Ohio police vice unit disbanded in wake of investigations
Wednesday, March 20
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s capital city is disbanding its police vice unit in the wake of internal and FBI investigations and recent charges against an officer alleging he forced two women to have sex with him under threat of an arrest.
Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the news via Twitter on Tuesday night in a posting that said remaining officers will be assigned to other departments. Three of the vice unit’s 10 officers are currently under suspension.
Quinlan said that vice-related crimes, now under the Narcotics division, will be handled differently and with a more community-based approach. Many vice officers and supervisors have already voluntarily transferred to new assignments, the police department said.
Quinlan said his decision is “not a reflection on all the officers involved in vice.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday he supports Quinlan’s decision.
He said he looks forward to Quinlan’s work to “create new units that better serve the community’s needs.”
The unit came under scrutiny last year when vice officers arrested adult film actress Stormy Daniels at a Columbus strip club. An investigation rejected allegations by Daniels that the arrest was a politically motivated action by officers who support President Donald Trump and targeted her because of her allegation she had sex with Trump before he became president.
However, the same investigation determined the arrest was improper.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was arrested in July on suspicion of inappropriately touching an undercover officer. Prosecutors dropped charges hours later, saying the law cited in Daniels’ arrest applied only to those who regularly performed at the club.
Earlier this year, Daniels sued several Columbus police officers for $2 million over her arrest.
Officer Andrew Mitchell , who is accused of forcing two women to have sex with him to avoid arrest, has retired. The division announced Tuesday his retirement was effective March 13, two days after a federal indictment that also charged him with witness tampering, obstruction of justice, making a false statement to federal investigators. His attorney has said Mitchell will plead not guilty.
Also Tuesday, the city attorney’s office announced it had dismissed 18 pending prostitution-related charges against women who were arrested by Mitchell. The cases date back to 2017 when Mitchell joined the vice unit.
City Attorney Zach Klein is also reviewing convictions in which Mitchell was involved dating back over the three decades of his police career.
Ohio attorney general chastises judge over death penalty
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge improperly praised Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to delay an execution based on the judge’s scathing critique of the state’s lethal injection method, the state attorney general said.
In a court filing earlier this week, Attorney General David Yost said Magistrate Judge Michael Merz’ remarks were an improper use of the judge’s position.
At issue is a series of execution delays ordered by DeWine, a Republican, after Merz raised concerns about Ohio’s lethal injection method.
After the governor issued his first delay – of the February execution of death row inmate Warren Henness – Merz said that decision “embodies excellent public policy.”
The judge also said he was “deeply gratified” by DeWine’s expression of trust in Merz’ lethal injection ruling.
“The Court fully expects that the Governor will do whatever is needed legally to keep the public commitment he has made, the important first step being the reprieve of Warren Henness,” Merz wrote last month.
The attorney general said judges “are not supposed to use the federal bench as a bully pulpit to influence state policy.”
The judge’s “statements needlessly (and perhaps unintentionally) entangle the federal judiciary in a policy dispute on a hot-button issue,” Yost said.
Merz declined comment Wednesday.
DeWine has ordered the prisons department to come up with a new lethal injection method, a process that could take months or years.
Yost says that wouldn’t prevent the state from carrying out executions earlier with its current system.
The governor “has announced his intention to develop a new protocol, but he has never suggested that he would deny death-row inmates the choice to use the current protocol,” Yost said.
Ohio could still use the current method if a federal appeals court rejects Merz’ criticism of Ohio’s method or if the state can’t come up with a new method, Yost said.
Merz said on Jan. 14 that Ohio’s system could cause inmates severe pain because the first drug, the sedative midazolam, doesn’t render them deeply enough unconscious. He suggested inmates could experience a sensation similar to waterboarding.
But Merz stopped short of halting executions, saying attorneys for Henness hadn’t shown that viable execution alternatives exist in Ohio.
Afterward, the governor postponed Henness’ execution until September and then three more executions into the fall and then 2020.
“Ohio’s not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment,” DeWine said in January.
A DeWine spokesman confirmed that executions could resume if Merz’ order was overturned by a higher court, or if the state created a new lethal injection method that was found constitutional.
“If the court decision was overturned on the basis of fact, the governor would certainly look if situation has changed,” press secretary Dan Tierney said Tuesday.
Henness was sentenced to death for killing 51-year-old Richard Myers in Columbus in 1992. Myers had been helping Henness find a drug treatment for his wife, authorities said.
