February 8, 2011

Grassley works to stop abuse of government charge cards by federal employees

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today introduced a bill to require federal agencies to put new safeguards and controls on government charge cards used by federal employees.  The bill also would require penalties for violations.

"This bill is about accountability," Grassley said.  "The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards.  The federal bureaucracy needs to improve the way it manages the use of these cards."

Grassley said his bill responds to outrageous accounts of purchases made with government charge cards, as well as independent analysis which found inadequate and inconsistent controls within government agencies for these government charge cards.  Purchase cards are used by authorized federal employees for the small-scale items needed for official business, such as office supplies.  Travel cards are issued to federal employees to pay for official travel expenses.

Grassley has put the spotlight on problematic use of these cards for ten years, first at the Department of Defense and then also at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere.

Over the years, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has documented fraudulent, questionable and overly expensive purchases made by federal workers with government purchase and travel cards, including kitchen appliances, jewelry, gambling, cruises, and even the tab at gentlemen's clubs and legalized brothels.

Below is a summary of the reform legislation that Grassley is reintroducing.  It is cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins.  The Senate passed the measure in 2009, but it was not taken up by the House of Representatives during the last Congress.

Summary of the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act

The bill would require all federal agencies to establish certain safeguards and internal controls for government charge card programs, and to establish penalties for violations, including dismissal when circumstances warrant.  The bill would also increase oversight by providing that each agency Inspector General periodically conduct risk assessments and audits to identify fraud and improper use of government charge cards. These reforms are based on the experience of Senator Grassley and other members of Congress, the GAO, and agency Inspectors General in investigating the weaknesses in agency policies and procedures that have lead to instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in government charge card programs.

The required safeguards and internal controls include :

  • performing credit checks for travel card holders and issuing restricted cards for those with poor or no credit to reduce the potential for misuse
  • maintaining a record of each cardholder, including single transaction limits and total transaction limits so agencies can effectively manage their cardholders
  • implementing periodic reviews to determine if cardholders have a need for a card
  • properly recording rebates to the government based on prompt payment, sales volume, etc.
  • providing training for cardholders and managers
  • utilizing effective systems, techniques, and technologies to prevent or catch fraudulent purchases
  • establishing specific policies about the number of cards to be issued, the credit limits for certain categories of cardholders, and categories of employees eligible to be issued cards
  • invalidating cards when employees leave the agency or transfer
  • establishing an approving official other than the purchase card holder so employees cannot approve their own purchases
  • reconciling purchase card charges on the bill with receipts and supporting documentation
  • reconciling disputed purchase card charges and discrepancies with the bank according to the proper procedure
  • making purchase card payments promptly to avoid interest penalties
  • retaining records of purchase card transactions in accordance with standard government record keeping polices
  • utilizing direct payments to the bank when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to ensure that travel card bills get paid
  • comparing items submitted on travel vouchers with items already paid for with centrally billed accounts to avoid reimbursing employees for items already paid for by the agency
  • submitting refund requests for unused airline tickets so the taxpayers don't pay for tickets that were not used
  • disputing unauthorized charges and tracking the status of disputed charges to proper resolution


Volunteer Opportunities:  Information February 16 and 24, 2011

(Davenport, Iowa - February, 2011) - The Figge Art Museum currently has volunteer opportunities available in the areas of education programs, family activity center, visitor services, community outreach and studio classes. Individuals who have an interest in community volunteerism or Quad City Art and Culture may register for the February volunteer information sessions.

The information and training session for prospective  volunteers will be held Wednesday, February 16, 2011, from 10am-11:30am, at the Figge Art Museum or Thursday, February 24, 2011, from 2pm -3:30pm.  Theses sessions will be geared specifically to adults, who are interested in volunteering and community support opportunities in  art education, public relations, administrative support, community outreach and visitor services .  The session will include an introduction of volunteer opportunities, a museum orientation and application procedures.  To register for this session, please call Museum Services Director Jennifer Brooke, 563-326-7804, ext. 2048.

Volunteering at the Figge is a great way to support your community by sharing your personal and professional experience with a non profit organization.  For more information, please visit the Figge Art Museum Web site, www.figgeartmuseum.org, or email j.brooke@figgeartmuseum.org.  



