NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored

A top official in the New York State Comptroller’s Office has urged regulators to require more transparency on charter-school finances. The response has been nonexistent.


Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.


Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.


Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.


"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities."


It's a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state's major charter-school regulators – New York City's Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.


He never heard back from any of them. "No response whatsoever," Grannis said. Not even, he added, a "'Thank you for your letter, we'll look into it.' That would have been the normal bureaucratic response."


We contacted all three of these agencies and the mayor's office for comment. None of them got back to us.


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US Consumer body sues Sprint over phone 'Cramming'

This is the third time that a government agency in the US has taken action against a major wireless carrier for practice called cramming


In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile accusing the carrier of bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from customers by hiding unauthorized charges in their phone bills.

In October, AT&T agreed to pay out $105 million to settle similar charges. At the time, federal and state officials said that the AT&T settlement was the largest of its kind regarding cramming allegations.

Now, it’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) accusing Sprint of operating an illegal billing system wherein the carrier allowed third parties (described below as merchants) to “cram” unauthorized charges onto customers’ bills — all while pocketing a chunk of the revenue themselves and ignoring consumer complaints about the practice.


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Courtesy: Truthinadvertising


Know the Doctrine of Clean Hands

This legal maxim demands that a litigant must not wilfully mislead the courts and justice


“In its order, the apex commission also said that ‘it is well settled that if any litigant approaches any judicial fora by making false assertions in its complaint and tries to mislead the judicial fora, then such litigant is not entitled to any relief in equity.’ Such petition should be thrown away at the threshold itself.” — a news report.


Hallelujah! If only more courts had the guts that the Delhi consumer forum has shown.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), has been giving such orders against frivolous and lying litigants. We had carried a story of tampered receipts, by two aspiring Delhi beauticians, who were caught red-handed. It is called the ‘Doctrine of Clean Hands’. A person who approaches a temple of justice cannot do so with wrong or evil intent.
Unfortunately, the situation is not uncommon. Plenty of false and frivolous litigation continues to be filed everyday, clogging up our courts. Senior advocates, who should know better, openly admit that they will lie in court for the sake of their clients. Worse, litigants expect their lawyer to lie. It is justified by the argument that the other side is also lying.
One client said to this author that he would give a false statement in court. When warned that he would be stopped from doing that, he rebelled vociferously. He wanted to know why his own lawyer would not side with him!
For those who want to know what happened next; I had to give up the case, even though we were winning.
This, we are sure, must come as a shock to most readers. But the explanation is simple. A court of law is constituted to pass judgements, or orders, or convictions, or acquittals. It is, however, most importantly set up to find the truth. That is the court’s primary duty. 
Now, you be the judge.
In the instant case before the NCDRC, the aggrieved party, or so he pretended, made perjurious statements. He had purchased a machine. He found it not in working condition. He approached the consumer court (district forum). An award was passed ordering a replacement and a fine of Rs55,000/-. The supplier appealed (state forum) and was ordered to pay only the fine. That meant the machine was with the complainant, who then went to the NCDRC and blamed his advocate for averring that the machine was repaired, when he still had the original.
NCDRC was not amused. There were too many contradictions in the complaints. Even though the man may be entitled to some relief, he was not telling the truth. Should he, therefore, be punished or not? He was fined Rs50,000/-.
There is a feeling that going to the consumer courts is to surely win a case against the supplier.
Maybe, it has something to do with the court’s common language title. ‘Consumer Court’. It is misleading. This appellation evokes the sense that the court belongs to the consumers. And where else but one’s ‘own court’ to get what one wants? No one calls it a forum for redressal and understands that the other party can, and will, be allowed to have its say.
Another angle to the argument is the complaint against the advocate. The advocate is the representative of his client. He pleads as per the instructions given to him. The countersign and oath mean that the client has read the papers, understood them AND that they tell the truth.
The moral of the exercise, then, is this. Go to court with clean hands. Tell the truth. Hide nothing, even if it is inconvenient; it will come out later, rest assured. The other side is no fool. If you are lying, then it is his neck you are putting on the line. And he will do his damnedest to save it.


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