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Archive for February, 2015

While waiting for UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton to acknowledge that ethics ran completely aground at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management as administrators pursued undeservedly high national rankings, here are a few things flapping at the margins.

:: One of our “good Catholic boys” who smelled quick money and jumped into the payday loan business several years ago has got more trouble on his hands.

A few months ago, federal authorities froze Tim Coppinger’s bank accounts and assets so that if he’s found culpable in civil court, some money will be around to be refunded to people he cheated.

Earlier, a U.S. District Court judge freed up $40,000 of Coppinger’s money so he could pay his attorney, Patrick McInerney. But a story in the Pitch last week said that McInerney had asked to withdraw from the case because the money for payment of legal bills has dried up.

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Coppinger, in a 2010 photo, holding a trophy he won in a poker tournament at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

Coppinger owes McInerney and his firm more than $90,000, and McInerney’s motion went on to say “the broad scope and comprehensive nature of the asset freeze…present very little if any prospect for future payment.”

Among other things, the Federal Trade Commission alleges that Coppinger, who grew up in Visitation Parish and is now a member of St. Ann’s Church in Prairie Village, conned consumers out of millions of dollars by “trapping them into loans they never authorized and then using the supposed ‘loans’ as a pretext to take money from their bank accounts.”

…The idea that Coppinger and some associates turned to taking advantage of mostly poor people in financial trouble is mind-boggling to me. It’s good to see Coppinger experiencing a measure of the pain and upheaval he dished out to others.

David Hudnall has done a fantastic job of tracking the payday loan story for the Pitch. He’s way ahead of The Star, and this story alone has helped raise the Pitch’s profile and credibility. It’s the kind of reporting we need as we watch The Star continue to diminish.

:: You’ll recall the December 2013 case in which a now-26-year-old Independence man named Joshua Bradley allegedly beat Kyle Van Winkle to death after the 30-year-old Van Winkle mistakenly got into the wrong vehicle in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot. The case against Bradley is creeping along.

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Joshua Bradley

Early last year, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office charged Bradley with involuntary manslaughter. The case was initially assigned to Circuit Judge Justine Del Muro, but in the last six weeks it has been transferred two more times. A hearing or trial had been scheduled for Jan. 15, but when that day Bradley’s attorney Patrick Peters requested a continuance, and it was granted. The trial is now scheduled for early September.

Mike Mansur, communications director for the prosecutor’s office, told me there have been no issues in the case that prompted the multiple change of judges; it was simply a matter of judges rotating assignments.

Mansur also said the case is very complicated and that he expected both the prosecution and the defense to have an expert medical witness. “In a case this complex, this is not an unusual schedule,” he said.

Bradley is free on bail.

:: Ever since President Obama got re-elected in 2012, I’ve been saying I felt good about the Democrats chances of holding the presidency at least through 2024 with Hillary Clinton. But I’m started to get worried about one possible Republican candidate — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

I was hoping that all the potential Republican candidates would rush forward, like Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Paul Rand, have done and made harebrained statements about the wisdom of getting children vaccinated against measles. (Example, from Rand Paul: “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children.”)

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Scott Walker

But I read in today’s New York Times that the Democrats aren’t going to be that lucky. On a Sunday morning talk show this week, Walker said: “Study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences. And the more kids who are not vaccinated, the more they’re at risk and the more they put their neighbors’ kids at risk as well.”

This fellow is dangerously logical.

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The most gratifying stories that reporters get involved in, hands down, are those that expose significant wrongdoing and subsequently prompt corrective action, affirming the validity of the reporters’ work.

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Mike Hendricks

Today, Mike Hendricks and Mara Rose Williams of The Star can be rightfully proud. As a result of their stories exposing administrative cheating at the UMKC Bloch School of Management, the Princeton Review has removed UMKC from its 2014, top-25 list of best entrepreneurship education programs in the country.

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Mara Rose Williams

Hendricks’ and Williams’ initial expose was published last July. On Sunday, they followed it up with a report on an accounting firm’s confirmation of their findings.

Today, they posted on The Star’s website a story that says:

“It’s the first time in its 34-year history that the Princeton Review has taken away a school’s rankings. The move came two days after an independent university audit reported that officials…knowingly submitted inflated data in applying for rankings in 2011, 2012 and 2013.”

A huge, nasty stream of egg white and yolk is now streaming down the face of UMKC, the Bloch school and the individual faces of the three people most responsible for this debacle. They are:

:: Former Bloch school dean Teng-Kee Tan, who pushed business school administrators to raise the school’s standing in the Princeton Review rankings. Tan was drawing a base salary of $410,000 before he stepped down for health reasons before The Star published its expose. (Yes, I’ll bet he’s pretty darn sick.)

:: Professor Michael Song, who formerly headed the school’s innovation management research department. Among other things, Song offered up false data that went into the school’s application for an entrepreneurship-program ranking in the Princeton Review. The phony data included the names and numbers of student clubs and mentorship programs and enrollment figures for the entrepreneurship program. Most of the clubs that Song identified didn’t even exist. (Somehow, Song has managed to remain on the Bloch school faculty.) 

:: Henry Bloch, who gave UMKC $32 million for a new business school building in 2011 and subsequently leaned on administrators to get high rankings. In their original story, Hendricks and Williams wrote the following: “As Henry Bloch neared his 90th birthday, he was growing impatient at how long it was taking the school that bore his name to gain national prominence…He was willing to keep writing checks, but he wanted progress in the rankings as proof that he was making a wise investment.

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Hendricks and Williams interviewed dozens of people inside and outside UMKC for their original story. They also reviewed thousands of pages of internal UMKC documents obtained through an open-records request.

In the wake of that story, the MU Board of Curators commissioned an investigative audit, which was conducted by the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. That report, released last week, not only supported the reporters’ original story but also said the cheating was worse than it first appeared. 

For its part, UMKC has been in virtual denial. The first story said that UMKC denied it had engaged in a “patterns of exaggerations” or that it took “short cuts” to gain undeserved rankings.

Last week, in response to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton would only make a limited and grudging acknowledgment, saying:

“I take seriously the report’s conclusions on the three areas of flawed data in the Princeton Review application.”

**

I’ve got three things to say about this:

1) Morton needs to change his tune and offer an unequivocal acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and, at the same time, offer an unequivocal apology. His stone walling is ridiculous, and he’s embarrassing himself and UMKC. If he doesn’t make a clean breast of things, he should be fired.

2) UMKC needs to initiate steps to fire Song. It boggles the mind that he’s still walking around the campus and teaching courses.

3) I hope Hendricks and Williams get some major journalistic awards for this story. They deserve it. It took a lot of guts for them — and their editors — to take on UMKC as an institution and Leo Morton, Henry Bloch and other powerful individuals. But they got ’em; the scalps are on the wall.

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