Friday, March 31, 2017


TriData must have thought it hit the jackpot when it got the Virginia Tech contract. Take a look at the hourly rates the state was willing to pay the company. The figures are taken from an August 17, 2009 letter from Mark E. Rubin, Counselor for the Governor to Philip Schaeman, President of Tridata. When you look at the letter you see that the name Philip Schaeman is crossed out and “Phil” is written in by hand—implying a degree of familiarity between Rubin and Schaeman. The seriousness of the issue at hand and the magnitude of the crime, coupled with the fact that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars were being spent, dictated professional correspondence—not casualness. Here is the pay scale:

“TriData’s fee . . . will be based upon the applicable standard government hourly rates for TriData personnel performing the services as follows:

  • Corporate Program Director                                                $230.00
  • Deputy Program Director                                                    $150.00
  • Senior Program Specialist                                                   $  86.00
  • Program Specialist                                                               $  55.00
  • Intern                                                                                   $  40.00
  • Senior Communications & Media Specialist                      $125.00
  • Senior Public Safety specialist                                            $137.00
  • Public Safety Specialist                                                       $  80.00
  • Senior Specialty Consultant                                                 $323.00”

It is a generally accepted legal principle that when money exchanges hands in a business relationship, the person or organization receiving the money owes primary allegiance to the person or organization paying the money. Indeed, the original letter to TriData, dated April 26, 2007, cited the company’s past working relationship with the chairman of the panel, Col. Gerald Massengill, as reason for hiring TriData.

The breakdown of expenses paid to TriData is troubling. For example, what is a “Senior Communications & Media Specialist?’ Isn’t that a public relations officer? Why did TriData need to pay a public relations person $125.00 an hour and only pay a “Public Safety Specialist” $80.00 an hour? The report is all about public safety on our campuses, yet TriData and the state of Virginia apparently were willing to spend more on a spin-doctor than on a safety expert.

The letter lists a total of nine categories of TriData officers who will be involved in the report. The rate of pay is highly questionable. For example, the Corporate Program Director was being paid $230.00 an hour. Why was someone called a “Senior Specialty Consultant” being paid $323.00 and just what is a “Senior Specialty Consultant?” Did the state agree to such a pay scale without asking for an explanation of who was getting this money and what specifically he or she would do to earn the money?

You have to ask yourself, was the State of Virginia and Virginia Tech buying the report and conclusions they wanted? (To be continued)

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Virginia was apparently in such a hurry to get the report on the Tech massacre out, that it made no provision for errors, omissions, and corrections. This glaring oversight by then-Governor Kaine and then-Attorney General McDonnell (and their legal staffs) may be explained by the cozy relationship that exists between the state and TriData. TriData was already doing business with Virginia when it was hired to write the Virginia Tech report. The conflict of interest is readily apparent—the state of Virginia hired a company that already relied on part of its income coming from contracts with the state, to write a report analyzing whether or not the state’s largest university was in any way at fault (and thereby liable) in the massacre on April 16, 2007. It is stupefying that two career lawyers, then-Governor Kaine and then-Attorney General McDonnell, did not see this point.

Remember, TriData has had at least one other contract with the state of Virginia and probably will be bidding for more. Did Governor Kaine’s office look at other qualified individuals or firms? Or, did Virginia’s government go with a firm with whom the state already had business relations and on whom the state could count to come up with the right analysis?

For their part, it is hard to believe that TriData would want to kill the cash cow (Virginia) by writing a critical report. Indeed, a report that would seem to exonerate the state’s largest university and the school’s president from any wrongdoing might endear TriData to the power elite in Richmond. Even if TriData had not previously done business with the state, they might have been angling for future contracts. Then-Governor Kaine and then-Attorney General McDonnell should have bent over backwards to ensure there was no cloud of suspicion hanging over the firm the state chose to write the Virginia Tech report. That they did not, and in fact paid yet more money for corrections to a report that should have been above reproach the first time, gives the worst possible impression.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


A comparison of the Governor’s Columbine Review Commission Report with then-Governor Kaine’s report of the Virginia Tech shooting produces some startling revelations pointing to a cover up in Virginia.

To begin with, the state of Colorado did not pay a private consulting firm that does business with Colorado to write the “official” report of the Columbine tragedy—thereby removing the specter of conflict of interest that hangs over TriData’s Virginia Tech report. The Governor’s Columbine Review Commission, members of which were not paid, was tasked with “the responsibility for writing, editing and assembling the Commission report for public release.”

