Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts audit shows public money mishandled
Poor record keeping, questionable handling of the public’s money and possible broken laws are just a few of the problems an internal audit found at the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts. Clerk Andrea Rocco, who was appointed to the position this year, asked for the audit in January and she says she’s in the process making changes. The former Deputy Director of the clerk’s criminal division, Mark Lime, was fired in 2011 and pleaded guilty in July to dozens of felony charges, including theft in office. The Plain Dealer reports the 37-page audit found safes not being video recorded and cash registers not being locked during the day. There also were no policies and procedures in place for bond forfeitures and whether they were paid, resulting in at least $20,000 in lost revenues to the county.
Investigators look for answers in Canton sulfur fire
Investigators in Canton continue to try to figure out why vats of sulfur were left in a factory that’s been closed for the last two years. A chemical reaction in the sulfur triggered a fire Monday afternoon. That, in turn, sent clouds of sulfur dioxide out over Canton and led to the evacuation of much of the northeast quadrant of the city. The building had housed Convoy Containers, which made corrugated and other storage containers. Convoy shut down in May of 2011, and according to records from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, it had been cited for hazards in the preceding months. Marathon petroleum – which has a refinery in southwest Canton – helped monitor air quality before the evacuation order was lifted. The US EPA also stepped in. The evacuation lasted more than 12 hours.
Summa reportedly laying off dozens of employees
Summit County’s largest employer, Summa Health System, reportedly began laying off employees yesterday. The Beacon Journal reports that at least 30 people were told their positions were being cut during meetings held with staff. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said at least six of the people who lost their jobs were members of the union. So far, Summa has not formally announced any reduction in staff. Summa employs about 11,000 people. In January, Summa laid off 54 workers.
State lawmakers pushing for more natural gas vehicles
Two state lawmakers want to encourage people in Ohio to drive vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas. So much so, the Plain Dealer reports, that they are proposing a tax credit to people or companies who buy or convert vehicles to run on CNG. The bipartisan effort would also create a loan program to help companies converting fleets of vehicles buy and install refueling equipment. CNG costs just $2 a gallon, and despite the fact that natural gas is being found in record amounts in Ohio, there are only about a dozen fueling stations in the state. At least 11 states have programs similar to the one being proposed.
Breast cancer vaccine heading for clinical trials
A breast cancer vaccine will soon be headed for clinical trials. Researcher Vincent Tuohey at the Cleveland Clinic has spent 11 years working on the drug. The goal is to both prevent the disease and keep it from coming back. The Clinic has now formed a spinoff company , Shield Biotech, to move the vaccine to trials. A private, anonymous investor is providing the funds for the initial clinical trials.
Review commissioned on prison suicides
Ohio has commissioned a review of two high-profile prison inmate suicides by two of the country's leading criminal justice experts. The review will look at the September 3rd suicide of Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro and the August 4th suicide of death row inmate Billy Slagle just days before his scheduled execution. Fred Cohen, a law professor at State University of New York at Albany, and Lindsay Hayes, project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, will also examine suicide prevention efforts in the state prisons during the past two years.
Drunk driver behind viral video expected to plead guilty
An Ohio man who confessed in an online video to causing a fatal wrong-way crash after a night of heavy drinking hopes to plead guilty. Matthew Cordle entered a preliminary 'not guilty' plea last week in a procedural move allowing a judge to be appointed to accept a guilty plea. Attorneys for Cordle have said he plans to plead guilty Wednesday to aggravated vehicular homicide to make good on his pledge to accept responsibility for the crash.
Operator of Cleveland convention center to be replaced
The Chicago company that helped launch Cleveland’s new convention center will soon be out as the facility’s manager and operator. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald says Merchandise Mart Properties Incorporated will be replaced later this year. It had been working with the county on the nearly $500 million project since 2008. It opened this summer. Attorney Jeff Applebaum represents the county on the convention center project. He says dropping MMPI has been under discussion for some time, and the company agrees with the decision. Applebaum says the pending change is because MMPI’s parent company, Vornado, has steadily gotten out of the convention and exhibit business.
Sierra Club launching campaign against FirstEnergy
The Sierra Club says it's launching an aggressive campaign to discourage Ohioans from buying electricity from the retail arm of Akron-based FirstEnergy, as state utility regulators continue to sort out legal issues surrounding the company's customer charges for renewables. The environmental group plans an event Wednesday to detail its effort against the power giant, which will include advertising, volunteer recruitment and door-to-door canvassing. A message was left with FirstEnergy's spokesman seeking comment. The group asserts FirstEnergy is fighting energy efficiency programs and clean energy mandates in the state. Last month, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ordered FirstEnergy to credit $43.3 million back to customers for overcharges on renewables purchased in Ohio's developing alternative-energy market. Regulators decide Wednesday whether to re-open legal arguments in the case.
Development Services Agency to provide estimated tax credits for businesses
Ohio's development agency says it will now provide the estimated value of state tax credits for businesses following concerns from Governor John Kasich that the information be publicly available. The Development Services Agency's reversal comes after it said it recently began encouraging reporters to calculate the potential value of the credits on their own, rather than providing them with the estimate as it had previously done. The estimates are for future tax credits that new or expanding businesses receive based on performance. They show the credits' potential value. Public information is used to calculate the figure, under terms agreed to by the Tax Credit Authority. Spokeswoman Lyn Tolan said the agency believed it provided the tools for people to make the estimates, but it will provide calculations upon request.
Ohio State launching $200,000 search for president
Ohio State University is paying a higher education headhunting firm $200,000 plus expenses for its work finding the university's next president. The contract with Dallas-based consulting firm R. William Funk and Associates also allows for out-of-pocket expenses for travel and lodging by candidates and Funk consultants and $20,000 for the cost of the company's administrative support. Under the contract released by the university Tuesday the company agrees to conduct another search for free if the candidate selected leaves the university within two years. The university is seeking a replacement for former president Gordon Gee, who retired in July a month after remarks in which he jabbed Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools were made public.