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tv   NBC Bay Area We Investigate  NBC  February 1, 2016 12:00am-12:31am PST

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male announcer: you're watching an nbc bay area news special. tonight we investigate trophy hunters bringing black market animals into the united states. david hayes: there's really very little scrutiny of these animals coming in at all. announcer: and many of these endangered animals came through the port of san francisco. bigad shaban: are inspectors able to check every sport-hunted trophy that comes through here? ann-marie holmes: no, not even close. announcer: plus, questionable spending by a bay area community college chancellor. vicki nguyen: did you charge alcohol to the district credit card? ron galatolo: i'm not quite too sure. announcer: vicki nguyen investigates whether buying mojitos poolside in vegas and springing for a $100 bottle of wine are breaking the rules. female: very difficult to explain. announcer: but first, millions of dollars worth of big-ticket items missing from a bay area government-run hospital. paul lorenz: first of all, i have to say
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that we take this very seriously. announcer: and you, the taxpayer, pay for it. [music] announcer: here's nbc bay area investigative reporter bigad shaban. bigad: thank you for joining us. for the next 30 minutes, we investigate, exposing stories, uncovering issues, and holding government accountable. we begin with missing medical equipment, millions of dollars worth, paid for by taxpayers. we obtained inventory records from santa clara valley medical center, which revealed hundreds of items, including pricey medical equipment, have gone missing. our investigative unit combed through stacks of documents to see what was lost and never found. announcer: valley medical center in san jose, or vmc, is the county hospital for santa clara, so it's mostly funded by taxpayers, a total of $1.2 billion each year, or 83% of the hospital's budget. but we discovered vmc and its clinics have a track record
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of losing track of their own uipment. records we obtained from santa clara county show over the last 5 years, 383 items were reported as missing. heart monitors, office furniture, microscopes, even an lcd projector all listed as utl, or unable to locate. and the county recorded the total purchase price for those items at over $11.8 million. paul: first of all, i have to say that we take this very seriously. bigad: paul lorenz is the hospital's ceo, and agreed to sit down with us, along with his boss, jeff smith, the county executive for santa clara. jeff smith: we found that we really had a broken inventory system. bigad: these are items that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and there's no record of where they are. how do you justify that? jeff: you know, i was as you are, and as your viewers are, concerned how much of that $11 million was really because something was misplaced, and how much of it was
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because of sloppy processes. bigad: what happens if you don't have good record-keeping? chuck schutz: you lose things. announcer: chuck schutz says it's a basic principle you learn as a business owner. his used electronics warehouse is 27,000 square feet worth of, well, weird stuff. that's the name of his business, which sells everything from laptop hard drives and high-priced medical equipment to whatever this thing is. bigad: even in the midst of all this clutter, and pardon the phrase here, even some junk, your employees can still find everything on your inventory. chuck: yeah. bigad: so, you can tell us where this is right now? spencer thompson: i can. bigad: we randomly picked this microscope from their online store. employee spencer thompson used the tag number to look up its exact location. spencer: aisle g, bay 6. announcer: and sure enough, he took us right to it. and there it is. but the kind of poor record-keeping that schutz says would have quickly forced his business to go out of business
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may have been in place for years at the county hospital in santa clara. jeff: the county, over 10 years of budget cuts, had cut away all of the administrative structure that's needed to do an appropriate inventory. we're talking about hundreds of thousands of items. bigad: do you know if taxpayer dollars could have been wasted because of poor practices at the county hospital? jeff: because we had a system that was not very accurate, we can't say that with 100% accuracy. announcer: smith believes some older items may have been thrown out or donated by vmc staff, who failed to notify the county. bigad: but isn't part of the problem that you actually can't say that for sure? because the very reason they're on that list is you have no record of where they are. jeff: well, that's part of the concern. announcer: lorenz also said the hospital found proof that many of the other items that went missing over the past 5 years were actually properly sold or thrown out by the hospital because they were broken or no longer needed. bigad: but just last year, there were items that were only
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5 years old or less that cost about $350 thousand. paul: i think i've been very clear that most of those items, if not all the items of more recent, have been located. bigad: after the interview, we asked for a list of those exact items, and found out that county could only account for just 29 pieces of equipment, which means 354 other items remain missing. and that lost equipment cost taxpayers $11.3 million. jeff goolsby: there was no consistency in the dollars that we're missing year to year. announcer: accountant jeff goolsby has spent the last 18 years helping hospitals keep track of equipment. he's based in central florida and has never worked in the bay area. to get his unbiased, expert opinion, we showed him the records we obtained from the hospital. jeff: in years that were in certain cases double the previous year, that's certainly something that i would say warrants an investigation by senior management. announcer: we obtained internal memos from 2009 that
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show county leaders knew the medical center had a large amount of missing items even back then, and provided valley medical center recommendations to improve that vmc has agreed to implement. the county even promised that the missing list would decrease substantially in the coming years. and that was 6 years ago. jeff: it's going to take some time to continue to fix it, and it's going to take more resources, more attention to detail on a day-to-day basis. announcer: two years ago, vmc started attaching these high-tech tags to more than 2,700 pieces of equipment so staff can now track their locations. the medical center also hired someone to oversee the hospital's inventory, in hopes of cutting down the list of missing items. paul: we're down to 70 items on the current list, and we expect that number to continue to drop. announcer: that list of 70 missing items this year is down from the 162 last year. but it's still more missing items than were reported in 2013 and 2012.
