AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

AJC Watchdog: Bad nursing homes, sex offenders, big-spending lobbyists and more investigations you missed

Folks getting back from spring break may have missed some important watchdog journalism. Here's a quick cheat sheet with links to more to help you get caught up.

Feds take aim at bad nursing homes

Georgia's nursing home industry is under new federal scrutiny, the result of investigations that exposed "barbaric" conditions for elderly residents.

A federal task will focus on nursing homes in about 50 Georgia counties. Georgia is home to one of 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces whose aim is to quickly identify and address poor and dangerous conditions.

You can read more about that effort here.

Law throws shade on government transparency

In the final moments of the 2016 legislative session, a handful of state lawmakers worked in conference to give themselves a less transparent method to disclose when they personally profit from state government contracts.

The language was added to Senate Bill 199 on the 40th and final day of the session after story published by the AJC and the Georgia News Lab revealed House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, failed to disclose $120,000 in state contracts on the one form people would go to for just such information. Instead of disclosing the payments on his personal financial disclosure, Burns listed the contracts on something called a Business Transaction Report, which although public is less familiar to most Georgians.

Burns defended the disclosure, but legislators in the conference committee changed the law just to be sure. Read more about the late night shenanigans here. 

Catholic church pressured to name names

A victims' rights group is pushing the Catholic Archdiocese in Atlanta to publish a list of priests and nuns accused of sexual molestation on the church's website.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says publishing such a list will reveal names not currently public and encourage other victims to come forward, but Archbishop Wilton Gregory seems unwilling to do so. Gregory did not comment on the demands, but his office released a statement touting the archdiocese's safety record.

Read more on the SNAP effort here.  

Lobbyists, lawmakers bring gift spending back up

Under duress, state lawmakers passed reforms in 2013 to limit the gifts they could receive from registered lobbyists, but the effect is wearing off.

Last year, lobbyist spending rose for the first time since 2011 and figures for the first quarter of 2016 show another increase in the making. Is it time for another round of reforms?

Read more in the AJC Watchdog here. 

Break down the Justin Ross Harris trial with the AJC

Finally, jury selection is under way in the murder trial of Justin Ross Harris, who is accused of intentionally killing his 22-month-old son by leaving him for hours in his overheated SUV.

The horrific nature of the boy's death has captivated people across the nation and beyond, but the most in-depth coverage you will find is with the AJC. Get behind the story with "Breakdown," the podcast on the Harris case reported and narrated by legal affairs reporter Bill Rankin.

You can download the first two episodes of "Breakdown" here. If you like it, try Season 1 of "Breakdown" at the same link. All seven episodes are available for download.

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About the Author

Joyner’s column, AJC Watchdog, investigates topics in your community and Georgia.