Ohio Dominican students knit hats, scarves for homeless
By ERIC LAGATTA
The Columbus Dispatch
Sunday, March 10
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s Computer Helpdesk are putting away the electronics to knit hats and scarves they plan to hand out to homeless men and women. Their goal is to have 500 items to donate by Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They may work in technology, but whenever they have some downtime, student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s computer help desk happily put away the electronics.
Instead of idly scrolling through their phones in between service calls, they pick up a round loom and some yarn and start knitting.
“You’re not just playing on your phone,” said Lorelei Theve, a freshman marketing and public relations major at the small Catholic university on the Northeast Side. “You’re actually making something.”
Theve, who is from Grove City, is one of eight student employees at the help desk who actively knits hats — and sometimes scarves and blankets — that they plan to hand out to homeless men and women in the fall and winter.
The effort began in December when Noelle Lines, Ohio Dominican’s assistant director of Technical Services, talked to the students about her love of knitting. One day, Lines brought in supplies and sat with them during breaks to teach them the craft. All told, it took about just 20 minutes for them to pick it up.
“As soon as she shows you, it’s so easy to go off and do it,” Theve said. “You can really bust it out.”
Many of the students continued with the hobby during their winter break — Theve, for instance, said she knitted several hats as Christmas gifts for friends and family — so when they returned to campus, they hatched a plan.
Lines said she often sees homeless men and women around Galloway, where she lives, so she asked the students if they’d like to knit warm items for them to protect them from the cold. The students’ enthusiasm for the cause immediately was palpable.
“I jumped right on board,” said Lancaster native Skyler Vance, a junior majoring in both biology and chemistry. “I think it’s amazing.”
The group set a goal of 500 hats that they plan to start handing out in person around Thanksgiving and Christmastime. However, it’s a target that Lines said she fully expects them to eclipse after the students took to the initiative with a zeal she could never have anticipated. Already they have about 80 hats, scarves and other warm items of various hues and patterns.
“I was proud of how excited they are to be doing something for someone else” Lines said. “They have the power to drive change; they can take 20 minutes of their time and do something so profound and have a product they can hold in their hands and help another person.”
The students not only work on the hats during their breaks at work, but between classes and even at the end of the day when they’re at home.
On a recent day, spools of yarn of varying colors were splayed across a table in Lines’ office as four of the students cheerfully worked on hats. Piled in the corner were the fruits of their labors thus far.
Lines provided the looms and restocks most of the yarn with her own money, making it all accessible to the students in a box outside her office.
But the students as well often venture to a nearby Michaels craft store to buy their own supplies. The creativity that comes from experimenting with a variety of colors and designs is part of the fun, they said.
“We call them our help desk field trips,” Vance said. “We go to Michaels and we’re like, ‘Let’s pick all the random colors.’”
Vance estimated that it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to complete a hat, depending on the size. The students said their time spent knitting is often meditative, a welcome respite from the stresses of school.
“It’s relaxing,” said Reynoldsburg resident Jon Caruso, a senior majoring in computer science. “It takes my mind off of stuff.”
“I’d rather be knitting than doing homework,” Vance agreed.
The charitable component is also motivating. Most of the students have volunteered their time to worthy causes in the past — Caruso with his church, Vance with the Fairfield Area Humane Society and Theve with the Buckeye Ranch, which provides mental health services for children and families.
“It’s always been a thing in my family where you just help out where you can,” Theve said. “It’s really important to use that privilege in a productive way.”
Even though Caruso graduates in May, he said he plans to join the others when they venture into central Ohio neighborhoods to hand out the items. And despite the amount of hours they’ve put into the products, the students say it won’t be hard to part with them.
“When we go to hand them out it’ll make it even more meaningful,” Vance said. “It shows the impact you can have on your community by doing something so small.”
Give your kids a fantastic summer at a Metro Parks Camp
Posted on February 27, 2019 |
The Metro Parks Blog
AUDREY ZIMMERMAN, Camp and Special Events Coordinator
As skunk cabbage emerges and the frozen world around us begins to thaw into the renewing, greenish-brown, muddy season we call spring, our summer camp team is focused on one thing: Camp registration. Metro Parks summer camp registration opens on Friday, March 1, 2019 at 8am. During our days spent answering emails and phone calls from interested camp families, hiring counselors, planning camp programs and doing everything in our power to ensure the registration process runs as smoothly as possible, the topic of competition often comes up. Why Metro Parks summer camps? What makes us different? Of all the summer opportunities available to families in our Central Ohio community, why should families choose us?
