Employees concerned over rodent infestation in Child Development building

 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – All summer long, employees working for the City of Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services Department at their Child Development headquarters have been dreading walking into work, but it’s not for the reason you might suspect.

“There have been times where to walk in you don’t even want to breathe. It’s just disgusting,” said an employee who did not want to be identified, out of fear of retaliation.

Employees say every day since May, they’ve walked in to find rodent droppings, what’s left of food rodents had gotten into, or worse — rodents themselves.

“Having to go in everyday and clean up on your desk, in your drawers. Afraid if you were going to sit down and one was going to run across the floor,” said the employee.

This building is located at 1820 Randolph SE. The main purpose for this building is administrative. However, children and families are in the building, according to employees, “regularly.”

This is the building parents would take their children to enroll them in a city run daycare program. It’s also a place they could come to get health and hearing screening done.

“Do the parents of these kids know this is going on in this building?” asked KRQE News 13.

“I don’t believe so,” replied the employee.

KRQE News 13 was sent dozens of photos from employees who spent months documenting the conditions in their workplace. In several of the photos, it’s clear the rodent droppings were found in areas where children would be.

KRQE News 13 asked mother, Ammara Aleem, who was there to sign her son up for daycare if she knew. She didn’t.

“Oh my God,” Aleem said when she saw a photo of a rodent tail and feet hanging from an air vent in the building.

“Yeah, that’s not good because kids are coming here,” said Aleem.

Employees say the tension is high, not only as anxiety builds wondering if a rodent will run across their feet, but also because they say management is failing them.

“It was taken to the managers and it seemed like it wasn’t a very big concern,” said the employee. “It was more brushed off than anything.”

KRQE News 13 sat down with Family and Community Services Director Doug Chaplin. He says he was informed of the “infestation” in late July, but that the Child Development Manager, Anita Fernandez, found out and reported the incident on July 6.

“The manager here first heard about the infestation on about July 6 and immediately called Trinity Pest Control,” said Chaplin.

Documents prove Trinity Pest Control was contacted and brought in on July 6. However, employees say Fernandez knew about the problem “months earlier” and failed to report it.

“You know I’ve heard that concern brought up on a couple of different occasions. I’ve yet to come across anything that was (in) emails or anything. And, once that was brought to my attention, I immediately spoke to the manager and requested the timeline which you’ve seen that this started on July 6,” said Chaplin.

On August 7, Albuquerque City Councilwoman Diane Gibson questioned Chaplin about the infestation, and when it began, for 10 minutes during a city council meeting.

“So, I’m receiving information saying it went back even further than that,” said Gibson, when Chaplin told her management became aware on July 6.

KRQE News 13 obtained emails between Gibson and Chaplain, dated August 3. In those emails, Gibson says her staff, “who have been talking with the advisory board and family at my request,” reported that July 6 date isn’t accurate.

The email from Gibson continues, “Anita had been aware of the infestation problem for at least two months. Someone called Andrew Quintano in HR months weeks ago. Risk Management is now aware of the problem, apparently.”

Gibson also questioned Chaplin about the claim that employees were too scared to come forward or report the infestation out of fear of retaliation.

“It would bother me a little bit that staff would be worried about bringing things — about anything but especially about your work place — and whether that’s suitable for them to carry out what we’re asking them to do on behalf of the City of Albuquerque,” said Chaplin.

As of now, Chaplin says the rodent problem is mainly confined to the perimeter and exterior of the building.

“The building is currently safe for employees, the public and the children,” said Chaplin.

According to an invoice to the Family and Community Services Department from Trinity Pest Control, there have been 300 glue boards put down to “catch everything we possibly could.” There were also “approximately 40 baits in secure areas to combat any rodents that might still remain in the building or might move in later.”

Another document also shows that “approximately 2,000 ceiling tiles will need to be removed.” Workers will determine if the tiles can be cleaned or will need to be thrown out.

The invoice states the price tag for this clean up is $17,874.16.

Employees sharply criticized management, saying they weren’t taking this seriously. Now, as the clean up goes on, they hope management stays on top of cleaning up the building.

“We want a working, safe environment,” said the employee.

There is no listed end date for the cleanup. Chaplin says the building is safe for employees and the public.