The Figge Art Museum currently has volunteer opportunities available in the areas of education programs, family activity center, visitor services and studio classes. Students who have an interest in community volunteerism or fine arts studies may register for the February student volunteer information and training session.

The information and training session for prospective student volunteers will be held Sunday, February 20, 2011, from 2:00pm to 3:00 pm, at the Figge Art Museum.  This session will be geared specifically to students ages 14-21, who are interested in service learning, work study, or practical experience through internships in art education, public relations, administrative support or museum studies.  The session will include an introduction of volunteer and internship opportunities, a museum orientation and application procedures.  To register for this session, please call Museum Services Director Jennifer Brooke, 563-326-7804, ext. 2048

Volunteering at the Figge is a great way to get involved in your community and gain practical professional experience.  For more information, please visit the Figge Art Museum Web site, www.figgeartmuseum.org, or email j.brooke@figgeartmuseum.org.


WHAT:   Poetry Out Loud Regional Recitation Contest
WHEN:   February, 18th at 6:30 PM
WHERE: Quad City Arts, 719 11th Avenue, Rock Island, IL
WHO:    High School Students from Thurgood Marshall, United Township, and Orion
JUDGES: First Quad City Poet Laureate- Dick Stahl, Teacher, Actor, Poetry Slam Champion- John Turner, Writer, Poet, Editor- Jane Van Vooren Rodgers, Retired Business Women- Judith Moens

Quad City Arts announces a regional contest for Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. On Friday, February 18th, students from Orion High School, Thurgood Marshall, and United Township will participate in the Poetry Out Loud regional contest at Quad City Arts. Attendance at this event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served.

The winner of this competition will advance to Illinois' State Poetry Out Loud Competition, being held Friday, March 11, 2011, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield.  The State champion will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals on April 28-29, 2011 in Washington, DC, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed.

The competition, presented in partnership with the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.  Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is honored to provide travel support for regional and state finals of Poetry Out Loud in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

For further information, call Tracy White 563-579-7633.

You deserve a break!  Rivermont Collegiate is excited to formally announce the creation of the Rewarding U Now Scholarship, a renewable academic merit scholarship for students entering grades 9-12 in the 2011-12 academic year.  All qualifying students will be awarded $2,000 toward Rivermont annual tuition, renewable every year they attend Rivermont in grades 9-12 and meet scholarship criteriaThis is a potential value of $8,000 over 4 years! Eligible students must be entering grades 9-12 at Rivermont Collegiate and have earned a current year (2010-11) GPA of 3.85 or higher.  Awards will be prorated for students who qualify for discounts or financial aid and may not be combined with other merit awards.  This opportunity is available to both current Rivermont students and new applicants.  We wish to take as many eligible applications as possible and there is no limit on the number of scholarships to be awarded!

Interested students must submit an official Rivermont application form and one-time application fee of $50, as well as an official transcript from their current school and an original 350-550 word essay.  Applicants will also be interviewed by a scholarship committee.  Application materials and essays must be submitted no later than Monday, March 28th at 4:00 p.m. Interviews with the scholarship committee will take place on Tuesday, April 5th.  Applications are now being accepted.  Essay topics and detailed instructions can be found at www.rvmt.org/scholarship.

This new opportunity is one of a number of options offered to keep a Rivermont education affordable.  Rivermont's goal is that economic standing not be a factor in admission and/or accessibility to the Rivermont Experience.  About 51% of Rivermont families receive some form of tuition adjustment, including need-based tuition assistance, memorial and merit scholarships, sibling discounts, and reciprocal agreements with other local educational institutions.  These opportunities ensure that Rivermont remains proudly committed to ethnic, socio-economic, and religious diversity while also attracting the brightest, most talented and dedicated students.

Rivermont Collegiate is the Quad Cities' only private, independent, nonsectarian college prep school for students in preschool through twelfth grade.  Intimate school environments like Rivermont help close achievement gaps between genders, encourage participation in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, provide meaningful interaction with teachers and advisors, and prevent students from taking refuge in anonymity.  100% of Rivermont graduates are accepted to 4-year colleges and universities and over 90% earn renewable college merit scholarships ($1.4 million in 2009).

