FBI raids house, storage unit of former Ohio House speaker
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
Wednesday, May 23
COLUMBUS (AP) — Federal agents searched former Republican Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s southwest Ohio home and a nearby storage unit Wednesday, apparently part of an investigation into the money behind his international travel and lavish lifestyle while serving as one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren confirmed that the agency was “conducting law enforcement activities” in the area. They visited his home on State Route 350 in Clarksville and a storage unit in Wilmington.
Rosenberger’s lawyer, David Axelrod, said his client was cooperating with authorities, reiterating the former lawmaker’s position that he has “acted lawfully and ethically.”
“We previously offered to provide the information sought today by warrant, and today voluntarily provided additional information not covered by the warrant,” Axelrod said in a statement. “Speaker Rosenberger has also complied with a requirement to file legal disclosure forms regarding gifts, meals and travel.”
Rosenberger, 37, resigned from the House last month after saying he was aware the FBI was asking questions about his activities and had protectively hired Axelrod, a criminal defense attorney. While speaker, Rosenberger took trips, sometimes with lobbyists present, to Europe, Israel, Iceland and various U.S. cities and rented a luxury Columbus condo from a wealthy GOP donor.
The FBI investigation has clouded efforts to elect Rosenberger’s replacement in the House, which is unable to pass any new laws until the issue is resolved.
House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith, of Gallia County, told reporters that he believes he has the votes to win, but that his chief rival and his allies are using “despicable” tactics to sabotage the vote — including leaking false information to reporters that his house, like Rosenberger’s, had been raided by the FBI.
“Frankly, the tactics in the last week that have been used — from bullying to threats to downright extortion — are embarrassing,” he said.
Smith said some people have suggested he should cut a deal to end the stalemate.
“Let me be very clear. I won’t make a deal today, tomorrow, ever with people that act like this. It’s despicable. I want nothing to do with it,” he said. “I came to Columbus with my integrity, I’m going to leave here with my integrity — whether I win or not.”
Smith’s chief rival, state Rep. Larry Householder, a Republican from Perry County and former speaker, fired back.
“It’s my understanding that Representative Smith made a litany of unfounded allegations that are unequivocally false. I don’t believe wild accusations and name calling is a responsible course to resolving conflicts and only leads to greater divides,” Householder said in a statement.
The escalating chaos prompted Democrats to slam the GOP caucus for bringing dysfunction, chaos and embarrassment on the chamber.
“Today’s developments are symptoms of a sickness in the capital,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray. “It’s no secret our legislature has gone completely off the rails as a result of one-party rule.”
Speaker Pro Tem Kirk Schuring, a veteran Republican lawmaker from Canton, announced Wednesday that he was canceling sessions for the remainder of this week because of an impasse on selecting Rosenberger’s successor.
Schuring said Smith has support from 70 percent of the caucus but cannot get to the 50 necessary votes because of some holdouts.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” he said. “I think this is unprecedented that we have a faction of our caucus who has decided to break with tradition and not support our nominee, particularly a nominee who won by such an overwhelming margin.”
Major Ohio business groups and others have expressed dismay at the leadership stalemate, citing potential damage to the state’s economy from the infighting and delays in key legislation.
House GOP hits wall over successor to speaker who resigned
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
Tuesday, May 15
COLUMBUS — Republicans seeking to replace an Ohio House speaker who resigned amid an FBI inquiry reached a stalemate on his successor Tuesday.
Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring, the chamber’s current leader, said state Rep. Ryan Smith won the most votes among three candidates to become interim speaker. However, Smith did not reach the 50-vote House majority that Schuring insists must be reached for any new speaker to be seated.
“We think we can still commandeer 50 votes, which is something that we need,” he said after a GOP caucus of more than four hours. “If we’re going to be in the majority caucus, we need 50 votes. We’re really, really close.”
Fifty votes represents a majority of the 99-member chamber. Republicans control 66 seats, one of which is empty due to Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s resignation last month.
Speakers hold powerful sway over which bills are advanced into law in the state and which ones die unceremonious deaths.