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jeff: that's why we've been so vigorously working on changing the process. bigad: valley medical center estimates that by the time some of the items went missing, their value depreciated so much, they were no longer worth anything. but we discovered half of the items went missing within just 10 years of when they were purchased. announcer: a bay area community college chancellor questioned over his district expenses, which included credit-card charges for martinis, mojitos, and other alcoholic drinks. ron: i didn't buy mojitos in las vegas, i'm sorry. announcer: but receipts submitted to the district show otherwise. and that's not the only questions investigative reporter vicki nguyen has for the chancellor.
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college district, ron galatolo. he receives 42,000 students at kenyatta skyline
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in the college of san mateo. investigative reporter vicki nguyen started looking into expenses on the chancellor's credit card and found questionable spending. and it all started from a tip centering around a sports car the chancellor was spotted driving and storing on campus. vicki: she's a beauty, a replica of a 1950s porsche spyder. these photos, sent to the investigative unit, show the car parked in a building on the college of san mateo campus. it appears a temporary dmv registration was taped the windshield. a closer look appears to show the car was sold to the san mateo county community college district. male: the chancellor, the chancellor, he was the one driving the car. vicki: this person asked to be disguised out of fear of retaliation. he says chancellor ron galatolo regularly drove the car, but no one knows why it was stored here. male: you have this porsche just sitting by itself in an abandoned building. it's just something's up. i mean, maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg. vicki: he was right.
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we requested a list of the cars owned by the college district. turns out this car wasn't on that list. we weren't able to independently verify the photos, but we tracked the vin on the tag back to one of the district's leased cars, this hyundai sonata. we'll get to the car in a moment. but first, we went through 3 years of expenses charged to the district's credit cards and paid for by the public. we found chancellor galatolo, who makes $304 thousand a year, charged hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol during business meals and trips, even though the district's policy clearly says that's prohibited. female: pretty difficult to explain. vicki: lisa keegan served as the state superintendent in arizona for 7 years, and she's the senior policy adviser on education for senator john mccain. she says it's a common policy to ban the purchase of booze on a public credit card. that doesn't mean leaders can't purchase their own drink with dinner, or pay for a client's drink. it just can't be with public funds. lisa keegan: i think alcohol is restricted because the public is conflicted about it, and i think that's fair.
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vicki: many of galatolo's receipts were not itemized, which also appears to violate the rules. it was only after we dug up the original receipts that we found more. two mojitos from the poolside bar in vegas. a $100 bottle of wine plus several glasses of wine during a $400 dinner in san diego. in riverside, a $57 bottle of wine. and beers in the bay area and vietnam. but the biggest receipt we uncovered, a meal with a $978 tab at the mon ami gabi in las vegas, where mr. galatolo charged 8 french martinis and 8 glasses of wine at a staff dinner for 14. the district also paid for other meals, but galatolo didn't submit detailed receipts, so we don't know whether or not he bought alcohol. we also found the chancellor regularly dines on the district dime at pricey restaurants, including left bank, the vacci, and town. compare that with expenses we reviewed for other bay area college leaders, who have meetings at fast-casual
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restaurants, even one at mcdonalds. and we found no other records showing those leaders bought booze with public money. hi, vicki with nbc bay area news. how are you? ron galatolo: very good. vicki: good. did you charge alcohol to the district credit card? ron: i'm not quite too sure. vicki: we asked the chancellor for an interview to discuss his expenses. he said he'd only talk with us during a live, unedited broadcast, so we agreed. ron: i'm telling you, it must be a pretty slow news day at nbc bay area as well. vicki: but after two business days and no response, we caught up with the chancellor before a public board meeting and showed him the receipts we uncovered. ron: i didn't buy mojitos in las vegas, i'm sorry. vicki: but here they are, two mojitos clearly charged to galatolo's room, then submitted to the district for payment. ron: if i bought those, i guarantee you then they were reimbursed. vicki: the chancellor has not produced any proof he reimbursed the district for any of his alcohol purchases. and listen closely. in the span of less than a minute, the chancellor says three different things. first, yes, he understands district rules.