The first section of the first chapter of the Colorado report is entitled, “Investigative Obstructions Encountered by the Commission.” The Colorado Governor, the report asserts, “… anticipated that it (the commission) would receive full cooperation from all governmental agencies that responded or were involved in the events surrounding the deadly assault made at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. As a consequence, the Commission was not empowered to issue subpoenas …“

The report then goes on to describe a litany of obstructionist behavior—much of which was repeated in Virginia. The Colorado report describes officers providing the Commission with only a “minimal description” of the Sheriff’s response to the events at Columbine High School.”

The Colorado report is hard-hitting in describing the lack of cooperation. This lack of cooperation is spelled out in pages seven and eight of the report:

“Although data bearing on the assaults perpetrated by Klebold and Harris at Columbine High School, including the pre-massacre tapes obtained by the Sheriff’’s office during its later investigations, were made available to Time Magazine, local news media and other groups and individuals, Sheriff John Stone repeatedly denied the Commission access to those materials, on the ground that civil litigation was pending against the sheriff and other Jefferson County Officials, commenced by victims and their families; it has been asserted that several of the defendants would be prejudiced in the course of that litigation were they to provide the data sought by the Commission. Throughout the course of the Commission’s work, Sheriff Stone and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office have been singularly uncooperative in assisting the Commission in obtaining the factual information it required, and thereby forced the Commission to acquire its facts through a series of hearings and in the course of a lengthy investigation. In short, the Commission has been unable to garner significant testimony and other relevant data from Sheriff Stone and the Sheriff’s Office, the principal law enforcement agency in Jefferson County. When the Governor assigned the Commission its duties, he did not anticipate that information would be withheld which would assist the Commission in completing an accurate and analytical review of the events at Columbine on April 20, 1999, so that the requested recommendations could be made to the Governor.”

Compare the Colorado report’s handling of lack of cooperation on the part of law enforcement with the way TriData touched on the same subject.

“… due to the sensitive nature of portions of the law enforcement investigatory records and due to law enforcement’s concerns about not setting a precedent with regard to the release of raw information from investigation files, the panel received extensive briefings and summaries from law enforcement officials about their investigations rather than reviewing those files directly. …”

The Addendum asserts that Cho should not have been allowed to buy a gun, yet his name was not on the list prohibiting gun sales. Whose responsibility is it to put those names on the list? Law enforcement. The panel was never allowed to look at the actual documents pertaining to this vital aspect of the case.

Page seven of The Addendum, addresses this point glossing over the obstructionism:

“Finally, with respect to Cho’s firearms purchases, the Virginia State Police, the ATF, and the gun dealers each declined to provide the panel with copies of the applications Cho completed when he bought his weapons or of other records relating to any background check that may have occurred in connection with those purchases. The Virginia State Police, however, did describe the contents of Cho’s gun purchase applications to members of the panel and its staff.”

Then-Governor Kaine and then-Attorney General McDonnell bought this obstructionism hook, line, and sinker. They never said a word.

When TriData’s initial report was presented to Governor Kaine in late August 2007, at a cost of over $600,000 the problems with the document were readily apparent. The number of revisions, clarifications, and additions to the timeline alone was, by my count, over 20. That number adds to the indictment of the initial report.

In fact, the third and final version of the report is still riddled with errors. TriData was paid another $75,000 to make corrections. Not all the corrections were made. TriData should have been fined $75,000 for sloppy work, not rewarded.

In the final analysis, the state of Virginia bought and paid for the report it wanted, a report that would mitigate the changes of litigation against the school or state. (To be continued)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


The process of producing the report was flawed at every turn. TriData was apparently chosen because it had done a report for the Department of Homeland Security on Columbine. The problem is the Columbine report is something very different. The first two sentences on page one of TriData’s Columbine report make that clear. “This report is an analysis of the fire service and emergency medical services (EMS) operations and the overall response to the assault on Columbine High School at Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. Incident command, special operations, and mass casualty emergency medical services are featured.” Tridata’s work at Columbine was not an analysis of the crime itself.

The Virginia Tech report was never meant to be an analysis of the fire service and emergency medical services. The Virginia Tech report was intended to be a far broader document—an analysis of the worst campus shooting in this nation’s history. The following is a direct quote from the “The Addendum”—the name given the final version of the Governor’s Review Panel Report on Virginia Tech. The quote is taken from Governor Kaine’s executive order directing the panel to accomplish the following:

1.         “Conduct a review of how Seung Hui Cho committed these 32 murders and multiple additional woundings, including without limitation how he obtained his firearms and ammunition, and learn what can be learned about what caused him to commit these acts of violence.”

