POPULAR NC SCHOOL ACCOUNTING FIRM JUST LOST $2 MILLION FRAUD VERDICT: An accountant whose firm audits Durham Public Schools' books, and whose separate consulting company has had contracts with some 50 other school systems, was hit with a $2 million fraud verdict last month and now faces a new lawsuit from his former business partners. Leon L. Rives' accounting company also audited three insurance companies that were taken over last year by the state over liquidity concerns. They're owned by Greg Lindberg, who goes to trial this week on a federal bribery charge. Among other things, Rives' former partners have accused him of pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from the firm and using it on trips to the Bahamas, Amsterdam and Disney World, plus private plane rentals, alimony payments and a $10,000 night at a Raleigh strip club. Those accusations, and others, appear in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Jay Sharpe and Aaron Patel, former small percentage partners at Rives & Associates.
REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES FOR NC SUPERINTENDENT WON'T OPPOSE VOUCHER PROGRAM: One of the most noticeable differences between candidates from both parties is their view on school choice, particularly the Opportunity Scholarship program that provides taxpayer money for lower-income families to attend private schools. The Republicans say they support school choice while also saying their primary job as superintendent would be to advocate for public schools. “I support the right of every parent to decide what’s in the best interest of their child,” Horn said at a candidate forum this month sponsored by the N.C. Parent Teacher Association, Public Schools First NC, the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and the N.C. League of Women Voters “I support the idea that no one thing works for everyone.” Truitt said parents know what’s best for their children, but she also called for balancing personal choice with the greater good. She said she would support capping the amount provided to the voucher program. All five Democratic candidates are opposed to the voucher program.
DURHAM FAMILIES BEGIN RETURNING TO MCDOUGALD TERRACE AFTER REPAIRS: Six households returned Friday to McDougald Terrace, Durham’s largest and oldest public housing complex, The Herald-Sun reported. Durham Housing Authority CEO Anthony Scott said he expects more tenants to move back next week. About 280 households have been staying at local hotels since Durham County officials reported in late December that residents were having breathing problems. The housing authority blamed the problems on old gas stoves, heaters and water heaters. Scott said all gas stoves will eventually be replaced by electric stoves. A neighborhood leader, Ashley Canady said she hopes the housing authority has made meaningful improvements to the 360-unit complex, which was built in the 1950s. “Right now, I’m just taking it in stride and hoping they’re doing the right thing,” said Canady, president of the McDougald Terrace resident council.
14 CORONAVIRUS-INFECTED CRUISE SHIP PASSENGERS FLOWN BACK TO U.S.: Fourteen Americans evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the illness but were allowed to board two chartered planes bound for quarantine on U.S. military bases. Their return almost doubles the number of confirmed cases, which previously stood at 15, of the new coronavirus in the United States. The 14 passengers tested positive for the virus after disembarking the cruise liner, which is moored off the Japanese port of Yokohama, but before boarding the planes. They were all asymptomatic so health authorities deemed them “fit to fly,” the State Department and the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday. A total of 328 Americans were evacuated on the two flights; all are due to go into quarantine for 14 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus, at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., or Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
BLOOMBERG IS PLAGUED BY THE GHOST OF HIS OWN PAST: For the past two months, Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has been lining up endorsements, adjusting its messages to voters and expanding its reach across the country with an eye toward the moment it knew would come: when Mr. Bloomberg, the 78-year-old multibillionaire and former mayor of New York, would no longer be an afterthought in the race but a prime target, and decades worth of impolitic and insensitive remarks — as well as problematic policy stances — would face renewed scrutiny. The excavation of Mr. Bloomberg’s past has accelerated as the former mayor’s unorthodox candidacy begins to appear more plausible. In just the past week four different sets of remarks have surfaced in which he demonstrates a lack of tact in dealing with questions of racial discrimination. Within 24 hours alone there were the comments on redlining and a second tape from 2015 in which he unapologetically defends stop-and-frisk policing in New York City’s minority neighborhoods — “Because that’s where all the crime is,” he said. He apologized for the practice in November, a week before he entered the presidential race. Dwight Smith, who works with the N.A.A.C.P. in Chattanooga and attended Mr. Bloomberg’s rally there, said he believed many black voters were focused more on the bigger-picture goal of beating President Trump than they were on blemishes in any candidate’s past. “Everybody makes mistakes,” Mr. Smith said. “And if you look at the mistakes Donald Trump has made versus the mistakes Mike Bloomberg has made, I think people are willing to let it go.” Not everyone, though. Benjamin Dixon, an African-American podcaster, has shared on Twitter Mr. Bloomberg’s previous comments supporting stop-and-frisk with the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist. That sort of criticism is indicative of the kind of resistance Mr. Bloomberg will most likely continue to encounter.