WHYY Radio Times (NPR Philadelphia) Report on the John S. Carter case

Phawker.com had a interesting report about several Philadelphia corruption cases including John S. Carter’s looting of the Independence Seaport Museum with contributions from Philadelphia Inquirer journalists Craig McCoy and John Shiffman.

The first 15 minutes focus on Carter case but the entire program is worth listening; especially some of the calls into the radio show. You can listen via the link above or here (few second delay to start):

"My Fair Share"

Those are John S. Carter words in a long, rambling, bizarre and sad letter he wrote to the court seeking leniency in his sentencing for looting the Independence Seaport Museum. (John S Carter Oct 17 2007 letter to court)

According to an article in today’s (Oct. 22, 2007) Philadelphia Inquirer (Seaport’s Carter asks for leniency), relatives have provided letters of support and the ex-museum head “can hardly believe” his own admitted criminality. Carter suffered a heart attack on Friday which has postponed his day in court.

According to the Inquirer, in the October 17,2007 letter, Carter’s claims:

  • Board members and donors used the museum’s resources to get boats for their own use, even docking them at their “private marinas.”
  • No-bid contracts went to the firms of board members for insurance, legal work, and a multimillion renovation job.
  • Board members used the museum to store their personal artworks and artifacts – and tapped the staff to care for them.

Justifying his criminal activity, Carter wrote “at some point I began to feel that I should be getting my fair share.”

Of course, these counter accusations are from an admitted criminal on his way to jail so they should be taken with a grain of salt.

I’ve written about this before (here, here, here, here, here and here with thankfully some good news here). As a former nonprofit CEO, it blows my mind that a nonprofit executive could engage in such self dealing for so long. I have wondered where the museum board and senior staff were when all of this was going on; especially since the museum had been under federal investigation since 2004. (Seaport Museum Finances on the Rocks – Inquirer – March 21, 2004). According to his letter to the court, Carter claims to have continued to receive sizable bonuses as recent as December 2006 which if true would seem to indicate that the board was “asleep at the wheel” as he claims. I have never been and hope never to be involved in a federal investigation but I can’t comprehend how the Independence Seaport Museum was embroiled in one since at least 2004 and all of this was still going on.

This is truly a sad story. But it’s also a valuable one to anyone interested in studying leadership.

I hope that the new executive director, Lori Dillard Rech, is able to navigate the Independence Seaport Museum through this unfortunate squall and chart a proper course for the future. Godspeed.

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Ship shortage pushes up price of raw materials (Wall Street Journal)

Bulk Carrier - Sabrina_I

Robert Guy Matthews wrote an interesting Page One article for today’s Wall Street Journal, Ship Shortage Pushes Up Price of Raw Materials (subscription required).

The article sites increased demand for ships from booming manufacturing economies in China, India and other developing nations. This has caused the cost of raw materials transportation to escalate significantly.

The average price of renting a ship to carry raw materials from Brazil to China has nearly tripled to $180,000 a day from $65,000 a year ago. In some cases, ocean shipping can be more expensive than the cargo itself. Iron ore, for example, costs about $60 a ton, but ship owners typically are charging about $88 a ton to transport it from Brazil to Asia.

The article also cites traffic jams in port facilities around the world has lead to significant delays in loading and unloading ships which in turn can cause increased transportation costs.

Even when ships are available to carry the cargo, inadequate port facilities can cause delays, driving up the cost of shipments. At Brazilian ports, ships often wait offshore for as long as two weeks for their turn to load or unload, like airplanes sitting on a runway waiting for a gate.

Brazil isn’t the only source of bottlenecks. As of last week, 131 vessels were waiting to pick up or unload coal and iron ore at Australia’s main ports, according to the Global Ports Congestion Index, which tracks wait times world-wide.

Most American’s simply don’t understand or appreciate how much of what they purchase and consume every day is still dependent on maritime transportation.

Photo credit: Nate Sandel ©  2004

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Lassoing Polar Bears over at Tugster

One of my favorite bloggers is Will over at tugster. If you have any interest in maritime culture, you MUST read his blog everyday. tugster does a masterful job of poetically chronicling maritime life in New York Harbor and beyond.

Earlier this year I got the correct answer for one of his maritime mysteries. That meant that I could propose my own. Well, it took me a little while but get over there and check out Relief Crew 6. Good luck!

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"I love to Fish"

Bush signing striped bass protection President Bush visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD where he signed an Executive Order protecting striped bass and red drum fish.

“The Vice President tells me there’s a lot of fine fishing here, and I’m looking forward to going out and trying to catch some. I love to fish. And the good news there’s a lot of good fishing here is because the Secret Service won’t let me go hunting with him.”

White House Press Release.

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“The striped bass — I don’t know if our citizens follow the striped bass, but it’s a good fish to catch. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also a good fish to eat. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough to catch as well as enough to eat.”

Does anyone else see the irony of the President going fishing after signing and Executive order protecting fish? Hmm.

(both photos from the White House website)

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Superyacht stalkers (Wall Street Journal)

Megayacht Octopus

Today’s Wall Street Journal (Oct. 19, 2007) has an interesting article about networks that keeps tabs on some of the largest yachts in the world despite their owners interest in preserving privacy. Stalkers of the High Seas was written by Robert Frank. (subscription required)

Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, is famously private, especially when it comes to his 414-foot yacht, Octopus. His crew members have to sign confidentiality agreements, he has rarely if ever permitted the media to photograph the boat, and he prefers to sail in the world’s most remote waters.

Yet anyone visiting the Web site yachtspotter.com can find a wealth of information about Octopus. They learn that it spent the summer in Micronesia before motoring to Australia, South Africa and Barbados. Two weeks ago, the site says, Octopus was anchored off Bermuda. Yachtspotter.com also has candid photographs of the ship. One shows it, with a helicopter on deck, sailing alongside Mr. Allen’s other megayacht, Tatoosh, off the coast of France. Another depicts the craft leaving the Antibes Yacht Club in France at sunset.

The article cites a number of web sites including shipspotters.com, yachtforums.com and superyachttimes.com. Cruising these sites can be hours of fun (and frustration) thinking about how the toys of the super rich. According to ShowBoats International magazine, more than 370 yachts 120 feet or longer are under contract or construction, up from 188 in 2003. There are now 23 yachts on order longer than 250 feet. According to Showboats, yachts in the 200 to 250 foot range can cost upward of $1 million a meter to build. The current big spender on this super luxury item are Russians, followed by Saudis, Europeans and Americans.

One can only dream!

Wikipedia – Yacht Octopus

You HAVE to check this out this amazing PDF about Paul Allen’s megayacht Octopus!

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