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‘Take Note Colorado’ Gets Nod From ‘The Fray’ Frontman

DENVER (CBS4)– The Fray’s Isaac Slade visited his Alma Mater to talk about the importance of music education on Thursday.

Slade spoke to University of Colorado Denver students as part of the Take Note Colorado initiative.

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The Fray’s Isaac Slade talks to University of Colorado Denver students (credit: CBS)

CBS4 is a proud partner of the initiative which aims to give every student access to music education.

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The Fray’s Isaac Slade talks to University of Colorado Denver students (credit: CBS)

“On the Western Slope, on the plains, all up and down the Front Range, the reason I’m involved is because I believe every kid deserves that chance,” said Slade.

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(credit: CBS)

He also talked to students about internships with Take Note Colorado. Those interns will have a hands-on role in planning events and fundraisers.

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The Fray’s Isaac Slade talks to University of Colorado Denver students (credit: CBS)

Davis Anti-Abortion Activist, Attorneys Fined $200,000 Over Video Releases

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal judge has fined an anti-abortion activist and two of his attorneys nearly $200,000 after videos that the judge had barred from release appeared on the attorneys’ website.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said Thursday he hoped the sanction against David Daleiden and his attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, would ensure future compliance with his injunction.

Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress has released secretly recorded videos it says show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood has denied the claim.

Orrick has blocked other secret recordings by the group, and held Daleiden and his attorneys in contempt after the videos surfaced.

Daleiden said in a statement the sanction was an unconscionable attack on his rights to defend himself. Matthew Geragos, an attorney for Cooley and Ferreira, said he is appealing.

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Explosions Rock Flood-Crippled Chemical Plant Near Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — At least 2 tons of highly unstable chemicals used in such products as plastics and paint exploded and burned at a flood-crippled plant near Houston early Thursday, sending up a plume of acrid black smoke that stung the eyes and lungs.

The blaze at the Arkema Inc. chemical plant burned out around midday but emergency crews continued to hold back because of the danger that eight other trailers containing the same compound could blow, too.

No serious injuries were reported. But the blast added a new hazard to Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath and raised questions about the adequacy of the company’s master plan to protect the public in the event of an emergency in the flood-prone Houston metropolitan area of 5.6 million people.

“This should be a wake-up call (for) all kinds of plants that are storing and converting reactive chemicals in areas which have high population densities,” said Nicholas Ashford, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology expert.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Texas environmental regulators called the health risks minimal in Crosby but urged residents downwind to stay indoors with windows closed to avoid inhaling the smoke.

Arkema had warned earlier in the week that an explosion of organic peroxides stored at the plant was imminent because Harvey’s floodwaters engulfed the backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep the compounds from degrading and catching fire.

All employees had been pulled from the plant before the blast, and up to 5,000 people living within 1½ miles had been warned to evacuate on Tuesday.

Two explosions in the middle of the night blew open a trailer containing the chemicals, lighting up the sky with 30- to 40-foot flames in the small farm and ranching community of Crosby, 25 miles from Houston, authorities said. Aerial footage showed a trailer carcass, its sides melted, burning in a flooded lot.

The Texas environmental agency called the smoke “especially acrid and irritating” and said it can impair breathing and inflame the eyes, nose and throat.

Fifteen sheriff’s deputies complained of respiratory irritation. They were examined at a hospital and released.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency, launched an investigation into the accident.

The plant is along a corridor near Houston that contains one of the biggest concentrations of refineries, pipelines and chemical plants in the country.

Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the agency had not received any reports of trouble at other chemical plants in the hurricane-stricken zone.

Texas A&M chemical safety expert Sam Mannan said the risk management plan that Arkema was required by state and federal law to develop did not address how it would deal with power and refrigeration failures or flooding.

A 2016 analysis he did with university colleagues ranked the Crosby plant among the 70 or so facilities with the biggest potential to cause harm in greater Houston, based on such factors as the type and amount of chemicals and the population density.

Arkema, which is headquartered in France, did not immediately return calls on the plant’s contingency planning.

Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the fire marshal of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, would not discuss details of the risk management plan, such as how high the plant’s backup generators were placed.

Arkema officials did not directly notify local emergency managers of the generator failure, Moreno said. It came, instead, by way of the plant’s workers, who told the Crosby Volunteer Fire Department about it when they were rescued during the hurricane, she said.