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vicki: an employee is not authorized to use a procurement card for personal purchases. ron: absolutely. and that is--and that is true. and that is true. vicki: then he didn't know what the rules were. ron: i don't know if this is actually our current policy with regard to that as well too. vicki: this policy that was in effect in march of 2014? ron: well, over 2 years ago. vicki: that is when your purchases were made. ron: i'm just saying i don't know the timing. i'll look at the timing, and look and see. vicki: and finally, no, he didn't know the policy. vicki: were you aware of this policy before we showed it to you? ron: no, i was not aware of that policy before you showed it to me. vicki: confusing? not for these students. male: but he can do what he wants. female: i feel like people in power, like, abuse their power. female: he should get fired. vicki: that's up to the board of trustees. they oversee the chancellor. the rules say the card may be revoked if used to buy alcohol. and habitual misuse of the card will subject the employee to discipline. but board president patricia miljanich refused to answer our questions, emailing instead to say, quote, "all the expenditures made by the chancellor are within
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the general parameters of what the board expects of the chancellor. i also believe that my colleagues on the board would agree." lisa: if we asked that in a public meeting, would everybody go, "oh, sure, you make $300 thousand, but sure, charge us for your bottle of wine at dinner." the public doesn't generally say that's okay. ron: these things are absolutely petty. vicki: galatolo says the meal at the mon ami was a celebration for staff, and he insists he didn't drink. ron: well, i don't know if they bought drinks or not, but i did not buy drinks for myself for consumption. vicki: as for that porsche replica, galatolo said it belongs to a friend. vicki: do you know why there was a registration taped in the windshield that belonged to a district vehicle? ron: no, i don't know anything about that either, i'm sorry. vicki: does that make any sense to you that-- ron: makes no sense to me whatsoever. i allowed a friend to use the vehicle here while they were getting it actually registered. male: i have to pay for my parking. vicki: how important is it for public leaders, especially of public institutions, for them to be careful and cautious about how they spend public dollars? lisa: nothing is more important probably. because at the end of the day, we kind of use the way you use
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money as proxy for your character in the position. bigad: the chancellor says he's proud of his work at the district. you should note this is the same district that just got a $388 million bond to upgrade facilities at the schools. announcer: coming up, it's a high-priced hobby, big game hunting. bigad: about how often do you get lions like that? ann-marie: i would say probably about one a week. announcer: we investigate how many threatened species end up shipped to the us as trophies.
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endangered and threatened and shipped to the united states as animal trophies, and it's happening here in the bay area. we're talking about big game hunting, which came into the global spotlight after a minnesota hunter killed a protected lion in zimbabwe named cecil.
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but we discovered that killing lions for sport is generally allowed, even though populations are at historic lows. behind these crates are some of the most sought-after animals in africa. a blue wildebeest, an antelope, even a lion, they're all hunting trophies, legally shot and killed abroad for sport. ann-marie: where's the skull? announcer: we were granted rare access to join federal wildlife agents as they inspected trophy shipments coming into the port of san francisco. most are covered in pesticides to keep them from rotting, so the inspectors wear protective masks. ann-marie: he's got the buffalo. announcer: ann-marie holmes leads the team. ann-marie: for the people that want to go kill a lion and bring it home as a trophy, this is what we would see. it's been turned inside-out, so you can see across the top where the neck and the head go.
