Political and Local Government news briefs

Staff Reports

Former City Employee Indicted on Numerous Felony Charges

On Thursday, March 1st, former City of Hilliard employee Heather H. Ernst was indicted on eight felony counts by the Franklin County Grand Jury resulting from the investigation into missing cash deposits from fees collected at the City’s two pools.

“Ms. Ernst abused her position of power to manipulate records and deceive the City’s Finance Department in order to benefit herself,” said Mayor Don Schonhardt. “Any violation of the public trust will result in that individual being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The investigation determined that the total daily cash proceeds from pool admission fees were not deposited in full by Ernst, and that she provided false information to the City to support the shortened or missing deposits. The investigation established that over a four-year period of time, Ernst stole approximately $540,000 from the City’s pools.

Ms. Ernst was employed by the City of Hilliard for 24 years until her resignation on Nov. 1, most recently serving as the Deputy Director of the Recreation and Parks Department from 2012 to the date of her resignation. In this position, she was responsible for the daily accounting of cash intakes and daily cash deposits for the City’s two pools.

Charges against Ms. Ernst include: one count of theft, one count of theft in office, two counts of tampering with records and four counts of filing incomplete, false and fraudulent tax returns. The Hilliard Division of Police was aided in this investigation by the Ohio Auditor of State and the Ohio Department of Taxation.

The case will now move to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas for prosecution. No further comments will be made by the City of Hilliard at this time.

The Hilliard City Council issued the following media statement regarding the announcement of an indictment against former City of Hilliard Deputy Director Heather Ernst.

Hilliard City Council President Albert Iosue:

“Members of Hilliard City Council today were notified by County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien of the indictment of former City of Hilliard Deputy Director Heather Ernst on multiple felony charges. This situation is of deep concern to Council. We take this issue seriously and will take action to ensure anyone convicted of actions to deceive and defraud our city and citizens is held responsible and makes restitution.

“The indictment today is the result of an in-depth investigation by multiple agencies, and we extend our gratitude to all those involved, especially the Hilliard Police Department.

“We expect, as do the Hilliard residents we represent, that our city employees, especially those in positions of responsibility and authority, will serve our city in the most transparent, ethical manner.

The investigation established that approximately $540,000 was stolen from the city. We are committed to recovering what was stolen. Additionally, we will deploy resources to ensure there are clear lines of compliance and built-in protocols that strengthen our financial infrastructure moving forward. Maintaining the public’s confidence in our city operations is of the utmost importance to Council.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine Creates New Marsy’s Law ‘You Have Rights’ Card

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released a new tool designed to help law enforcement agencies inform crime victims about their rights under the new Marsy’s Law.

The palm-sized card was created by the Attorney General’s Office to be an accessible resource for law enforcement agencies and an easily understood tool for victims to help them understand their rights according to the new law.

When officers interact with a crime victim, they can provide the card, which outlines the victim’s rights and provides space to write down information like the date and an incident description. Any law enforcement agency across the state can request the cards by contacting the Attorney General’s Office Crime Victims Section: 614-466-5610.

“We believe that crime victims should be empowered with the information that these cards provide,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “This card is just one more tool Ohio’s law enforcement agencies can use to help victims.”

Marsy’s Law shields victims from offender harassment and empowers victims by giving them legally enforceable rights. Victims also have greater access to the criminal justice system. The amendment provides victims the following rights:

  • To be present and speak at all court proceedings
  • To receive notice when an offender is released or escapes
  • To offer input on plea deals
  • To receive timely notification of all court proceedings involving a victim’s case
  • To receive a prompt conclusion of the case without unreasonable delay
  • To refuse to answer questions made by the accused or the accuser’s representative
  • To receive money from the convicted for harm caused
  • To have access to information about services available to crime victims

Marsy’s Law, named for Marsy Nichols who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, was enacted by voters in November 2017 as an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution. California was the first state to adopt Marsy’s Law in 2008; Ohio is the sixth state to adopt the constitutional amendment, also known as the Ohio Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.

Information about Marsy’s Law and other services the Attorney General’s Office provides for victims of crime can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services webpage.