2.      “Conduct a review of Seung Hui Cho's psychological condition and behavioral issues prior to and at the time of the shootings, what behavioral aberrations or potential warning signs were observed by students, faculty and/or staff at Westfield High School and Virginia Tech. This inquiry should include the response taken by Virginia Tech and others to note psychological and behavioral issues, Seung Hui Cho's interaction with the mental health delivery system, including without limitation judicial intervention, access to services, and communication between the mental health services system and Virginia Tech. It should also include a review of educational, medical, and judicial records documenting his condition, the services rendered to him, and his commitment hearing.”

3.         “Conduct a review of the timeline of events from the time that Seung Hui Cho entered West Ambler Johnston Dormitory until his death in Norris Hall. Such review shall include an assessment of the response to the first murders and efforts to stop the Norris Hall murders once they began.

4.       “Conduct a review of the response of the Commonwealth, all of its agencies, and relevant local and private providers following the death of Seung Hui Cho for the purpose of providing recommendations for the improvement of the Commonwealth's response in similar emergency situations. Such review shall include an assessment of the emergency medical response provided for the injured and wounded, the conduct of post-mortem examinations and release of remains, on-campus actions following the tragedy, and the services and counseling offered to the victims, the victims' families, and those affected by the incident. In so doing, the Review Panel shall to the extent required by federal or state law: (i) protect the confidentiality of any individual's or family member's personal or health information; and (ii) make public or publish information and findings only in summary or aggregate form without identifying personal or health information related to any individual or family member unless authorization is obtained from an individual or family member that specifically permits the Review Panel to disclose that person's personal or health information.”

5.         “Conduct other inquiries as may be appropriate in the Review Panel's discretion other- wise consistent with its mission and authority as provided herein.”

6.         “Based on these inquiries, make recommendations on appropriate measures that can be taken to improve the laws, policies, procedures, systems and institutions of the Commonwealth and the operation of public safety agencies, medical facilities, local agencies, private providers, universities, and mental health services delivery system.”

In other words, the Review Panel was tasked to review the events, assess actions taken and not taken, identify lessons learned, and propose alternatives for the future. The panel was intended to review Cho’s history and interaction with the mental health and legal systems and of his gun purchases. “The Review Panel was also asked to review the emergency response by all parties (law enforcement officials, university officials, medical responders and hospital care providers, and the Medical Examiner). Finally, the Review Panel reviewed the aftermath—the university’s approach to helping families, survivors, students, and staff as they dealt with the mental trauma and the approach to helping the university heal itself and function again.”

But if you look at the credentials of the head of TriData, Philip Schaenman, you find a man whose background is limited and does not include much in terms of the requirements as laid out by Governor Kaine. If you google Schaenman, one of the entries is entitled: “Fireman, Philip Schaenman.” His background includes fire administration and he is “known to the fire community for leading studies and research on first responder issues,” according to the Web site for TriData, whose products include titles such as “Fire in the United States” and “International Concepts in Fire Protection.” The question is, do you send a fireman to analyze mass murder? You certainly don’t send a policeman to analyze or put out a fire.

Indeed, the Columbine report is a better report than TriData’s effort on Virginia Tech, probably because it deals with an area that TriData knows something about—emergency responses by fire and medical services. The Columbine report never analyzes the warning signs or the actions of people in positions of authority prior to April 20, 1999, which was one of the principal mandates at Virginia Tech.

That said, there are sections of the Columbine report that do pertain to the Virginia Tech tragedy. Inexplicably, though, these sections are not sufficiently developed in the Tech report. For example, the Columbine report repeatedly refers to the importance of the Incident Command System (ICS) in responding to a crisis. While the Columbine report refers to ICS with reference to fire service personnel managing major incidents and crises, a major flaw at Virginia Tech was the poor management at the ICS-equivalent level.  Given the emphasis on the role of the ICS in the Columbine report, it is puzzling why TriData did not put greater emphasis on that aspect of the Virginia Tech report. There was mismanagement and poor decision-making on the part of Tech’s command structure after the double homicide at West Ambler Johnston—of that there is no doubt. This mismanagement contributed to the murder of 30 more people at Norris Hall nearly two and one-half hours later.  TriData never addresses this critical point, but both the Department of Education and a jury in Montgomery County, Virginia found Virginia Tech to be negligent.

The problem with the Virginia Tech report may, in fact, not be so much TriData, but then-Governor Kaine and then-Attorney General McDonnell. They apparently did not fully check out options other than TriData. For example, a far better model for the state of Virginia to follow would have been the 174-page report produced at the behest of Colorado Governor Bill Owens. (To be continued)