On Thursday, Rich Rennard, an executive at Arkema, said the chemical compounds were transferred to refrigerated containers after power was lost. But he said those containers failed too, causing the chemicals in one unit to burn. Rennard said more explosions were expected from the remaining containers.

State and federal regulators have cited Arkema for safety and environmental violations at the Crosby plant dating back more than a decade, records show.

Texas’ environmental commission penalized the company at least three times for a total of about $27,000, some of which was deferred pending corrective actions. Arkema denied the allegations.

During the last five years of compliance monitoring at the plant, state officials found five Clean Air Act-related deviations and two deviations from federal requirements on waste management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records show.

In June 2006, the company had failed to prevent unauthorized emissions during a two-hour warehouse fire. Records show a pallet of organic peroxide was poorly stored, resulting in the blaze, and more than a ton of volatile organic compounds were discharged.

The biggest penalty, about $20,000, came in December 2011 after the commission found Arkema had failed to keep thermal oxidizers, used to decompose hazardous gases, at high enough temperatures over the course of several months.

More recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in February fined Arkema nearly $110,000 – later reduced to just over $90,000 – over 10 serious safety violations found during an inspection.

Records obtained by the AP show Arkema had kept using some equipment even when safety systems weren’t working properly, and didn’t inspect or test it as recommended. In one unit, the company also didn’t ensure equipment there was safe or keep employees up to date on their training.

Arkema is also embroiled in a series of lawsuits stemming from a deadly accident involving one of its contracts at a rail yard in New Orleans.

Arkema is defending itself in federal court after one worker died and two others were seriously injured after they were assigned to clean the inside of a rail car tank that had been filled with a harmful chemical. The men, who were working for a contractor with a long history of safety problems, were not wearing respirators and collapsed almost immediately, according to lawsuits filed by the survivors and the family of the man who died.

In court documents, Arkema denied responsibility for the accident, saying it had trusted its contractor to run the operation safely.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Private West Side School Is Free, Offers Lifetime Lessons

(CBS) — A private middle school on Chicago’s West Side prepares students for a lifetime of success.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.

At the Chicago Jesuit Academy in the Austin neighborhood, students are called mister.

The eighth-graders are assigned specific roles.

“You’re supposed to be a leader at the school and take care of the little ones,” eighth-grader James McGee says.

The students have two things in common: They live on the West Side and attend for free.

“It’s not about the money. The money has been taken out of the equation,” says parent Armario Hill.

Matthew Lynch helped start CJA 13 years ago as a way to prepare students for college-prep high schools and later success in life.

Students must have passed their last grade and qualified for free or reduced lunch to attend the grades 3-8 academy.

They may leave after eighth grade, but the staff stays with them for years to come.

Ninety percent of CJA’s first class are either college graduates, in college, in the military or working full-time.

The one thing you’ll hear over and over again from students and staff is how nurturing the environment is.

“I know for a fact a lot of these kids don’t get to hear ‘I love you’ when they get home. And to hear that right when they walk in the building at 7:30, it’s great,” alum Julian Wicks says.

Ziad Doueiri Follows ‘The Insult’ with ‘Ghost Element’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Ziad Doueiri, whose Lebanon-set “The Insult” is competing at Venice Film Festival, is set to direct “Ghost Element,” a supernatural thriller that will mark his most ambitious film to date. Reteaming Doueiri with his producer Jean Brehat at Paris-based banner Tessalit Prods., “Ghost Element” is based on “Le Tambour d’angoisse,” a novel written by B.R.... Read more »

Cubs Extend Winning Streak To 4 With 6-2 Victory Over Braves

CHICAGO (AP) — Kyle Hendricks turned in his fourth straight quality start and the Chicago Cubs ran their winning streak to four with a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.

Hendricks (6-4) allowed one earned run on five hits while striking out five and walking three in 6 2/3 innings as the reigning World Series champs maintained their 3 1/2-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

Kris Bryant hit his 25th home run of the season and Jon Jay had four hits to lead the Cubs offense. Bryant doubled and scored in the two-run first inning before blasting a two-run shot through a stiff wind in the sixth.

Hendricks was backed by Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards and Justin Wilson, who combined on 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Rookie left-hander Sean Newcomb (2-8) took the loss, allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out seven and walking three in five innings.

Pinch-hitter Lane Adams hit his second career home run to chase Hendricks with two outs in the seventh. The Braves other run off Hendricks in the fifth was unearned.