What are you waiting for?  Explore Rivermont!  The Quad City community is invited to join us for the 2010-11 Academic Fair, to be held Thursday, February 10th at 6:00 p.m. Immerse yourself in knowledge as Rivermont students share a diverse assortment of projects, from Native American studies to genealogy, as well as performances of living biographies.  Cindy Murray, Director of Admissions, will be on hand to answer questions and provide information about our philosophy, values, and programs, as well as the Rewarding U Now Scholarship.  The public is invited to tour campus and see our students and faculty in action - get a real taste of the Rivermont Experience!

In addition, students and their parents are encouraged to learn more about Upper School (grades 9-12) at Rivermont by attending a special open house - Discover the Difference: Upper School at Rivermont, to be held on Tuesday, February 22nd from 6:00-7:30 p.m. Headmaster Rick St. Laurent and Upper School Faculty will discuss academic expectations, curriculum, extra-curricular activities, college counseling, athletics, and more!  Alumni will answer questions and share their Rivermont Experience and families will have the opportunity to tour Upper School classrooms and common areas.  Additional information about the Rewarding U Now Scholarship will also be provided.

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate, the Rewarding U Now Scholarship, the Academic Fair, or the Discover the Difference: Upper School at Rivermont open house, contact Cindy Murray, Director of Admissions, at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org


ROCK ISLAND - Lundgren Family Chiropractic is hosting "Ladies Night of Indulgence" at their College Hill District location on Wednesday, February 9, from 6 - 8 p.m. This is an opportunity for area women to take an evening out with friends to shop for unique items in one location, while enjoying accommodated food and drink from local businesses.

There will be some great vendors, such as Cool Beanz Coffeehouse, JuicePlus, designer purses, jewelry, skin care, home design, specialty foods, massage, a nutritionist, and health screenings. Ladies will be able to taste some locally blended wine or sip some organic coffee (or chai) while finding special gifts and experiencing some of the Quad Cities best massage. There will be gift baskets and door prizes to win through numerous drawings!

It is the perfect time of year to receive some nutritional counseling and check your overall health!

Lundgren Family Chiropractic provides a variety of services including Diversified Chiropractic techniques, HydroMassage, one-on-one Physical Rehab Therapy, Orthotics, and Nutritional Counseling for all ages.

Dr. Lundgren is very passionate about the Quad Cities, having lived here his whole life. His mission is to improve the quality of life for all individuals in the Quad City area, providing optimum chiropractic care to infants through geriatric patients with gentle manipulation.

Join us on February 9, 2011 from 6 - 8p.m. for an evening of fun, relaxation, and prizes!

The Fuller Center for Housing Global Builders Program

SAINT PAUL, Minnesota - February 5, 2011

Armenia - an ancient homeland along the Old Spice Route, a fabled Garden of Eden, the first country to adopt Christianity - is an emerging democracy in need of safe, affordable housing.  The Fuller Center for Housing encourages you to participate in its Global Builders program in Armenia to assist those who still struggle from the devastating 1988 earthquake and strive to establish a free economy.

Join a two-week Global Builders team and enjoy the richness of Armenia and its generous people in a remarkable way - by working side by side with families to construct decent housing. Travel Armenia's historic roads to see pre-Christian sites, 9th century churches, green pastures, colorful marketplaces, and dramatic mountain gorges. Learn about Armenia's captivating history and culture while more importantly, helping a needy family achieve their lifelong dream of a healthy home. You will come away with more than you give, with more than you ever hoped to realize.

Available 2011 Armenia Global Builders trips are scheduled for these dates:

May 15-29: the lush northern region of Vanadzor
July 9-23:    the lush northern region of Vanadzor
July 14-26:  the capital city of Yerevan
July 26-August 9: the capital city of Yerevan

Experienced Global Builders Team Leaders have traveled regularly to Armenia to build homes since 2003. Costs are expected to be approximately $1550-1900, not including airfare. No construction experience is needed. For more information, see http://www.fullercenter.org/global-builders/upcoming-trips To receive more information or register for a 2011 Armenia Global Builders team, contact Volunteer@FullerCenterArmenia.org or gpalyan@fullercenterarmenia.org


Names Two Senior Advisors and Five Agency Heads to Continue Efforts to Boost Illinois' Economic Recovery, Address State's Fiscal Challenges

CHICAGO - February 7, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today named two senior members to his administration and re-appointed five members of his executive cabinet. Today's actions are the second step in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will make over the first quarter of 2011 as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn named Cristal Thomas to serve as his Deputy Governor for Public Policy and Sean Vinck to serve as Chief Information Officer. Governor Quinn also re-appointed Secretary Brent Adams to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Director Arthur Bishop to the Department of Juvenile Justice, Director Dan Grant to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Director Michael McRaith to the Department of Insurance and Director Marc Miller to the Department of Natural Resources.