Our campers spend their days outside exploring the parks. They fish, splash through creeks looking for crayfish, use mud as face paint, play games, kayak, practice archery, have soccer tournaments in the pouring rain, put on talent shows, make new friends, see wildlife, engage in programming with our counselors and park staff and learn about the natural world around them. We offer a space for campers to come as they are – veteran campers who lead some of the programming to first-time campers who have never spent more than an hour outside at a time. Regardless of our campers’ relationships with the outdoors, we welcome them with muddy, suntanned arms and invite them to experience the magic that is summer outside at Metro Parks.
I’m always reminded of this especially during the counselor hiring process. Each spring, we have the opportunity to meet dozens of highly-qualified candidates. They are college students and teachers who come from a wide range of fields, but all have one trait in common: the desire to engage children with the outdoors.
“I get to spend all day in the great outdoors sharing my love of nature with campers. From planned activities teaching campers about the natural world around them, to spontaneous creek hikes and water fights, every day brings something new. This will be my third year as a camp counselor and I have enjoyed every minute of it because I get to teach and inspire a passion for being outdoors,” said Maria, a third year counselor.
Our camp program offers campers and their families up to seven different camps each week of summer to choose from. We offer traditional day camps for grades 1-6 at Highbanks, Homestead and Scioto Grove Metro parks each week. These camps are less structured and offer families the option of utilizing the included before and after care hours. We also offer nature adventure camps which are age-specific camps for preschool, kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-9. These camps are more structured and rotate to different Metro Parks throughout the summer. Having two styles of camp gives us the ability to make sure we have a camp program that meets the needs of each camper, all while offering them a week of new, fun experiences in the outdoors.
“I am passionate about two things: people and the planet we live on. Which is why Metro Parks’ summer camp has a special place in my heart. It’s a space where these two passions come together to foster each other’s growth and awareness. I keep coming back because it provides me with the privilege to be a mentor to our community’s youth. Particularly, to build positive developmental relationships with them all the while, hopefully, inspiring some level of fondness for mother nature,” said Gabbi, a third year counselor.
So, why Metro Parks Summer Camps?
Each time I’m asked this question, my reaction is always the same: I pause, and then I smile. I smile because I know we have something rare. I smile because I get to work with dedicated and talented people. I smile because I know I’m fortunate to work for a camp program that promotes values like curiosity, engagement in outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, nature education, friendship and fun. I smile because the answer to these questions is really quite simple: Metro Parks summer camps offer our campers the rare opportunity in this fast-paced, highly demanding world, to slow down, connect with the natural world and people around them, and just be kids.
Come see for yourself and don’t forget to pack a change of clothes. And extra shoes. And a water bottle. And extra sunscreen. And… you get the picture.
We’ll see you this summer.
Send us your photos from summer camp or tell us what you love about them, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Balderson Votes to Support Transparency in Mueller Investigation
WASHINGTON – Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH) today voted in support of a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and Congress (H.Con.Res. 24).
Congressman Balderson released the following statement:
“Above all, transparency is key in a government that represents the best interests of its people. This is a no-brainer: make the Mueller report public so Americans can get answers and move forward. Those who have broken the law should be held accountable, and those who are innocent may clear their names.”
The concurrent resolution passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support 420-0, with 4 “present” votes and 7 members who did not vote.
PUCO Nominating Council makes recommendations to Gov. DeWine
COLUMBUS, OHIO (March, 14 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council today submitted the names of four finalists to be considered by Gov. Mike DeWine for the position of commissioner of the PUCO to fill one vacancy. The position of commissioner is for the unexpired term beginning immediately upon appointment and ending on April 10, 2021. After considering many highly qualified applicants, the Nominating Council recommended the following individuals:
The PUCO Nominating Council is a broad-based 12-member panel charged with screening candidates for the position of commissioner. For additional information about the PUCO commissioner appointment process visit www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
Troopers seize loaded handgun and $433,792 worth of cocaine and marijuana in Clinton County
COLUMBUS – Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers filed felony drug charges against a Texas man after a vehicle inspection in Clinton County. During the vehicle inspection, troopers seized more than 11 pounds of cocaine and 5 grams of marijuana worth $433,792 and a loaded Springfield XD .45 caliber handgun.
On March 11, at 9:50 a.m., troopers stopped a 2012 Freightliner with Texas registration at a northbound weight scale on Interstate 71. While speaking with the driver, troopers detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. A probable cause search of the vehicle revealed the contraband.
The driver, Terrence Sample, 26, of Katy, Texas, was incarcerated in the Clinton County Jail and charged with possession and trafficking in cocaine, both first-degree felonies; and possession of marijuana, minor misdemeanor.
If convicted, he could face up to 22 years in prison and up to a $40,000 fine.
6-State Trooper Project netted arrests for drugs, weapons
COLUMBUS – The Ohio State Highway Patrol and other members of the 6-State Trooper Project collaborated to remove drugs and illegal weapons from our communities. This initiative began on Thursday, March 7 at 12:01 a.m. and ended on Saturday, March 9 at 11:59 p.m. The high-visibility enforcement included the Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police, West Virginia State Police and OSHP.
During the 6-State project, OSHP made 13 weapon arrests and 242 drug arrests.
“The Patrol remains vigilant in stopping drugs and illegal weapons from being on our roadways,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “By partnering with our neighboring states, we are making the roads into and out of Ohio, as well as in our communities, safer for everyone.”
The 6-State Trooper Project is a multi-state law enforcement partnership aimed at providing combined and coordinated law enforcement and security services in the areas of highway safety, criminal patrol and intelligence sharing.
For a complete breakdown of activity, please visit https://www.statepatrol.ohio.gov/doc/2019_6StateTrooperCriminalPatrol_NoUnit.pdf
PUCO authorizes AT&T Ohio to end participation in phone discount program
COLUMBUS, OHIO (March 13, 2019) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today approved an application by AT&T Ohio to end its participation in the federal Lifeline program. AT&T Ohio will stop providing Lifeline discounts to the majority of its landline customers on June 11, 2019. Lifeline is a federally funded program that provides monthly discounts to eligible consumers of landline, wireless or broadband services.
AT&T Ohio serves 7,301 landline customers enrolled in the Lifeline program, according to the latest federal data.
AT&T Ohio will continue to provide landline telephone service to all of its current customers; however, customers wishing to continue to receive discounts through the Lifeline program will need to find another telephone provider. A list of companies offering Lifeline discounts is available online at www.lifelinesupport.org.
Affected AT&T Ohio customers that cannot find an alternative Lifeline provider are encouraged to notify the PUCO as soon as possible by Aug. 10, 2019. The PUCO will assist customers in finding an alternative Lifeline provider, and if one does not exist, AT&T Ohio will continue to provide a discount for an additional year.
Federal law requires that state regulatory commissions permit telephone companies to end participation in Lifeline when there are alternate providers available to customers. A PUCO staff investigation determined that wireless providers currently offering Lifeline discounts cover 99.85 percent of AT&T Ohio’s affected service territory.
The Commission ordered AT&T Ohio to notify affected customers by letter and bill inserts following today’s Commission order.
Customers enrolled in their service provider’s Lifeline program receive a $9.25 monthly credit. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) establishes the amount of the discount. The FCC has established a timeframe to phase out the discount for voice-only phone services by December 2021.
A copy of today’s Commission finding and order is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to the Docketing Information System (DIS), and enter case number 17-1948-TP-UNC.
Ohio Department of Education Celebrates Armed Forces Commitments of Students from Across Ohio
Columbus, OHIO — The Ohio Department of Education today welcomed more than 250 students from several dozen high schools around the state to celebrate their commitments to serve in the U.S. military.
High school seniors and juniors who are entering service academies or have committed to serve as active duty, Reserve or National Guard members were invited to take part in the Armed Forces Career Commitment Ceremony at COSI (Center of Science and Industry), 333 West Broad St., in Columbus.
The students signed commitment letters, received red, white, and blue cords from the USO, and celebrated with their families and members of the military and education communities.
Terry McDermott, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division and an educator at Olentangy Orange High School, provided opening remarks.
Grove City Central Crossing High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps conducted the presentation of colors, with service song accompaniment by Anthony Wayne High School’s Symphonic Winds.
“I am grateful to the teachers, educators, and families who prepared these students for their future success,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria. “Along with college and career-tech education programs, military service is a postsecondary pathway that offers meaningful, rewarding, lifelong career experiences and opportunities.”
The commitment ceremony also featured:
David Porter of the U.S. Army, 2018 graduate and enlisted service member.
Retired Col. Thomas N. Moe of the U.S. Air Force, former prisoner of war for five and one-half years.
Gen. James R. Camp, who serves as Ohio assistant adjutant general for Air.
Retired Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, who serves as director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
Chad Marzec, 2006 graduate of West Point Military Academy and a varsity coach at Liberty-Benton High School in Findlay.
This marks the second annual Armed Forces Career Commitment Ceremony.
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.