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Morning Headlines: RTA Claims Admin Enabled Benefits Abuse; Cannabis Dispensary Licenses Delayed

photo of RTA blue line train

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, May 23:

  • Cleveland RTA accuses administrator of helping former president abuse benefits;
  • Cuyahoga Falls man gets 17 months in prison for threatening a mass shooting;
  • Black bear spotted in Medina County;
  • Sears' demise in the Akron-Canton area appears imminent;
  • Ashtabula man critically wounded by police files suit;
  • Franklin County prosecutor recuses himself from ECOT case;
  • Ohio House cancels Tuesday session to elect new speaker;
  • Payday loan reform ballot proposal makes its way to the state's ballot board;
  • Tick-borne diseases are on the rise;
  • ODOT to embark on Route 8 construction project;
  • Cannabis dispensary licenses delayed;
  • Daniel Mesfun declared official winner of Cleveland Marathon men's divison;

Cleveland RTA accuses administrator of helping former president abuse benefits
Officials at Cleveland’s transit agency are looking to fire an administrator they say helped a former president steal more than $1 million in benefits. The Greater Cleveland RTA placed human resources manager Bruce Hampton Sr. on unpaid leave Monday. Trustees claim Hampton helped former president George Dixon III receive benefits in spite of falling behind on his premiums. They say Dixon owes more than $140,000 in premiums and close to a million dollars in medical, dental and vision benefits. A hearing on Hampton’s involvement is pending.

Cuyahoga Falls man gets 17 months in prison for threatening a mass shooting
A Cuyahoga Falls man who threatened to carry out a mass shooting has been sentenced to 17 months in prison. A federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Wei Li on Tuesday, four days after a student killed 10 people in Santa Fe, Texas. Li had sent threatening text messages to his wife, saying he would kill her and others at the Las Vegas casino where she worked. He also threatened to open fire inside a church. Li must also pay a $5,500 fine.

Black bear spotted in Medina County
State officials have spotted a black bear roaming around Cleveland suburbs. The bear was first spotted almost two weeks ago in Portage County, and was last spotted on Ohio 57 and River Styx Road in Medina County. Cleveland.com reports the bear is about three years old and weighs about 200 pounds. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is suggesting that residents in the area remove bird feeders and store garbage indoors to avoid attracting bears.

Sears' demise in the Akron-Canton area appears imminent
Sears stores are closer to disappearing from the Akron-Canton area with the latest round of closures. Forty stores are closing in 24 states, including the Sears at Southern Park Mall in Boardman. The Beacon Journal reports that leaves two stores at Belden Village Mall and Eastwood Mall in Niles. The closings come as foot traffic declines and online retailers like Amazon pull business away. Sears is also considering selling off its Kenmore brand of appliances.

Ashtabula man critically wounded by police files suit
A man who was shot and critically wounded by a police officer has sued the officer and the city employing him. The lawsuit says Brandon Hester, then 23 years old, was holding an intruder at gunpoint in June 2017 when Ashtabula officers barged inside his home. The lawsuit says officer Daniel Gillespie gave no warning before shooting Hester in the back with an AR-15 assault rifle. Police maintain Hester was ordered to drop his gun and that Gillespie shot him in self-defense. Gillespie was cleared by an Ashtabula County grand jury.

Franklin County prosecutor recuses himself from ECOT case
Franklin County’s prosecutor has recused himself from an investigation into potential criminal conduct by officials at Ohio's then-largest online charter school. The Dispatch reports that Ron O'Brien isn't stepping aside because of campaign donations he received from Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow founder Bill Lager, but because of a staff-related conflict. An assistant county prosecutor was formerly married to ECOT's superintendent when the school was closed by its sponsor in January. O'Brien plans to bring in an outsider to review Auditor Dave Yost's finding that ECOT officials might have committed criminal fraud by withholding information and misleading state education regulators.

Ohio House cancels Tuesday session to elect new speaker
The Ohio House canceled a session where lawmakers were set to elect a replacement for former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger. A notice gave no explanation for the decision not to go forward Tuesday with electing Rosenberger's successor. The Republican resigned in April amid questioning about his activities by the FBI. Democrats had challenged Tuesday's session as improper. The date was added by the chamber's acting leader, President Pro Tem Kirk Schuring, and House rules say only the speaker can add a day to the calendar. Sessions are still on for today and Thursday. Those days were on the calendar before Rosenberger left. A spokesman has said state Rep. Ryan Smith, a Gallia Republican, has the votes to become interim speaker.

Payday loan reform ballot proposal makes its way to the state's ballot board
A ballot proposal to cap Ohio's interest rates on payday loans and impose additional regulations on the industry has cleared its initial hurdle. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says his office found backers' re-submitted petition is valid. An earlier petition was rejected in March. The amendment goes next to the Ohio Ballot Board. Organizers want to see some of the nation's highest interest rates on short-term loans capped at no more than 28 percent. Ohio voters approved payday lending limits in 2008, but the industry has found ways to bypass those restrictions.

Tick-borne diseases are on the rise
State health officials say there’s been an increase in tick-borne diseases in Ohio. The Ohio Health Department says that cases of Lyme disease, once rare in Ohio, have jumped in recent years with nearly 300 recorded cases last year. The black-legged tick, which transmits Lyme disease, has only recently moved into Northern Ohio according to state experts. They say climate change could be altering the tick’s distribution.

ODOT to embark on Route 8 construction project
Summit County drivers can expect a big travel headache beginning this fall. ODOT is planning to replace most of a six-mile stretch of Route 8 north of Graham Road. It’s part of a four-year, $48 million project. Officials are holding a public meeting tonight in Stow to discuss the work and lane closures. The project is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2022. ODOT is also planning two bridge replacements on Route 8.

Cannabis dispensary licenses delayed
Ohio’s troubled roll-out of its medical marijuana program has hit another snag. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has cancelled a meeting next month that was intended to name winners of cannabis dispensary licenses. A board spokesman says the agency is still waiting for background checks and other criteria on the up to 57 proposed site operators across the state. Some medical marijuana distributors are angered by the postponement which they say is costing thousands of dollars to hold properties ready to begin business. There has also been controversy surrounding how marijuana grower licenses have been handed out. The state says it will not meet the required Sept. 8 launch date for the program.

Daniel Mesfun declared official winner of Cleveland Marathon men's divison
Two days after the Cleveland Marathon, Daniel Mesfun of Eritrea was officially named the men's division champion. The second place finisher argued Mesfun had his bib covered for most of the race, making it unclear whether Mesfun was running the half or full marathon. Race officials said they did not find any clear rule violation or deception.