"Continuing our mission of recovering Illinois' economy and addressing our budget challenges requires hard work by a team of dedicated and talented individuals," said Governor Quinn. "These seven appointees have an ethic of service and I am confident that they will work collaboratively and creatively to address our problems and move Illinois forward."

As Deputy Governor for Public Policy, Cristal Thomas will help develop and implement the Quinn administration's public policy priorities. Thomas previously served as Region V Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting as the official representative of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Previously, Thomas was Executive Director of the Ohio Executive Medicaid Management Administration, serving as a member of Governor Ted Strickland's cabinet. Thomas previously served as Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Director of Strategic Planning for HFS, and Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget. She holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

As Chief Information Officer, Vinck will direct the state's information technology policies, focusing on improving and updating IT infrastructure. Additionally, he will oversee information technology officers throughout state government. Since January 2010, Vinck has served as Special Administrator for the Department of Corrections, where he was tasked with overhauling and modernizing the agency's electronic Offender Tracking System. Previously, he served as Governor Quinn's Chief Legislative Counsel and Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs. Vinck also served then-Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn as his Legislative Counsel. He holds a Master's Degree in Political Science and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.

Secretary Brent Adams partnered with legislative leaders, industry experts, and consumer advocates to develop and pass the Cemetery Oversight Act, one of the most pro-consumer cemetery laws in the country. He also chaired the Mortgage Fraud Task Force and coordinated the Mortgage Relief Project, a statewide program that has helped thousands of homeowners take advantage of programs that can help them save their homes. He drafted and served as a lead negotiator for consumers on the Homeowner Protection Act, the Payday Loan Reform Act, the Consumer Installment Loan Reform Act, and regulations to protect consumers from predatory auto title loans.

Director Arthur Bishop brings more 35 years of experience in administering child welfare, community mental health and substance abuse programs including 15 years serving in the Department of Child and Family Services where he led several initiatives requiring interagency collaboration between public, private and community-based partners, including family advocacy centers, paternal involvement centers and the Fatherhood Initiative. Bishop has also represented DCFS on the Governor's Task Force on the Condition of African American Males.

Director Dan Grant, a graduate of West Point, has led the Department of Veterans' Affairs since 2009. Grant has worked with members of the Illinois legislature and testified at hearings to help secure passage of a bill that ensured interest payments were made on delayed Line-of-Duty Benefit payments to bereaved military families (SB 2489.) He also spearheaded legislation to establish the Task Force on Service Member and Veterans Education and the Military Family Interstate Compact Implementation Statute Drafting Advisory Committee (HB 5368). Grant is also a captain in the U.S. Army and led 28 men in a combat arms platoon during a year-long deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served throughout the Sunni Triangle in Bayji, Samarra, Balad, and Tikrit in a wide range of roles, including leading a 120 person team of soldiers, local Iraqi's, U.S. contractors, and coalition allies in the excavation, collection and destruction of 3 million pounds of enemy ammunition during a 120 day mission.

Director Michael McRaith is leading the state's implementation of federal health care reform and serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (a high risk health insurance pool). He also supervises the state's Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP), and has actively participated in developing, drafting and advocating for statewide and national health insurance modernization, including boosting reporting requirements to guard against unreasonable premium hikes by Illinois health insurance providers. McRaith also serves on the executive committee of the board of directors for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and serves on board of directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Chicago Chapter.

Director Marc Miller has led the Department of Natural Resources since 2009 after serving on then-Lieutenant Governor Quinn's staff since June 2004. Miller was instrumental in the development and implementation of many environmental programs including the Dam Safety Initiative and the Mud-to-Parks program, which promoted the beneficial reuse of river settlement. He has also been instrumental in dozens of park development and land acquisition projects throughout Illinois. Miller is also an avid outdoorsman with an interest in fly fishing, hunting, canoeing, wildlife viewing, camping and hiking.


