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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Former Rockwood School Board member guilty of conflict

Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:18 Published in Local News

   The Missouri Ethics Commission says a former Rockwood School Board member has violated the state's conflict-of-interest law.  

   The commission found that over a two year period Steve Smith voted more than a dozen times on construction orders that allowed his employer, Glenn Construction to raise its fees on contracts with the school board.  

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Smith has been hit with a $10,000 fine, but if he pays within 45 days, the amount drops to $2,000.  If he violates the conflict-of-interest law again in the next two years, Smith would be on the hook for the other $8,000.  

   Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich had come to the same conclusion in his February audit of the Rockwood School District. 

   Smith served on the Rockwood Board of Education as a Glenn Construction employee between May 2010 and June 2012.

 

Sebelius faces lawmakers anew on health care law

Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:07 Published in National News

   WASHINGTON (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is returning to Capitol Hill for fresh questioning about the health care law.

   She'll be hearing Wednesday from senators with growing lists of concerns about President Barack Obama's crowning legislative achievement.

   Sebelius was due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee. Its chairman, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, was a chief author of the 2010 law. But even he has concerns about the balky Healthcare.gov website and the potential security risks it poses for consumers' private information.

   Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the panel's top Republican, is also worried about people whose insurers are dropping them because their current policies don't meet the law's higher requirements.

   Sebelius testified to a House committee last week and apologized for the problem-plagued startup of the program.

Ex-Israeli foreign minister cleared in graft trial

Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:02 Published in National News

   JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court on Wednesday found former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman innocent of all charges in a graft trial, clearing the way for the powerful hard-line politician to return to his post as the nation's top diplomat.

   The trial had threatened to reshape the makeup of the government. But in the end, Lieberman was handed a resounding victory that instantly raises his clout in a bitterly divided coalition.

   The verdict was delivered inside a closed courtroom, and minutes later, a jubilant Lieberman appeared outside.

   "This chapter is behind me. And I am focusing on the challenges ahead, and there are plenty of challenges," he said, claiming he had been persecuted by overzealous prosecutors for 17 years.

   Lieberman, an ally and sometime rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long been dogged by allegations of corruption. This case was the first time he had been accused of criminal behavior.

   Lieberman was charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly trying to advance the career of a former diplomat who relayed information to him about a separate criminal investigation into Lieberman's business dealings.

   Prosecutors said they respected the court's decision and would study it before deciding whether to appeal.

   Lieberman was forced to step down as foreign minister before parliamentary elections early this year to face the charges.

   Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's verdict, Lieberman refused to say whether he would return to the post.

   But he is widely expected to do so. Since the January election, Netanyahu has left the job open, saying he would only fill it after the verdict in Lieberman's case.

  Lieberman, who was born in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, is one of the most polarizing figures in Israeli politics. With a tough-talking message that has questioned the loyalty of Israel's Arab minority, criticized the Palestinians and confronted Israel's foreign critics, he has at times alienated Israel's allies while becoming an influential voice at home.

   During his stint as foreign minister, he pushed a series of legislative proposals that critics said were discriminatory against Israel's Arab minority, including a failed attempt to require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked. He also embarrassed Netanyahu by expressing contrary views to the government, including skepticism over the odds of reaching peace with the Palestinians.

   Before the January election, Lieberman led his nationalist Yisrael Beitenu into a merger with Netanyahu's Likud Party. But the alliance, meant to solidify a victory by Israel's hardline bloc, backfired and the combined list fared poorly.

   Lieberman is considering whether to break up the alliance. Such a move could increase his influence since he could potentially rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority.

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