Husted Declares March as “Women-Owned Business” Month

COLUMBUS – Secretary of State Jon Husted has announced March as “Women-Owned Business” Month. Throughout the month, Ohio Business Profile will highlight select businesses from across the state.

It is estimated that there are more than 330,000 women-owned businesses in Ohio and 11.3 million in the United States. In the Buckeye State, these businesses generate more than $43 billion in sales every year.

“Women-owned businesses span every single industry sector in our economy,” Secretary Husted said. “From transportation and logistics to manufacturing and personal services, these businesses are growing every day and helping to drive our state’s economy.”

Companies profiled this month include:

  • Asempe Kitchen, LLC (Columbus, Ohio) is a West African and Ethiopian fusion catering company and pop-up that focuses on providing vegan and vegetarian options.
  • Bay Food Market (Lancaster, Ohio) has been serving Lancaster and the surrounding communities since 1932 and is Lancaster’s oldest independent grocer. Their most notable products include fresh home butchered meats, custom made party trays and fresh produce.
  • Beth Underhill FitLife, LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio) joins women together who have overcome their issues with weight, food, body image and self-esteem by learning effective solutions in a supportive and nurturing community. Their mission is to make women feel strong both physically and mentally.
  • Caster Connection (Columbus, Ohio) manufactures casters and is also a master distributor of elite brand casters, wheels and other material handling products. They believe that clients deserve exceptional service, great products, fair prices and product availability.
  • Jones Metal Products Company (West Lafayette, Ohio) manufactures components for many markets including aerospace, aircraft, defense, commercial lighting and healthcare. Starting in 1923, they have been privately-owned from the beginning and are currently into their third generation of board leadership.
  • Panel Control, Inc. (Anna, Ohio) is an electrical automation company specializing in wire harness cable assembly, custom control panel assembly and installation. Every panel and cable is built to the highest standards and is fully inspected before shipment.
  • Reed & Baur Insurance Agency, LLC (Athens, Ohio) considers meeting the insurance needs of their customers the foundation of their company. They provide recommendations and design custom solutions for their valued clients.
  • Rossi Machinery Services, Inc. (Ashland, Ohio) was established in 1995 and provides quality products and services to the manufacturing sector. As they celebrate their 23rd year of business, they continue to explore new avenues to perform specialized machining, fabrications and modifications.
  • Solus Lighting LTD (Cleveland, Ohio) is a full service lighting and production management company specializing in high-end corporate, social and non-profit events around the world. Bringing diversity and trustworthiness to their clients is a company priority.
  • Valley Energy Solar (Salem, Ohio) specializes in residential, commercial, agricultural and public solar system installation and project management. They have a strong belief in the viability and long-term potential of solar energy.
  • Wildflower Boutique (Yellow Springs, Ohio) was started by a woman who wanted to create a place where everyone feels comfortable to shop, ask questions and be inspired to both look and feel good when they leave. They are a trendy, relaxed fashion stop that wardrobes customers from head to toe.
  • Yoder Concrete Construction, LLC (West Liberty, Ohio) is a Christian, family-owned concrete construction company with over 25 years of industry experience. Their goal is to provide quality craftsmanship alongside dedicated and knowledgeable service.

In January, Secretary Husted announced that 2017 was a record-breaking year for new businesses formed in the Buckeye State. This marks the eighth consecutive year Ohio has seen a record number of new entities file to set up shop.

Since taking office in 2011, Secretary Husted has made it a priority to offer better services to Ohio entrepreneurs and businesses at a lower cost. In 2013, he launched Ohio Business Central, which allows businesses to be created online with a significantly quicker turnaround time. This efficiency allowed the state to cut the fees associated with starting a new business by 21 percent in 2015. That same year, Secretary Husted began a partnership with Google’s “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” program making it easy for new businesses to access free tools to help them get off the ground.

Ohio Business Profile was launched in 2011 to highlight Ohio companies that create transformative products, offer outstanding service, contribute to their local communities and employ Ohioans. Each month, a handful of diverse businesses linked together by a common theme are featured on the Secretary of State’s website. Ohioans are encouraged to submit companies they feel are deserving of recognition in future months.