Where:        Rock Island Center for Math and Science, 2101 16th Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois 61201
When:         Thursday, February 10, 2011
Time:           10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
What:          The Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting of IMSA's New Rock Island Region  Field Office located at the Rock Island Center for Math and Science.  IMSA joins forces with educators from the Rock Island Region of Illinois to help students prepare for highly skilled careers as they discover the joys of learning mathematics and science.

The Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting of IMSA's new Rock Island Region Field Office located at the Rock Island Center for Math and Science, featuring Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley and IMSA President Dr. Glenn W. "Max" McGee, will be held on Thursday, February 10, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at the Rock Island Center for Math and Science.  Other officials in attendance will be Dr. RuthAnn Tobey-Brown, principal of Rock Island Center for Math and Science and Dr. Michael Oberhaus, superintendent of Rock Island/Milan School District #41.

In addition to a welcome and comments from state and local dignitaries, the event will also feature a live science demonstration by the IMSA Kids Institute® (KI) conducted by IMSA students.  During the States of Matter:  Does it Matter? science demonstration, 25 students from the Rock Island Center for Math and Science  will see how solids, liquids and gases can change with temperature and through chemical reactions.  In addition,  IMSA on Wheels will perform Science is Shocking for 3-5th graders.

Through its new Rock Island Region Field Office, IMSA joins forces with educators from the Rock Island Region of Illinois to deliver professional development in mathematics and science instruction that focuses on inquiry and discovery; provide after school, weekend and summer mathematics and science programs for children; and address local needs by building and sustaining relationships with the Rock Island Region and coordinating mathematics and science programs with local organizations.

The internationally recognized Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® (IMSA) develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  As a teaching and learning laboratory created by the State of Illinois, IMSA enrolls academically talented Illinois students (grades 10-12) in its advanced, residential college preparatory program, and it serves thousands of educators and students in Illinois and beyond through innovative instructional programs that foster imagination and inquiry. IMSA also advances education through research, groundbreaking ventures and strategic partnerships. (www.imsa.edu)

Generates More than $314 million in State Revenue

CHICAGO - February 7, 2011. More than 78,000 taxpayers sent payments to the Illinois Department of Revenue during the state's tax amnesty program that concluded last November. The program exceeded its budgetary goal, adding $314 million to the general revenue fund for FY 2011.

"This program's success is good news as we work to stabilize state finances and to maintain vital public services," Governor Pat Quinn said. "This much-needed revenue will help our state to meet its obligations and is another important step towards making Illinois fiscally sound."

The FY 2011 budget estimated that tax amnesty would infuse $250 million into state government coffers during this fiscal year. The state received a total of $717 million in tax payments; $314 million went to the general revenue fund, with the balance going to local governments and the state's income tax refunds.

"We are pleased with this program's end result - Illinois' tax amnesty exceeded expectations," said Brian Hamer, Director of Revenue. "The program was straightforward and simple, and it generated hundreds of millions of dollars to help the state meet its obligations to vendors, taxpayers, and providers of essential services."

During the five-week tax amnesty program, which ended Nov. 8, those who paid taxes from previous years were able to avoid interest and penalties on their tax debts. On Nov. 9, penalties and interest on those debts doubled.

While individuals were the vast majority of participants in the program, corporations accounted for most of the program's tax receipts. Companies scheduled for audits, as well as taxpayers in the collection program, also used the amnesty period, reassessing their own tax returns and making payments to fully eliminate their debt to the state.

In addition to the immediate cash infusion, tax amnesty broadened the tax base. Non-filers accounted for $12 million of state receipts, and will be easier for the state to track in future years. Additionally, improved tax tracking software and enhanced audit and collection capabilities will further assist the state in monitoring filers who came forward under amnesty for future compliance.

Tax Type                           Participants                 State Share of Amnesty Receipts

Individual Income Tax         59,777                         $ 20 million

Business Income Tax          5,264                          $ 252 million

Sales and Use Tax              9,347                          $ 111 million

Other taxes                         3,801                          $ 25 million

Total                                 78,189                          $ 408 million