Category Archives: BGA News

BGA Loses a Best Friend, John J. White

John J. White (1919 - 2011)

I am saddened to share news that the BGA lost one of its best friends, John White. John was a few months short of his 50th anniversary as a BGA Board member when he died last week. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes with John in his final days, and I know he heard and understood my heartfelt expression of gratitude for his passionate commitment to the BGA over nearly half a century.

You can read about John’s remarkable life—he epitomizes the “Greatest Generation”—and find the details of the memorial service planned for Friday, in this death notice, found here.

John: We miss you already.

Andy Shaw
BGA President & CEO

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Announcing 2011 Driehaus Foundation Investigative Award Winners

The BGA congratulates the winners of The 2011 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting. To learn more about the Awards and to see previous winners, visit our website www.bettergov.org.

First Place Award
Bob Segall, Bill Ditton & Cyndee Hebert
“Reality Check: Where are the Jobs?”
WTHR-TV Indianapolis

During the worst recession of our lifetime, Indiana’s Economic Development Corporation boasted about creating 100,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in economic development deals for the state. After the state denied records requests, three journalists at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis decided they had to see it for themselves to believe it. The crew hit the road, logging 8,000 miles visiting Indiana’s economic success stories. What did they find? Abandoned factories, empty cornfields, and laid-off workers! This 18-month investigation exposed how state leaders inflated Indiana’s job numbers, and how companies that received publicly funded tax incentives had actually laid off hundreds of workers. The investigation and the creation of a massive job-numbers database prompted reforms and demanded transparency.

Second Place Award
Mick Dumke & Ben Joravsky
“The Shadow Budget: Who Wins Daley’s TIF Game”
Chicago Reader

In Second Place, a piece about a hidden budget in Chicago worth more than $500 million dollars a year. There was no public budget for the TIF Fund. No itemized expenses. So when reporters got a tip that a secret ward-by-ward budget existed, they jumped on it. For the first time ever, the city’s secret slush fund was exposed. The Chicago Reader investigation revealed that 60 percent of the money raised through the anti-poverty TIF program was actually spent in the some of the city’s wealthiest communities.

Last year, Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader won third place for their investigation into the privatization of Chicago’s Parking Meters. This year, they take home second place for “The Shadow Budget: Who Wins Daley’s TIF Game.”

Third Place Award
Brian Brueggemann & Mike Fitzgerald
“Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales”
Belleville News-Democrat

In Third Place, the story of an elected official who allegedly cashed-in on hard times.

Imagine this, the recession hits and you can’t afford to pay your property taxes. An investor or tax buyer comes along and purchases your delinquent tax debt. You pay a penalty interest rate. The legal limit is 18 percent interest. But in Madison County, Illinois, hundreds of property owners were paying as much as 100-percent interest. In 2009, that added up to $2 million dollars in interest to tax buyers. Conveniently, those same tax buyers contributed heavily to the campaign of the man who arranged the tax sales… Madison County Treasurer, Fred Bathon. As a direct result of “Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales,” the US Attorney for Southern Illinois and the Illinois Attorney General are investigating.

Meritorious Award for Commitment to Investigative Journalism
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For the first time, we honor a single media outlet for dedicating a significant amount of resources to in-depth investigative journalism. While many news organizations have limited or abandoned investments in investigative reporting, this year the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel submitted three notable entries by five journalists:

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Mourning One of our Own

Dan Sprehe, BGA Chief Investigator, 2004-2008

The BGA lost a good friend this week. Dan Sprehe, our former chief investigator, passed away Tuesday morning from complications of diabetes. He was 32.

Dan worked at the BGA from 2004 to 2008 and single-handedly restarted the dormant Investigative unit. Dan managed the BGA’s website and was a founder of the Payroll Database, which has become the most popular section on the site. The BGA will greatly miss Dan.

Here is a sampling of Dan’s work at BGA:
BGA/ABC7 Investigation into Stickney
BGA Investigation into Chicago Alderman Violating Illinois Open Meetings Act
BGA/ABC7 Investigation into Cook County Sheriff’s Gambling on the Job

After the BGA, Dan worked for the City of Chicago’s Office of Inspector General, handling the agency’s website along with media inquiries. In the investigative realm, his technical and analytical expertise provided the IGO with critical support in mining information from city databases.

“I was thrilled when we were able to hire Dan at the Inspector General’s Office because I had been impressed with his work and reputation at the BGA,” former Inspector General David Hoffman said. “Dan was an excellent writer, had very good judgment, and — more than anything — was passionate about exposing abuse of the public trust by government officials.” Even when he was at the IGO, Dan always returned calls from BGA employees to help with questions or offer advice.


In memory of Dan, donations can be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

There will be a visitation from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at St. Anne Church, 120 N. Ela St. in Barrington. A funeral mass will follow, with burial at St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Palatine.

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