto, only that he did with Ramona Cunningham (CIETC's former CEO and Brooks' former lover, according to his testimony).

Man, the rain is really coming down outside. It's pretty loud. The judge just asked an attorney to repeat his comment.

Brooks just let out a big sign on the stand. It's time for a break again.


I have CIETC duty today. It's my first day covering this now in its fourth day here in Davenport. It's a miserable-looking today outside. Chilly and rainy. We're constantly reminded here inside. There's the constant, annoying patter of the rain on the roof. Judge Robert Pratt judge told the jurors to let him know if the sound of the rain drowns out what they're trying to hear here in the courtroom.

Archie Brooks has been on the stand this morning. So far, he has been saying he approved those huge bonuses for CIETC execs under the guidance of then-CEO Ramona Cunningham.

The judge just let everyone take a break for a few minutes. Brooks walked around the hallway. He then tried to sit down next to a man seated at the end of the row next to me. The man told Brooks to get away. I don't know who the man is. Now, Brooks paced around in the courtroom, stopping to look up at the roof as the sound of the rain continued.

We're back in action. Brooks is denying that he is the one who signed a handful of CIETC documents. I seem to remember him telling me when the story "was breaking" that he did sign documents. I questioned why the signatures looked so different in appearance. Brooks said he had had a stroke. Apparently, his memory has changed now that he is on the stand.

He testified that he did sign SOME documents giving the raise. He said on two occasions he signed two of them after he had "sexual contact" with Ramona Cunningham. He didn't elaborate. Neither did the attorney.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Light Em Up

It's 11:37am here at the Iowa Statehouse. The smoking debate has just started (again) in the house. A few minutes ago, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stopped by to say he had no idea how this vote would turn out. He said he thought as of earlier this a.m., it may have 50 or 51 votes. Of course, if everyone's here and everybody votes, this needs 51 to make it through. So this could be an interesting vote. The smoking stoop outside may be a crowded one.
Last night, the Conference Committee agreed to ban smoking almost everywhere in public except for on casino gaming floors (if you needed a reminder of just how powerful the casinos are in this state) and in the Iowa Veterans' Home in Marshalltown.

1205pm...The votes are in...finally. 54 yes and 45 no. Republican Linda Upmeyer of Garner said her voting machine didn't work correctly and her vote didn't register. During the voting, for a time, this bill actually failed. At one point, there were 50 no's which would have killed it. But then a few no's disappeared.

By my eye, Helen Miller of Ft. Dodge waited and waited to decide. She finally went with a yes vote. That gave the 51 necessary votes. Then a few others changed their votes from no to yes. Democrats Paul Bell of Newton and Kurt Swaim of Bloomfield both switched to the yes side. A few others must have switched, as well, but I couldn't see who they were.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Wanna Spend Your Money

Hillary Clinton and her husband raked in $109 million in the past eight years. But she needs money. Barack Obama is schooling her on how to raise dollars in this presidential campaign (he took in $40 mil last month, twice her take). So the Clintons are resorting to good old-fashioned begging...but begging with a twist. Hillary, Bill and Chelsea (or so the emails say) sent out messages to supporters asking for cash. Chelsea even sent out one saying if you donated, you get registered to win a night with the Clintons at a private concert in New York with "The Rocket Man" Elton John or "Sharon" as the internet tells me Rod Stewart nicknamed him.

If Sir Elton doesn't sound like your type, how about a shot playing the conductor? Send your money to help Clinton in Pennsylvania, and you get to decide how the campaign spends your dough. Here's the email she sent to supporters:

We need yard signs to show our campaign's strength. We need vans to get Pennsylvania voters to the polls on April 22. We need ads on the air and online to compete against the Obama campaign. And starting today, you can decide just how your contributions will help us win Pennsylvania. MyPA, our new online effort dedicated to winning the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, allows you to designate exactly where you want your money to go.This campaign is your campaign. Every single day I think about how much I owe to your generosity and hard work. I wouldn't be where I am now without your support. So, I want to make sure you have a say in how your money is spent. We face an opponent who is outspending us by as much as 4 to 1 -- I need your help now.

Click here to visit MyPA, make a contribution, and tell us where to put your dollars in our campaign to win Pennsylvania! I need your help to win in Pennsylvania and the races beyond. Your commitment and your investment are absolutely critical. I cannot win without your help. I hope you'll show your support now and tell us exactly where you want your money spent in our Pennsylvania campaign. I appreciate all your input, all your support, and all the hard work you do. Sincerely, Hillary Rodham Clinton

If you're up late tonight, tip back a cold one. At a minute past midnight 75 years ago, prohibition ended and beer drinkers could celebrate once again.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

7 Years

I really can't believe it. 7 years. Today is my seven year anniversary at WHO-TV. Amazing. I mean, it's Des Moines. It's Iowa. Boring, nothing-to-do here Iowa. Or so that's how it may seem to anyone who hasn't been here. Boy, were they wrong. Boy, was I wrong. Why didn't I come here sooner?

My Lucky 7

7 days I worked a week in the weeks/months before the Iowa Caucuses. No regrets.
6 th day of October will always now be extra special.
5 places I've lived since I moved here (Including the week I stayed at the Heartland Inn)
4 B-Rollers on our bowling team at Plaza Lanes. Two weeks til the championship.
3 Mizzou friends who convinced me to join them at WHO. Thanks.
2 Dam to Dams I've run. Number three is eight weeks away.
1 amazing wife. I went to Mizzou the same time Emily did. It took moving to Des Moines for me to meet her. Sunday is our 6 month anniversary. So glad I came here.

Thanks, Iowa

Thursday, April 03, 2008

McCain's Scary, Birthing a Porcupine and Chill, Bill

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is giving us a few things to talk about. He rips on McCain, defends Hillary's choice to stay in, tells Bill to chill and refuses to discuss private talk with his wife.

This is from his conference call with Iowa reporters Thursday morning. It's rather long. I picked out the highlights. The number at the beginning of each of the following lines shows you where to slide the bar so you can get right to the comment.

3:30 won’t say recession because of the psychological effects of the word

6:27 when will Harkin (who is an undecided Iowa superdelegate) decide? he hopes he won’t have to. he thinks the dems race will be decided before the convention. and then at the convention, he wants dems to eliminate the superdelegate system.

6:55 Hillary should not end her campaign

11:30 Bill needs to "chill out"

12:20 Hillary and Barack have received instructions of no personal attacks. Stick to the issues.

13:00 He won’t say whether his wife, Ruth (who is a prominent Hillary supporter and used to work for Bill) is pushing him to endorse Hillary.

13:50 Trying to come up with a new farm bill is like “giving birth to a porcupine

26:10 talks about John McCain’s temper…"it can be scary

The Repub of Party of Iowa isn't too thrilled with the "scary" comment. Here's the release:

(DES MOINES) – Republican Party of Iowa Communications Director Tim Albrecht issued the following statement today in response to Sen. Tom Harkin’s comments during a conference call he held today:

“Tom Harkin’s remarks are shameful. Sen. McCain has honorably served his country, and deserves admiration and respect. Perhaps Sen. Harkin should focus on his own party’s presidential race, where there is plenty of mud to go around. Unfortunately, Tom Harkin’s liberal record mirrors that of his would-be nominee, and he goes to excruciating lengths to distance himself from it every 6 years, when his own name is on the ballot.

“The only thing that is ‘scary’ to Tom Harkin is Sen. McCain’s strength as the Republican nominee.”

Jack's Story

A little boy named Jack is trying to have a big impact on a fight he doesn't deserve. Jack Hoeger, is from the Cedar Rapids area. He suffers from an incredibly rare brain cancer. Jack is only eight. But to let you know how strong he is, he is dedicating his fight to a family friend who has already lost his fight with cancer.

Jack's story is now featured on Lance Armstrong Foundation Livestrong web site.

"Get to Know Jack's" YouTube video