The FBI is said to be looking into Rosenberger’s travel, lavish lifestyle and a downtown Columbus condo that he rented from a wealthy GOP donor. A financial disclosure form Rosenberger filed Tuesday shows he spent more than $43,000 on travel last year.
He has said all of his actions were legal, and that he’s resigning because the federal investigation would take time to resolve and could become a distraction.
Schuring said he wasn’t surprised by the impasse. He said Rosenberger’s resignation in April — as the session was just beginning its second year — opened up uncharted territory for the House. He could not say whether the chamber’s 65 sitting Republicans would reconvene later Tuesday, or when.
Smith is Rosenberger’s chosen successor. State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, of Marysville, and state Rep. Andy Thompson, a conservative from Marietta, also were in the running. Both lawmakers are unable to run again and pitched themselves as neutral placeholders who could restore normalcy and integrity to the chamber following Rosenberger’s sudden departure.
Smith already was involved in a competition with state Rep. Larry Householder, a former speaker, to lead the caucus next session. Last week’s primaries were a bitter proxy fight between Smith and Householder, with Householder successfully advancing a host of candidates friendly to his speakership over those backed by the Smith-controlled House Republican campaign committee.
Republican caucus members met at a downtown hotel before reconvening at the Statehouse. Pelanda wanted to discuss restoring the reputation of the chamber, which Democrats have labeled “corrupt,” ahead of fall elections. She advocated a new fundraising approach and pledged to address lawmaker concerns about fairness in the legislative process.
Thompson, a conservative publisher and former city councilman, said he was pitching himself to fellow Republicans using a Beatles comparison. He told caucus members he’d follow the House’s fractious “Let It Be” period under Rosenberger with a transcendent “Abbey Road” finish. The iconic rockers were notoriously divided while recording “Let It Be,” recorded before but released after “Abbey Road,” considered a one of the band’s greatest albums.
Householder did not seek the interim post.
DeWine urges Ohio lawmakers to act swiftly on sports betting
COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is urging state lawmakers to get in front of a potential ballot issue by legalizing sports betting.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate told The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday that Ohio must act “right away” to prevent special interests from going to the ballot and determining how sports betting is regulated and where the money goes.
That statement differed from the DeWine campaign’s initial response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says states can authorize sports betting. A spokesman initially said DeWine opposed the expansion of gambling, including sports betting. Campaign manager Dave Luketic clarified that the spokesman provided the information before checking with DeWine.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray expressed support for a sports betting law that ensures proper regulation and generates revenue for local communities.
Attorney General DeWine Statement on Senate Passage of Cybersecurity Bill
May 16, 2018
COLUMBUS —Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released the following statement regarding the Senate passage of Senate Bill 220, the Data Protection Act sponsored by State Senators Bob Hackett (R-London) and Kevin Bacon (R-Westerville):
“This commonsense legislation would be a win-win for both Ohio business owners and Ohio consumers,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Encouraging businesses to take the appropriate steps to protect their customers’ personal information could avoid costly data breaches for companies and give customers peace of mind that their personal information is protected.”
The Data Protection Act is the first piece of legislation introduced as a result of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s CyberOhio Initiative. The measure would encourage businesses to voluntarily adopt strong cybersecurity controls to protect consumer data. The legislation identifies ten different industry-recognized cybersecurity frameworks on which businesses can base their security programs.
Launched in September 2016, the goal of CyberOhio is to help foster a legal, technical, and collaborative cybersecurity environment to help Ohio businesses thrive. In addition to promoting legislation, other parts of the initiative include training opportunities for businesses, development of cybersecurity workforce personnel, and expansion of the Ohio Attorney Generals’ Identity Theft Unit.
The bill will now go to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration.
The text of Senate Bill 220 is available at www.legislature.ohio.gov. More information about the Attorney General’s CyberOhio initiative can be found on www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
Court upholds death sentence for Ohio killer of friend
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
COLUMBUS — The death sentence is appropriate for a man who planned a killing and restrained the victim as he was fatally stabbed, even though the man who wielded the knife received a life sentence instead, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The court’s unanimous decision rejected arguments by death row inmate Austin Myers that his death sentence is disproportionate because of the life sentence given to co-defendant Tim Mosley.
Myers, now 23, was sentenced to die for the Jan. 28, 2014, killing in southwestern Ohio of childhood friend Justin Back, who was about to enter the Navy. Records show Myers held Back while Mosley stabbed him.
“If the main offender gets life without parole, and the accomplice gets death, it is patently unfair,” Myers’ attorneys argued in a 2016 filing with the court. A message seeking comment on Thursday’s ruling was left with Myers’ attorney.
Justice Patrick DeWine, writing Thursday’s opinion, cited evidence of “Myers’s extensive involvement in the planning and execution of Back’s murder” in rejecting that argument.
Myers came up with the idea of stealing a safe in Back’s home and killing Back to get it, rejected his co-defendant’s proposal to enter the home when no one was there, and brain-stormed a plan to use a homemade garrote to strangle the victim.
During the killing, Myers “restrained Back while Mosley slipped the garrote over Back’s head and continued to restrain him when Mosley, having failed in his attempt to strangle Back, pulled his knife and began stabbing him,” DeWine wrote.
Prosecutors had argued the court couldn’t weigh proportion in the case because no factors for or against a death sentence were presented in Mosley’s case, since he pleaded guilty.
In Myers’ defense, his attorneys cited the case of Jason Getsy, executed in 2009 for killing the Ohio mother of the intended target of a murder-for-hire scheme. In that case, the mastermind of the attack, John Santine, was sentenced to life without parole.
Based on that case, Myers should have received life without parole and not a death sentence, his attorneys argued.
DeWine said the Getsy case actually undercuts Myers’ argument, because the state Supreme Court found it troubling that the attack’s planner did not receive a death sentence.
As a result, the Getsy case argues that “the person who instigates and plans an aggravated murder may be at least as culpable as the one who actually carries it out,” DeWine wrote.
The court also rejected arguments that Myers’ youth at the time — 19— should be given more weight, because the U.S. Supreme Court has banned executing people for crimes committed under the age of 18.
The court gave Myers a 2022 execution date, but that will likely be delayed as Myers files further appeals.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.
OIU Agents Remind Parents and Graduates of Ohio’s Alcohol Laws
Ohio State Highway Patrol
May 17, 2018
Columbus – In high schools all across Ohio, graduates and their families are celebrating the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. Those celebrations often include alcohol.
In an effort to make this a safe graduation season, agents with the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) remind parents and graduates to make the decision not to participate in illegal and dangerous behavior, such as providing alcohol to minors and consuming underage.
OIU agents want parents and community members to do their part by understanding Ohio’s underage drinking laws.
• It is illegal to provide a place for your child and his/her friends to drink in a “safe” environment. In fact, parents may not provide alcohol to children who are under 21, who are not their own, even in their own home with the other parents’ permission. Those convicted of providing alcohol to a person under 21 years of age face maximum sentences of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
• It is illegal to purchase alcohol for anyone under 21. Anyone who purchases, sells or gives alcoholic beverages to underage individuals faces a $1,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.
• If you are under 21 and are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or higher, a level that can be reached after just one or two drinks, you can be arrested. Punishment is suspension of your driver license for at least 90 days up to a maximum of two years, plus four points added to your driving record. Having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle is also illegal.
Also, carry outs and drive-through establishments should be on alert for underage individuals attempting to purchase alcohol. Agents also recommend limo companies review policies with their drivers and ensure they know they may also be charged with permitting underage consumption.
