The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting recognize the best in government-related investigative reporting from across the Midwest region.
We are pleased to announce the winners for The 2012 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting:
By: Mark Suppelsa, Marsha Bartel, Jason Grotto, Ray Long and Jodi Cohen
WGN-TV and The Chicago Tribune
A tip from a frustrated worker to WGN-TV led the station's investigative team to a vacant park, where union sources revealed shocking abuses of Illinois' pension system.
This secret discussion was the spark behind a four-month multimedia series that exposed waste and fraud within an already cash-strapped state pension system.
The station, in collaboration with The Chicago Tribune, learned, among other things, that the man in charge of the city's Pension Board committed fraud by trying to 'double dip' his own pension; that a former legislator nearly doubled his pension by working on a one-month project for the dean of Chicago's city council; and that one of Chicago's most powerful union leaders convinced city hall to let him work an extra day as a laborer so that he could collect a nearly $160,000 public pension.
A team of five poured over government records and scoured multiple databases to clearly explain how private workers scammed the system to receive large public pensions.
The series led to a federal grand jury investation into the pension deals of nearly a dozen of union officials. The Department of Labor began to audit one of the city's key unions and the Governor signed a bill that would help prevent pension abuse.
Both Sides of the Law
By: Gina Barton
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In 2004, off-duty Milwaukee police officers beat a man at a party. While investigating that story, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton learned that one of those officers had a criminal record prior to joining the police force. This finding drove her to ask: how many other officers, if any, also had criminal records? No one, not even the Fire and Police Commission responsible for hiring officers, had an answer. So Barton began to investigate.
Her investigation revealed that more than 90 Milwaukee police officers have violated the very laws they are sworn to uphold. The offenses ranged from sexual assault to domestic violence to shoplifiting. The Milwaukee Police Department often turned a blind eye to this misconduct and the general public was kept in the dark about these officer's criminal activities.
The Sentinel produced a multi-article series in 2011 that detailed the results of the investigation. In addition, the paper created a searchable database that allowed the public to search department disciplinary records.
The investigation's impact was immediate. One officer was found guilty of sexual assault. The governor vetoed a proposed bill that would allow officers accused of criminal misconduct to stay on the payroll. And the chief of police rolled out a new program to support and discipline officers who struggle with alcohol dependency.
By: Kara Kenney, Kevin Finch and Susan Batt
A short, anonymous letter to WRTV-ABC in Indianapolis tipped off staff that a retired school superintendent was being paid for serving as a "Supt. Emeritus". Curious, Reporter Kara Kenney began to investigate. What she found was a retired superintendent accepting a $1 million retirement package that no one seemed to know about.
Kenney, along with News Director Kevin Finch and Special Projects Producer Susan Batt, also learned that school board members had no idea just how much the board will ultimately pay out to the the retired superintendent. The WRTV-ABC team also discoverd that school board members took lavish trips and received other expensive perks at a time when the the district was making drastic cuts in the classroom.
The retired superintenent is no longer on the payroll and Indiana lawmakers are considering legislation that would require more transparency in superintendent contracts.
Wayne County Confidential: Government Run Amok
By: Ross Jones, Heather Catallo, Ann Mullen, Johnny Sartin, Randy Lundquist, Ramon Rosario
By: Raquel Rutledge, Rick Barrett, John Diedrich, Ben Poston
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel