Tax penalty questions swirl in race for Ohio auditor
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
Friday, October 12
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Questions are swirling in the high stakes race for Ohio auditor about the candidates’ handling of their personal tax payments.
At issue is a pattern of penalties for delinquent tax payments that Republican candidate Keith Faber and his businesses incurred between 2008 and 2015 across multiple properties, years and two counties.
Faber is among Ohio Republicans seeking to retain five open statewide offices for their ruling party as Democrats campaign hard to take them away. He faces former U.S. Rep. Zack Space, of Dover, in November.
Faber’s bookkeeper has taken responsibility for the tardy tax payments, most of them late by just one to three days, and testified in a written affidavit that all but one was mailed on time based on her understanding of the law. Campaign spokeswoman Allie Dumski says Faber has since converted all accounts to auto-pay.
But the dust-up creates a political conundrum for Faber, the former Ohio Senate president, who’s made attention to detail a campaign issue.
“The Auditor’s office is the last place for someone who is sloppy and inaccurate in their work,” his campaign said in June, in an attack over factual misstatements by Space. Faber has also criticized Space on other issues, including having his law license suspended because he failed to file the proper paperwork to inactivate it.
“Keith Faber and his business partners paid their property taxes on time and we have the cancelled checks to prove it,” Dumski said in a statement. “Zack Space, on the other hand, has a well-documented history of failing to pay his own property taxes, getting his law license suspended, not renewing his driver’s license and having his business cancelled by the state of Ohio for failing to file a required report.”
Space, too, has two tax penalties in his past: Taxes on his residence were 43 days late in 2005; and taxes on a commercial property were three days late in 2008. Space’s campaign, likewise, cited administrative errors.
Space’s penalties further complicate matters for Faber, though. That’s because Faber’s campaign attacked Space over his track record of tax delinquency on a website and in briefly aired digital ads — even as Faber’s own tax penalties were going unreported in the press.
Space’s campaign spokesman, Nathan Cotton, calls that “shamelessly hypocritical.”
“Keith Faber’s chronic failure to pay his taxes on time completely disqualifies him from serving as Auditor of State, Ohio’s top taxpayer watchdog,” Cotton said in a statement. “Faber spent the last 17 years in the General Assembly using taxpayer money to advance his political career, while at the same time incurring dozens of penalties for failing to pay his own taxes on time.”
According to county tax records reviewed by The Associated Press, Faber’s tardy payments totaled about $5,500. Faber and his companies paid about $330 in penalties over that time, records show, some of which bookkeeper Jill Griesdorn said she rightfully could have challenged but didn’t.
After questions from reporters, Faber took pains to investigate what went wrong.
His campaign produced a lengthy report featuring details of each penalty, Griesdorn’s explanations, canceled checks, bank statements and copies of postmarked envelopes. The packet also included Griesdorn’s affidavit and a letter from Faber’s attorney.
Tax documents and Griesdorn’s records show JMKA Properties Inc., in which Faber has a quarter ownership share, incurred tax penalties in tax years 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013. The property included three parcels that would all sustain the penalty even if only one was involved.
The 2014 taxes for a condo in downtown Columbus, owned by Faber’s Statehouse Properties LLC, incurred a penalty in January 2015. Taxes on the Faber family home in Celina also were late once, in 2012. The penalty was later waived after being determined to involve an error at the county treasurer’s office.
In her affidavit, Griesdorn said she “always deposited the checks in the mail on or before their respective due dates,” which she understood to comply with state law.
She said Mercer County experiences “common and frustrating rural mail processing delays,” noting the U.S. Postal Service recently began processing local mail through Toledo, Detroit or Columbus before delivering it back to local addresses.
Notwithstanding, Faber’s own attorney, David Moser, wrote that operative state law bases tax payments’ timeliness on the postmark, not the date they’re mailed.
Tax collection agencies across the country warn that the post office “may not postmark mail on the same day deposited by a taxpayer.” No such warning is readily visible on Mercer County’s website.
Homeless battle in Akron
Akron’s Homeless Charity and Village—working in partnership with the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm—will announce a major legal development in its fight to provide shelter to many of the city’s most vulnerable citizens. The announcement comes after the Akron city council voted 8-4 to deny a permit allowing Sage to operate the tent community in a commercial-zoned area.
As a result of that vote, many residents will have nowhere else to go, except back to the streets. Sage and The Homeless Charity are unwilling to let that happen.
“America has a long tradition of private charities using private property to help those in need,” said Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “Sage has brought new thinking to the table, and is helping dozens of vulnerable people get off the streets and get their lives back on track. Sage has a constitutional right to shelter the homeless on his private commercial property. Sheltering the neediest is a legitimate use of private property that the government cannot stop without good reason—and there’s no such reason here.”
ODNR Recognizes Individual and Group Contributions to Forestry in Ohio
ODNR announces Forest of Honor inductees
COLUMBUS, OH – Outstanding individuals and organizations were honored Thursday with a tree planting ceremony at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Forest of Honor ceremony at Zaleski State Forest near McArthur.
“Good forest stewardship has many environmental and economic benefits,” said Robert Boyles, Ohio’s state forester. “Privately owned forest lands as well as ODNR lands are important to all Ohioans, and our inductees exemplify active forest stewardship of these resources.”
Tom Berger has impacted forest management in Ohio as much as any one person ever could. During his decades of owning and managing a certified tree farm, serving on the Ohio Tree Farm Committee and the Ohio Society of American Foresters, and as a service forester and later an administrator and liaison with the ODNR Division of Forestry, he trained and mentored two generations of foresters and woodland owners. Tom also initiated use of the Ohio Fire Academy for wildland fire-fighting training classes, and he was a member of Ohio’s first mobilized interagency wildfire crew in 1986.
Dr. Richard A. Potts
Dr. Richard “Dick” Potts was honored for his significant contribution to advancing private land forest management practices in Ohio, by greatly raising public awareness about the benefits of sustainable, well managed forests. He also served as a mentor to numerous Ohio woodland owners and in leadership positions for the Ohio Tree Farm Committee and other forest conservation organizations. A chemistry professor, Potts never had a formal forestry education, but he taught himself about forest management and forestry measurements so that his Holmes County tree farm was inventoried by tree species and timber volumes. Potts passed away in 2010, and his family continues to actively manage the Potts Tree Farm.
Superior Hardwoods of Ohio Inc.
Superior Hardwoods of Ohio has been a leader in the forest industry for three generations, dedicating their careers to understanding Ohio’s natural history and forest resources. They employ more than 150 people in four modern sawmills to manufacture and process hardwood lumber. The company has brought forestry awareness to the public through the Building Ohio State Exhibit at the OSU Thompson Library. This was a cooperative educational exhibit in the library in 2017 to show students and the public the importance of forestry in Ohio’s history. Not only did it display noteworthy pieces of forestry history, it also highlighted Superior Hardwoods of Ohio’s important role in the design and remodeling of the library to feature white oak décor and furniture, which completely transformed the library. Part of the project included the creation of a series of videos about the quality Ohio hardwood trees that were used for the renovation, including trees that originated at Zaleski State Forest. The company has hosted woodland owner and teacher education workshops at their mills and has custom sawed state forest lumber for Sherman cabins for Ohio State Parks. The Sherman cabins are being constructed by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Wildlife Management Institute
The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) has been a strong supporter of the ODNR Division of Forestry’s mission over many years, and the group actively promotes sustainable forestry practices in the state. The WMI is a national organization concerned about the dramatic decline of many wildlife populations, and it is interested in restoring and ensuring the well-being of wildlife populations and their habitats. The organization was recognized for assisting with the Young Forest Initiative to encourage the creation of early successional habitat, as well as support for forest management on state forests, which included providing interpretative signs for woodcock conservation and grant dollars for site rehabilitation supplies, such as seed mixtures to control soil erosion and to benefit wildlife. The WMI is a valuable partner in supporting the ODNR Division of Forestry’s annual work plans for state forests, including providing expert opinion of strategies for managing state forests from a wildlife biology point of view.
Trees were planted in the Forest of Honor to recognize and honor these recipients.
The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, forest health and tree care, visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov. Follow us on Instagram at @odnrforestry (instagram.com/odnrforestry).
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.
Nutty wafers, razors and snack mix: Inside a jail commissary
By MARC KOVAC
The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday, October 13
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Vicki Volpe walked through the smallish room at the Franklin County Corrections Center that serves as the jail commissary, past the small packets of grape jelly and pickled jalapenos, toward the cough drops, shampoo and playing cards, in two colors.
Shelves and tables were stuffed with legal pads, bagels, cookies, protein bars, beef jerky and denture containers.
A big box held snack mix at $2.75 a bag.
“Everybody orders three bags,” said Volpe, the commissary manager at the facility on Jackson Pike south of Downtown.
Nutty wafers are 75 cents a pair, with six packages (a dozen bars) per box. And then there are the razors: single-bladed, plastic, disposable and 50 cents each.
Those three items are among the most popular purchases at the jail, with inmates buying upward of 7,200 bags of snack mix, 23,000 packages of nutty wafers and 19,000 razors.
“As you can see, we could use a little more room,” Volpe said.
Men and women sentenced to longer jail terms enter one of the two county corrections centers with nothing but the clothes on their back. They can keep their underwear and socks, but everything else is stored until their departure.
Family members and friends are not allowed to provide snacks or other pleasantries. The jail supplies items through vendors and from official sources as part of efforts to block drugs and other contraband from the premises.
Inmates are given a few items when they check in: a blanket and bedsheet, sturdy sandals, a finger-tip toothbrush and toothpaste and the standard jail-issue outfit. Anything else they want (and are allowed to have) must be bought from the jail commissary.
They’re allowed to buy $80 worth of items every 10 days, with the shopping schedule broadcast on a channel on televisions in every jail cell. Inmates pay for stuff using their own money or cash deposited into their jail account by others.
At the moment, the commissary sells about 70 products, from underwear and toiletries to chunk chicken and condiments.
Inmates write their orders using small, flexible pens and commissary sheets, noting how many of each item they want. Requested items are bagged and delivered to cells.
Items available for purchase are kept in a couple of rooms at the corrections center. One room holds extra underwear and orange foam, Crocs-like footwear, a popular and more comfortable alternative for inmates. The other room holds grocery, toiletry and other products available for purchase by the 2,000 or so inmates who cycle through the two county jail locations.
The commissary does about $145,000 in sales monthly, or about $1.7 million annually, according to Marc Gofstein, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
In addition to nutty wafers, razors and snack mix, popular items include peanut-butter cracker sandwiches (about 18,700 sold per month at 75 cents each), drink mix (about 20,000 packages of sweetened or unsweetened, at 50 to 80 cents each) and ear plugs (about 5,600 pairs at 50 cents each).
The jail stocks less-popular products: Inmates buy only a couple of packages of $3.75 hair rollers and about two dozen tubes of lip balm every month, for example.
But employees order hundreds of packets of various condiments at a quarter each, including hot sauce, barbecue sauce, squeeze cheese and peanut butter.
Although the coffee is decaf, the commissary also goes through more than 8,500 packs of instant every month. (Inmates are offered only milk and water at meals.)
Coffee “has no nutritional value, so the dietitian took it off of the menu,” said Capt. Carl Trowbridge, who heads the professional services bureau at the sheriff’s office.
Trowbridge said there’s a concerted effort to offer items that inmates want, using opinion surveys. Not all requests are approved. Sardines, for example.
“Everybody knows what sardines smells like when you open it up,” Trowbridge said.
But plenty of items are added. A recent order approved by the commissioners included honey buns, double-decker Moon Pies, Cool Ranch Doritos and greeting cards.
With commissary privileges come commissary rules. Inmates aren’t allowed to exchange items, either with one another or with people on the outside.
All of an inmate’s belongings have to fit in a gray plastic tote with a secure lid, limiting the possibility of stockpiling. “You can’t have your own store,” Trowbridge said.
All commissary purchases are tracked. Razors, for example, are held at deputy stations and handed out only when an inmate needs to shave.
Inmates’ belongings also are checked, and cells are searched routinely to make sure inmates have only what they bought.
Commissary items are supposed to remain in their original form or be used for their intended purpose. That’s not to say that inmates don’t get creative.
Snack mix can be pulverized and mixed with water into a dough molded to contain tuna or other ingredients. Nutty wafers might be mashed with other sweets to make a cake or other dessert.
Regular chunk chicken is sometimes mixed with chicken in hot sauce to stretch the flavor.
Raisins, candy, jelly and drink mix occasionally are used in combination to brew “hooch,” a common jailhouse beverage that’s fermented to provide a buzz for those desperate enough to drink it.
But such alterations come with consequences, including items being confiscated and disciplinary action that could include a loss of commissary access.
“If they behave, they get certain benefits,” Trowbridge said. “If they misbehave, you take away those benefits.”
The new county jail, being constructed on Fisher Road west of Downtown and scheduled to open in mid-2021, will have about eight times the commissary space, meaning more storage and the potential for more commissary variety.
The latter probably will include ramen noodles, a top-selling item at corrections facilities that’s not stocked at the Downtown or Jackson Pike facilities.