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and then you have the four feet. bigad: you can actually see the bullet hole right there. ann-marie: yes, on that side you can see the bullet hole. bigad: about how often do you get lions like this? ann-marie: i would say probably about one a week. announcer: we obtained more than 25,000 pages worth of federal records from the us fish and wildlife service, and discovered at least 1.2 million sport-hunted trophies had been imported into the united states over the past 15 years. that includes 4,900 elephants, which the us considers threatened; more than 6,000 leopards, also threatened; 513 rhinos, even more vulnerable since they're listed as endangered; and more than 7,200 lions. the federal government proposed listing them as threatened back in october of last year. but since then, 601 lions were killed abroad for sport and imported into the us as trophies, all legally. bigad: so, the fact that it may be endangered or threatened doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be hunted and brought back
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into the us as a trophy? ann-marie: correct. it just means that you're going to have a lot more paperwork and go through a lot more steps to be able to get those permits to bring it in. announcer: endangered and threatened animals are shipped to the us almost every other day. it's us policy to approve those shipments only if the foreign country allowing the hunting also has a conservation program in place to help strengthen that animal's overall population. some wildlife experts see it as a bizarre balancing act, while others view sport hunting as a financial tool to preserve wildlife. killing a single lion can cost hunters up to $71,000 dollars. across africa, sport hunting is estimated to bring in more than $200 million each year. david: and it's the trafficking more than the hunting that's the big issue. announcer: david hayes is a former deputy secretary for the department of the interior, and for 6 years oversaw the us fish and wildlife service and its duties in regulating the import of sport-hunted trophies under the clinton
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and obama administrations. david: if the funding that is used for sport hunting is then plowed back into protection of the habitat, then that can be a net benefit. bigad: have you found that money is always going to where it's intended to? david: well, that's a major question. it's tough because there's some fish and wildlife biologists sitting here in the united states, making decisions about what's going on over in africa. announcer: hayes says poachers capitalize on the limited oversight by routinely using sport hunting as a front to be able to kill wildlife and sell it on the black market. last year, the us government banned sport-hunted elephant trophies from zimbabwe and tanzania. david: it made that decision in part because they couldn't tell where the money was going. there was no sport hunting involved. it was essentially a massacre of elephants that was occurring. bigad: but with a limited staff, is it possible they could be missing other infractions that are happening?
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david: oh, certainly, it's certainly possible, yes. sure. michael stutton: gives us all a bad name. announcer: michael sutton is a former federal wildlife agent and past president of the california fish and game commission. bigad: how often do you think some of these sport-hunted trophies are coming into the us illegally? michael: i think it happens all the time. bigad: sutton is an avid hunter for food, but is now calling for a ban on hunting for trophies. michael: ordinarily, it's not even a wildlife inspector that looks at those trophies. it may be just a customs inspector, who looks and then makes sure they have the proper paperwork, and then they just come in. there's really very little scrutiny of these animals coming in at all. bigad: coming up, could big game hunting actually help some animals thrive? we investigate the claim from some scientists and trophy hunters when we come back.
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bigad: trophy-hunting supporters say the benefits extend far beyond just the thrill of the kill.
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here's that part of the story. jeffrey vaselow: so, i'll soak this overnight to rehydrate it so it's stretchy and pliable. bigad: jeffrey vaselow makes a living trying to bring back the dead. jeffrey: it has emotion, it's alive. bigad: he's a taxidermist just outside of san francisco, and has been mounting animal trophies for over 40 years. he's also a trophy hunter himself, and says the value hunting puts on animals means more money for wildlife reservations to breed more animals. jeffrey: hunting protects these populations, maintains the populations. without hunting, they would--they'll disappear. announcer: some scientists agree, and believe killing weaker, older, and more aggressive animals can actually help a species thrive. but hunters can't always identify those animals. in africa, only 20,000 lions are left. over the past decade, us hunters killed 760 lions.
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and about 13% of those trophies entered the us through the port of san francisco. bigad: are inspectors able to check every sport-hunted trophy that comes through here? ann-marie: no, not even close. i'd say at least 50% maybe. there's only four wildlife inspectors for the whole port of san francisco, oakland, and san jose, so we have to use our time wisely. announcer: but with some of the animals considered threatened or even endangered, some question whether killing wildlife truly is the best way to protect it. bigad: since our investigation first aired, the federal government has issued new guidelines aimed at restricting the number of trophy-hunting permits that are issued, including those for threatened and endangered animals. and just recently, the government officially placed lions under the protection of the endangered species act. now, if you have a story for us, call our tip line at 888-996-tips, or send an email to
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we thank you for watching. you're invited to join us regularly right here on nbc bay area. why? because we investigate. [music] [music] [music] cc by aberdeen captioning 1-800-688-6621
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hi, i'm sara gore, and this is open house. this week, luis ortiz from bravo's "million dollar listing new york" takes us on a tour of one of his hot properties. we're shining a spotlight on three amazing westchester homes, including one that's perfect for the equestrian enthusiast, plus an eclectic space in soho. but first, a california gem with ocean views. the main thing that defines truly great architecture is how a house unfolds when you walk through it. [theme music] welcome to open house. i'm coming to you from what's been dubbed billionaires row on west 57th street in manhattan. here on the 43rd floor of the much talked about tower 157, it's all about the views from these walls of glass.


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