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Morning Headlines: KSU Prof Charged With Lying to FBI; FirstEnergy Profits Skyrocket

photo of Kent State

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, April 24:

  • Kent State professor charged with lying to the FBI;
  • Cuyahoga County contract with Vox Mobile inexplicably doubles;
  • ECOT whistleblower says the online charter school used software to inflate attendance;
  • FirstEnergy profits are up after subsidiary's bankruptcy;
  • Kasich signs executive order to improve gun background checks;
  • Ohio attorney general vows to appeal Planned Parenthood funding decision;
  • Streetsboro teen shoots 11-year-old boy;

Kent State professor charged with lying to the FBI
A controversial Kent State University professor has been charged with lying to the FBI. Julio Pino, 58, is a tenured history professor who has worked at Kent State since 1992. Investigators say the charges stem from a 2015 post by one of Pino’s Facebook friends who had threatened to kill hundreds of people. Pino commented, encouraging those statements and then denied knowing him. Pino has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and American policy in the Middle East. In 2016, he was under investigation for possible connections to terrorist group ISIS. Pino is charged by way of criminal information, which signals he’s cooperating with prosecutors. Kent State says he’s been suspended from campus.

Cuyahoga County contract with Vox Mobile inexplicably doubles
Cuyahoga County officials are looking into why a county contract with a mobile tech contractor nearly doubled with apparently no approval. Cleveland.com reports the county’s 13-month contract with Vox Mobile worth nearly $40,000 turned into a two-year contract for nearly twice as much money. A member of the county’s Board of Control said at Monday's meeting he could find no evidence that council voted to extend the contract. Neither County Executive Armond Budish nor a representative for the county’s IT department could provide an explanation. The county prosecutor’s office is currently investigating the Budish administration. Vox Mobile is named in a subpoena served earlier this month.

ECOT whistleblower says the online charter school used software to inflate attendance
A whistleblower at a shuttered online charter school says the school inflated its attendance using computer software. The state last year ordered the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow to return $60 million because of inflated attendance figures. According to a former tech employee, ECOT then purchased special software and ordered staff to increase the reported time students were active in online classrooms. The employee first raised concerns with state regulators last August. An ECOT spokesman dismissed the allegations. Democratic senator and candidate for governor Joe Schiavoni has called for a criminal investigation into ECOT.

FirstEnergy profits are up after subsidiary's bankruptcy
FirstEnergy profits are up following its power plant subsidiary’s decision to file for bankruptcy. The utility on Monday reported earnings of $1.2 billion during the first three months of this year. That’s nearly a five-fold increase compared to the same period last year. The utility’s generation arm FirstEnergy Solutions filed for Chapter 11 protection at the end of last month. The second hearing in the bankruptcy case is set for later this week.

Kasich signs executive order to improve gun background checks
Gov. John Kasich has signed an executive order intended to improve gun background check reporting. The governor has asked a committee that last met in 2015 to reconvene and study how well police departments and clerks of court report information that could stop someone from buying a gun. Kasich says that group's original conclusions found changes needed at the local level to get information quickly and accurately to the national instant background check database. Kasich also wants the state auditor to include reporting to that database as part of regular audits of local governments. The move comes as Kasich pushes a package of gun control efforts in the Legislature, including a so-called "red flag" law regarding people who show warning signs of violence.

Ohio attorney general vows to appeal Planned Parenthood funding decision
Ohio's Republican attorney general says a court ruling blocking a state law that diverts public money from Planned Parenthood will be appealed to the full federal appeals court in Cincinnati. Planned Parenthood says the law violates the organization's constitutional rights by denying it public funds "in retaliation for" providing abortions. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Planned Parenthood last week. Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Monday that he'll appeal to the full court. DeWine says the state isn't required "to use its funding discretion under these programs to support abortion providers." The law targeted the more than $1.4 million Planned Parenthood gets through Ohio's health department. Those mostly federal dollars support initiatives that provide HIV tests, cancer screenings and other prevention services.

Streetsboro teen shoots 11-year-old boy
Police in Streetsboro are investigating the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy. Investigators say the boy was shot by his 13-year-old brother in a “premeditated act.” The 13-year-old has been arrested and charged with aggravated murder. Police say the older boy used a handgun stolen from his grandfather's home. Investigators did not give information on a possible motive. No names have been released.