Leneghan Endorsed by We the People Convention

Liberty Township – Melanie Leneghan, R-Powell, is proud to announce another endorsement for her campaign to fill the vacancy in the 12th Congressional District. We the People Convention has endorsed Melanie Leneghan for Congress.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of We the People Convention. The Ohio TEA Party knows I am a Constitutional Conservative, a Trump Conservative and a Christian Conservative. I have lived out our values in service to my community and I will do the same in Congress,” said Leneghan.

Tom Zawistowski, President of the Ohio TEA Party Organization said, “The We the People Convention is dedicated to helping to elect conservative, liberty-minded “Citizen Representatives” to public and party offices.”

“We believe in Constitutionally-limited representative government, lower taxes, minimum government regulation, capitalism and free markets, in order to protect individual freedom and liberty, and to create prosperity for all citizens,” Zawistowki said.

Melanie Leneghan is a political outsider who has effectively lived out her conservative values as a Trustee and has fought the career politicians. The 12th District deserves a Representative who is not part of the DC swamp, who not only shares our values but has and will implement them in Congress.

The primary is May 8th.

Brian Benyo Steps Down from Youngstown Academic Distress Commission

Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction, regarding Brian Benyo’s resignation from the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission:

“I appreciate Brian’s dedication and commitment to the students of Youngstown,” said Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction. “He played an integral part in taking the necessary steps to improve educational opportunities for Youngstown’s children. We thank him for his service and wish him well.”

Per Ohio law, Superintendent DeMaria is now charged with appointing a new member to the academic distress commission, as well as a new chair. In the meantime, he assigned Deputy Superintendent John Richard the responsibility of supporting the work of the academic distress commission until a new chair is designated.

About the Ohio Department of Education

The Ohio Department of Education oversees the state’s public education system, which includes public school districts, joint vocational school districts and charter schools. The Department also monitors educational service centers, other regional education providers, early learning and child care programs, and private schools. The Department’s tasks include administering the school funding system, collecting school fiscal and performance data, developing academic standards and model curricula, administering the state achievement tests, issuing district and school report cards, administering Ohio’s voucher programs, providing professional development, and licensing teachers, administrators, treasurers, superintendents and other education personnel. The Department is governed by the State Board of Education with administration of the Department the responsibility of the superintendent of public instruction.

Attorney General Files Consumer Protection Lawsuit Against Home Repair Contractor

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a Columbus-area home improvement contractor accused of failing to deliver promised services to customers.

Max R. Erwin Jr., of Hilliard, and his company, Central Ohio’s Ace Exteriors LLC, are accused of violating state consumer protection laws by taking consumers’ money and failing to provide promised services or performing shoddy work.

“Most contractors do a great job, but there are some people who just don’t finish the work they are paid to do,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We’re taking this action to protect consumers.”

In complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau, consumers said they paid Central Ohio’s Ace Exteriors for various home improvement services such as bathroom remodeling, window replacement or deck installation, but that no work was ever done or that the work was incomplete or shoddy. Consumer damages currently total about $27,000 among five unresolved complaints.

The company also allegedly failed to notify consumers about their three-day right to cancel under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act.

In the lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, the Attorney General seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an end to any violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act.

To help consumers avoid home improvement problems, Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations:

Research contractors carefully. Ask for recommendations, and talk to past customers about their experiences with a contractor. Search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Find out if the business is registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Conduct an online search of the business name and the owner’s name. Be skeptical if you find no information. Some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to detect their record of shoddy work.

Get multiple estimates. For a large job, consider contacting at least three different businesses before making a final selection. Keep in mind that the company that gives you the lowest estimate may not necessarily deliver the best results.

Understand your cancellation rights. If a home improvement contractor does not have a fixed place of business or comes to your door to offer services, you may be entitled to a three-day right to cancel the contract under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Make sure you receive detailed written information about your cancellation rights.

Get verbal promises in writing. If a contractor makes verbal claims, make sure they are put in writing. Otherwise they are not guaranteed. Also make sure the written contract includes other important information such as the estimated cost, the expected start and end dates, and the names of the individuals who will perform the work.

Be wary of requests for large down payments. It’s reasonable for a contractor to require a down payment, but be skeptical if you’re asked to make a large down payment (such as half or more of the total cost) before any work begins. If possible, pay in increments as the work is completed.

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.


Staff Reports