SCRATCHED

Braves infielder Brandon Phillips was a late scratch from the lineup. Jace Peterson replaced him at third base.

BIG MONTH

With his RBI ground out in the first inning, Anthony Rizzo became the first Cubs player to drive in 30 runs in a calendar month since Sammy Sosa did so in August of 2001.

TIME CHANGE

The Cubs received Major League Baseball’s approval to move their Sept. 8 game against the Milwaukee Brewers from 1:20 p.m. to 7:05 p.m.

The city of Chicago also had to sign off on the time change because Friday night games have been prohibited since lights were installed at Wrigley Field in 1988. The Cubs play a night game in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.

6-MAN TURN

With LHP Jon Lester (left lat tightness and shoulder fatigue) set to return from the disabled list against the Braves on Saturday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he will go with six starters for one turn through the rotation.

LHP Mike Montgomery, who allowed one run on 10 hits in 13 innings while winning both his starts in Lester’s stead, will get at least one more on Sunday. Maddon said no decision has been made past then.

SEPT. 1 CALL-UPS

LHP Rex Brothers, LHP Ian Krol and RHP Luke Jackson will rejoin the Braves when rosters expand on Friday. All three are on the 10-day disabled list.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: INF Johan Camargo (bruised right knee), INF Adonis Garcia (torn left ring finger ligament) and OF Danny Santana (strained left quad) will spend the weekend on rehab assignments at Triple-A Gwinnett . A CT scan on C Tyler Flowers (sore left wrist) revealed no structural damage.

Cubs: The team was awaiting the results of an MRI on SS Addison Russell’s right foot. Russell was called back to Chicago from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday after experiencing a setback in his recovery from a strained right foot.

UP NEXT

Jon Lackey (10-10, 4.98 ERA) will oppose fellow RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-10, 4.84) in the second game of the four-game series on Friday. The Cubs had won Lackey’s previous eight starts before he was tagged for five runs in the fifth inning of their 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on August 27. Foltynewicz has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 13 innings on the road.

(© 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

2 Investigators: Ailing Senior Tricked In Mortgage Modification Scam

(CBS) — She’s on the brink of losing her home.

All she needed was a loan modification to lower her monthly payments, but the people she turned to for help just took her money. As 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports, she was the victim of a growing scam.

Daily life is a struggle for 71-year-old Bobbie Thomas-Reed.

“I am not physically able to move,” she says. “I can’t do anything for myself.”

She requires kidney dialysis, oxygen and has trouble walking. When her children moved away from home, she needed help paying her mortgage.

“I figured that if I could lower my mortgage it would make it easier for me,” Thomas-Reed says.

That’s when a letter promising help seemed like an answer to all her problems. The letter promised to reduce her monthly mortgage payments to $573.

Thomas-Reed says she was excited by the prospect.

The company is called Direct Processing USA.

“In order to get the modification they would need $2,800,” Thomas-Reed recalled.

Thomas-Reed paid half of the upfront fee, but the company never modified her loan. 

Chase Bank, which serviced her loan, told Thomas-Reed she was being scammed. But by then she was several months behind on her mortgage payments and is now facing foreclosure.

“This is my everything, I’m getting stressed even talking to you,” she says. “I’m getting a headache because this is all I have.”

Direct Processing USA has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. The owners, who have also operated under the name “National Servicing Center,” have been issued cease and desist orders from both Oregon and Washington for defrauding mortgage customers.

The scammers find their targets by trolling public real estate web sites to see who’s behind on their mortgage or facing foreclosure.

“They know when people are in trouble, they know when they can’t afford it, they know when they’re behind in their mortgage,” says Steve Bernas of the Chicago Better Business Bureau.

Bernas says mortgage modification fraud is a perennial problem for customers who contact the Better Business Bureau.

“If they ask you for up front money for a loan modification — that’s what we would call the tip off to the rip off,” Bernas says.

Thomas-Reed says she would love to confront the scammers:

“I think I would lose my religion, I would tell him a thing or two because he has really destroyed my life.”

The telephone numbers listed for Direct Processing USA have been disconnected.  After the 2 Investigators contacted Chase Bank, they reached out to Thomas-Reed and are reviewing her request for a loan modification.

The Illinois Attorney General is also looking into this as a possible case of fraud.