“Ramen soup is probably the No. 1 thing that people are requesting,” Trowbridge said. “… Can you imagine how much ramen we’re going to sell?”
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
Home Improvement Contractor Accused of Failing to Deliver Services to Cleveland-Area Consumers
October 15, 2018
(CLEVELAND)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a home improvement contractor accused of failing to deliver promised services to Cleveland-area consumers.
William Burke, doing business as Cuyahoga Construction, is accused of violating state consumer protection laws.
Four consumers have filed complaints against the company since 2017, and their reported losses total more than $4,600.
“We are taking this action to protect consumers,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Most home improvement contractors do good work, but in this case, we found a pattern of problems.”
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, accuses Burke of failing to deliver promised services, performing shoddy work, failing to obtain required permits or licenses, taking on new customers while having an unpaid judgment from a previous consumer transaction, and failing to notify consumers about their right to cancel a home solicitation sale.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an end to any violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act.
Consumers who suspect unfair or deceptive sales practices or those who want to find consumer protection information should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.
At Ohio rally, Trump takes another victory lap
By JONATHAN LEMIRE
Saturday, October 13
LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — President Donald Trump took a victory lap in Ohio on Friday, touting a “really historic week for America” that began with the installation of his second Supreme Court justice and concluded with the release of an American detained in Turkey.
Jocular and boastful, Trump barnstormed — in what was a barn on a rural fairgrounds — for Ohio’s gubernatorial and congressional candidates, but, as he often does, spent much of the hour-plus speech touting his own track record. He zeroed in on the past week, which many White House aides believe was one of the most successful of his presidency.
Trump drew loud cheers from the crowd for securing the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, swaggering that “we bring a lot of people back.” After Brunson was sentenced to three years in a Turkish prison on terror charges, Turkey’s government quickly freed him to return to the U.S.
Trump touted at length the trials of Brett Kavanaugh, who was seated on the Supreme Court this week after a contentious confirmation process that featured multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, which he denied, and bitter partisan battles. But Trump argued that the bruising process, which ignited a soul-searching national conversation about sexual assault, was “a tremendous service” for his party.
“We are more energized as Republicans than ever before,” Trump told the crowd bundled against the chill on the outskirts of the Cincinnati region. “Did he get treated badly or unfairly or what? Horrible.”
Returning to a recent incendiary talking point, Trump deemed the Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh “a mob,” but said they would not stop him from potentially, he guessed, appointing up to four more justices to the court throughout his time in office — for a total of six, or two-thirds of the court’s nine justices.
“Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob,” Trump said. “These are bad people. We can’t let his happen to our country.”
And he invoked Thursday’s bizarre Oval Office appearance by hip hop megastar Kanye West, who held court across from Trump to call for prison reform, reveal his own struggles with mental illness, tout the need for an improved Air Force One and become likely the first person to utter the phrase “crazy motherf—-er” — at least in front of the press — in that storied room.
“It was pretty amazing, wasn’t it?” Trump asked with a smile before highlighting low minority unemployment numbers as a reason for black voters to switch to the GOP.
“We are asking all African-American voters to honor us with their support,” Trump said. “Get away from the Democrats!”
Following along the teleprompter, Trump spent a few minutes extolling a slate of Republican candidates, including Rep. Jim Renacci, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as Rep. Steve Chabot, who is in a hotly contested fight with Aftab Pureval.
“A vote for a Republican Congress is a vote for more jobs, more wealth, more products made right here in the USA, which is what we’re all about,” Trump said. “And a vote for a Republican is a vote to reject the Democratic politics of hatred, anger and division. You’ve seen that.”
But most of the night resembled a greatest hits show, as Trump touted the growing economy, stressed the need for his proposed Space Force to defend the heavens, suggested the nation needed to build “bigger arenas” to hold his rally crowds and danced along the edge of offending two ethnic groups by exaggerating the threat posed by Latino MS-13 gang members by suggesting they be hauled off in “paddy wagons.”
He also deemed many of his predecessors as “normal” before going on a rambling recollection of historical Ohioans, which included a salute to Ulysses S. Grant for overcoming Robert E. Lee if not his own alcoholism and suggesting that President William McKinley was a wildly underrated president.
Trump also managed to tie the controversy over NFL players kneeling for the national anthem to the moon landing, recalling Neil Armstrong’s first moments on the lunar surface.
“There was no kneeling, there was no nothing,” Trump said. “There was no games. BOOM. BOOM. Right, fellas?”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire