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  • newMK newMK Mar 18, 1999 5:52 PM Flag

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    I don't know Charlie Thomas, but know of him.
    I've been reading his UF stuff for a long time and
    found it to be pretty objective. If worse comes to
    worst and UF fires him, it's their loss. Hope he got
    enough from PZN to thumb his nose at his antagonists.
    Personally, I'm glad he's on our side.

    If he loses
    this hearing process, I guess the unions can chalk one
    up for themselves. The unions, of course, have set a
    wonderful example over the years of avoiding conflicts and
    pursuing fiscal prudence. In fact, the unions are so
    wonderful, I wish they would be more successful and take
    over the country, so the workers can give according to
    each one's ability, and we can all receive according
    to our need. Seems like that's been tried somewhere
    else.

    In all seriousness, I view any union victory as
    repugnant to market sensibilities. Sorry, I'm an unabashed
    (well, slightly bashed at PZN's current price)
    capitalist.

    SortNewest  |  Oldest  |  Most Replied Expand all replies
    • 04/21/1999
      KRTBN Knight-Ridder Tribune
      Business News: The Miami Herald

      University of
      Florida professor Charles Thomas, who helped guide

      Florida's entry into prison privatization and whose
      national report of
      industry trends analysts say can
      "greatly influence" the stock market, has
      earned a
      reputation the top expert in the field.

      But as his
      reputation has grown, so has his bankbook: The professor,
      a
      $84,000-per-year academic, also was on the
      payroll of a private
      corrections company, commanding
      a $3 million consulting fee for a
      January 1999
      merger involving Corrections Corporation of
      America.

      State records also show he owned an estimated
      $660,000 in stock in
      four private corrections
      companies and is a member of the board of
      directors for
      Prison Realty Corp., a real estate investment trust
      formed to
      provide financing for private corrections
      facilities.

      Complaints to the state Ethics Commission
      followed and last week,
      Thomas admitted to a conflict
      of interest between his work as a university

      researcher and his personal financial stake in the outcome
      of privatization
      efforts.

      In a signed
      document, he offered to halt his university research, pay
      a
      $2,000 fine and resign his position as director
      of UF's Private
      Corrections Project -- a
      research project financed with private donations
      from
      corrections companies -- in order to settle the
      complaints.

      "This is an appropriate settlement," said
      Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric
      Scott, who acted as
      prosecutor for the ethics commission in this
      case.'

      Five of Florida's adult prisons are privately run and
      87 percent of the
      juvenile justice system is run
      by private companies. The state's push
      toward
      privatization, touted as a cheaper alternative to state-run
      facilities,
      began in earnest in 1993, when the Legislature
      created the Correctional
      Privatization
      Commission.

      Mark Hodges, the commission's executive director,
      said the law creating
      the commission was written
      partly by Thomas, who then played a "very
      big" role
      in the first years of the commission.

      "In
      this state and every other state, he's been the one to
      record the
      changes in the private prison industry,"
      Hodges said. "He answered our
      questions, helped us
      understand what was going on the industry. His
      reports
      have been a clearinghouse of information."


      Thomas was employed by the commission as consultant from
      1994-97.
      Hodges said the commission ended his employment
      after the first ethics
      complaint was
      filed.

      The research project also was financed in part by
      donations from private
      corrections companies. Stock
      analysts interviewed by ethics investigators
      said that
      Thomas' industry predictions could "greatly influence"
      the stock
      market.

      Not every private
      corrections company was in Thomas' corner. George
      Zoley,
      chief executive officer of Wackenhut Corrections,
      called the
      professor's close financial relationship
      with CCA and others "most
      disturbing."

    • I know Dr. Thomas. He seems like a pleasant
      individual, but his views are definitely biased. That is not
      his fault. He profits from the proliferation of
      privatization. In that battle, there are different stakeholders.
      He should have no problem stepping away from his
      shield of public employment. As a public employee, he
      must remain impartial and not have certain contractual
      relationships with private interests. That rule doesn�t only
      apply to Thomas. Taxpayers shouldn�t be subsidizing
      profiteers that are operating under the guise of
      not-for-profit employment status.

      • 1 Reply to r7ualj
      • You have recently posted regarding two issues
        (one germane to PZN, one not)in stark shades of black
        and white. Unfortunately, things are not quite so
        simple, and you need to let a little gray or some gentle
        pastels into your thinking.

        Regarding the effect
        of escapes, nic is closer to fact than you. Putting
        all escapes into the category of Youngstown is a big
        mistake. From my remote vantage point, it appears that CCA
        was in over its head with Youngstown, or at best
        severly snake-bitten. Every successful business screws up
        at least once (remember GE and diamonds?). Yes,
        Youngstown affected the stock price and it should have,
        because there was financial consequence. There is no
        evidence that other incidents did. If in total these
        incidents indicate pervasive mismanagement, PZN will be
        further punished - first by the contracting agencies,
        then by the stock market. I don't believe it has
        reached that point. Again, avoiding such consequences is
        an incentive that public sector operators don't
        face.

        Issue 2 is Charlie Thomas. He championed
        privatization long before he received any money from the
        private sector. He became "the" expert - so much so that
        analysts still trusted his research even when told of his
        private compensation, which he received because of that
        experise and his bias toward privatization. I don't
        believe he's ever been in a position, while compensated
        by PZN, to award them a contract, if ever. And, in
        fact, is he any less conflicted than a government
        employee involved in awarding contracts to private
        entities or monitoring them who is paid by the state with
        which PZN supposedly competes? Or how about Janet Reno,
        who issued the investigatory report on Youingstown -
        isn't her boss somewhat beholden to union lobbyists who
        fight privatization every step of the way?

 
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