Together, we must commit to making a safer Ohio, by stopping senseless tragedies associated with irresponsible and illegal underage alcohol consumption. If you have information about a bar; store or carryout selling beer and/or liquor to persons under the age of 21; or you have information of an underage house party, please notify the Ohio Investigative Unit by calling the #677 on your cell phone and your complaint will be investigated.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Ohio Investigative Unit agents are plain-clothed fully sworn peace officers. OIU is charged with enforcing the state’s liquor laws and is the only state law enforcement agency specifically tasked with investigating food stamp fraud crimes. Agents also investigate tobacco violations. Follow OIU on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ohio-Investigative-Unit/165782203506269 and on Twitter by logging onto http://twitter.com/Ohio_OIU.
www.statepatrol.ohio.gov A division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety
Ballot Board Certifies Proposed Amendment As Single Ballot Issue
Secretary Husted Press
Thursday, May 17, 2018
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Ballot Board today certified a proposed constitutional amendment concerning marijuana rights and regulations as a single ballot issue. This amendment had previously been certified by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Petitioners will now need to collect 305,591 valid signatures, which is equal to 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, 2014, to place the issue on the ballot.
As part of the total number of signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, petitioners must collect signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and within each of those counties, collect enough signatures equal to five percent of the total vote that was cast for governor.
Secretary Husted serves as the Chairman of the Ohio Ballot Board in his official capacity as the Ohio Secretary of State. Other members include State Senator Bill Beagle, State Senator Vernon Sykes, State Representative Kathleen Clyde and Mr. William Morgan. Ballot Board meetings are open to the public.
Better Business Bureau Center for Character Ethics Announces Central Ohio Laws of Life Essay Contest
Columbus – BBB’s Center for Character Ethics is proud to announce the 2018 winners of the Central Ohio Laws of Life Essay Contest, a unique character-themed writing competition.
Over 1,950 students in 16 schools wrote essays for this year’s contest, an increase of 500 essays since 2017. Twenty-one finalists were selected and invited along with their parents, teachers and contest judges to attend the Awards Banquet hosted by the BBB Center for Character Ethics on May 14 at Wendy’s Company in Dublin, OH. Students received cash awards ranging from $50 – $500, a certificate signed by the Governor, and a poster of their enlarged essay. Each school with a finalist also received $50 to support their local essay writing efforts.
The local contest, in its eighteenth year, is open to students in grades 6-8 in the 21 county service area of BBB serving Central Ohio. Created by Sir John Templeton in 1987, the contest encourages students to think about the people and experiences that have helped to shape their principles, and challenges them to write about what they believe in. Teachers selected the best essays from their class and submitted them in March. The entries were then read and judged by a panel of business leaders, educators and community volunteers. Honesty, accountability, perseverance, compassion, responsibility, and courage are some of the topics this year’s finalists wrote about in their essays.
Schools with contest finalists: Name/School
Mabel Cumming-Vukovic/Walnut Springs MS
Logan Daum/Madison Plains Intermediate
Lily McCune/West Muskingum MS
Quinn McGonigle/Columbus Gifted Academy
Drake Owen/Holy Trinity School
Eli Tansey/Heritage Middle School
MyAngel Williams/Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls
Cori Bohan/Walnut Springs MS
Rachel Fraunfelter/Zanesville Middle School
Stanley Jackson/Genoa Middle School
Xiudan McCollum/Dominion Middle School
Jenna McLaughlin/Bishop Fenwick Catholic School
Emma St. Vincent/de Paul School
Rebekah Unkefer/Coshocton High School
Abigail Cumming-Vukovic/Walnut Springs MS
Kyra Lesmerises/Genoa Middle School
GA Michaille/Columbus Gifted Academy
Kyler Moore/West Muskingum MS
Miles Poindexter/Genoa Middle School
Slade Young/Zanesville Middle School
Tyler Zwick/Blendon Middle School
Major support of the contest comes from Honda of America, Wendy’s, the Walker family, the English Family Foundation and Danette’s Floral. Local schools and community organizations can visit the Center for Character Ethics website for information and assistance in entering the contest.
For more information about the program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.
About BBB Center for Character Ethics
BBB’s Center for Character Ethics is a business-supported, free-enterprise advancing non-profit organization focused on serving business managers & classroom educators with leadership character and organizational ethics strengthening resources. Our mission is to provide character ethics assessment, training and recognition to for-profit and non-profit leaders and to provide k-16 educator-focused character strengthening programs. As a result, we intend to help both producers and consumers flourish in central Ohio.