Morning Headlines: Details Emerge in Cleveland's Failed Amazon HQ Bid; ECOT Audit Released

May 11, 2018

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, May 11:

  • Cleveland offered Amazon discounted RTA fares, Terminal Tower office space in failed HQ bid;
  • ECOT audit handed over to U.S. attorney's office;
  • Judge overseeing opioid lawsuits pushes for global settlement;
  • State certifies petition language for recreational pot amendment;
  • Franklin County judge to rule on whether medical marijuana grower licenses should be put on hold;
  • Family of Akron teen who shot himself in police cruiser files suit;
  • CAK to charge Uber and Lyft drivers to wait for riders;
  • Acme grocery chain to end fuel rewards;
  • Canton Police Chief announces retirement;
  • Lawsuit over Columbus soccer team's planned move is put on hold;
  • Browns in the playoffs? ESPN says maybe;

Cleveland offered Amazon discounted RTA fares, Terminal Tower office space in failed HQ bid
New details have emerged from Cleveland’s failed bid to score online retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters. Cleveland.com obtained records from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, which previously claimed the documents contained trade secrets and could not be released. The records show incentives offered to Amazon and its employees. They include a 25 percent discount on public transit fares for Amazon employees and a promise to triple the RTA’s capacity over the next decade. City officials also offered Amazon office space in Terminal Tower and Post Office Plaza. Both are owned by downtown developer K&D Group.

ECOT audit handed over to U.S. attorney's office
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has referred findings in his long-awaited audit of what was the state’s largest charter school over to the U.S. attorney's office and Franklin County prosecutor for possible criminal charges. The audit, released Thursday morning, concludes the online school gave the state “junk data” that purposely inflated attendance. He also accuses the Ohio Department of Education of accepting “fake proof” it never should have. The school has denied it did anything intentionally wrong.

Judge overseeing opioid lawsuits pushes for global settlement
The federal judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits filed by government entities seeking billions of dollars from drug distributors says he will continue to push for solutions to the problem while lawyers continue their settlement talks. Judge Dan Polster held an open-court session in Cleveland on Thursday before meeting separately with attorneys from both sides. Polster said he hopes a global settlement can be reached similar to the 1998 settlement involving tobacco companies that resulted in the payment of $206 billion to 46 states. Polster wants to forge a deal on business practices and funding to reverse the crisis. The first trials, scheduled for next March, will be for lawsuits filed by Cleveland and Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Polster said Thursday those trials could be an "aid" to settlement talks.

State certifies petition language for recreational pot amendment
A constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio took a first step on Thursday toward qualifying for a statewide ballot. Attorney General Mike DeWine -- the Republican nominee running for governor in November -- certified the petition language for "The Marijuana Rights and Regulations" amendment that would allow people 21 years or older to possess, produce, transport, use, sell and share pot. Cleveland.com reports it now goes to the Ohio Ballot Board to determine if the measure is one or multiple ballot issues. If approved by the board, the measure needs more than 305,000 signatures.

Franklin County judge to rule on whether medical marijuana grower licenses should be put on hold
A judge could soon decide whether Ohio's embattled program for licensing medical marijuana growers should be put on hold. Ohio Releaf LLC, a marijuana grower passed over for a cultivator license, is suing the Ohio Department of Commerce, saying the state hasn't provided it with an adequate appeals process. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye will hear arguments on Friday in Releaf's request for a preliminary injunction that would halt license processing until the company is heard. Three other lawsuits have been filed challenging the state's selection of 24 applicants to grow medical marijuana. Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and set this Sept. 8 as the start date of the program. However, the state has said the program won't be fully operational by that date.

Family of Akron teen who shot himself in police cruiser files suit
The family of a 17-year-old boy who fatally shot himself while handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser in Akron has filed a lawsuit against the city and police. The wrongful death suit alleges police did not properly search Xavier McMullen on Aug. 25, 2017 before putting him in the patrol car. It also says officers waited 20 minutes before investigating a loud noise believed to be the fatal gunshot. Cleveland.com reports the teen's mother filed the suit Thursday, naming the city of Akron, its police department and more than a dozen officers as defendants. Earlier this year, the department docked Officer Devin Ray's pay for failing to thoroughly search McMullen. The lawsuit seeks $25,000 in damages. The city and the department declined to comment.

CAK to charge Uber and Lyft drivers to wait for riders
The Akron-Canton Airport will start charging drivers for ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, to wait for riders on airport property. Fox 8 Cleveland reports the airport will start to require the $400 permits this month. Airport officials say the move is fair to all drivers including limo and taxi services who are already required to have permits. Some Uber and Lyft drivers say the new permits are an unfair burden. Drivers without a permit will still be able to pick access the terminal, but will have to wait for customers offsite.

Acme grocery chain to end fuel rewards
Akron-based Acme Fresh Markets says it plans to end its fuel rewards program, but will still honor rewards through October of next year. The Beacon Journal reports an Acme spokesperson said customer response to the loyalty program has been declining. Since 2009 the program let customers earn free fuel at area Circle K gas stations.

Canton Police Chief announces retirement
Canton Police Chief Brucer Lawver is retiring. The Repository reports the 25-year veteran will step down June 1st. Lawver is a Canton native and served as SWAT team commander before being promoted to chief in 2012. Capt. Dave Davis will be acting chief of police until the position can be filled permanently by the city's Civil Service Office. No timeline has been given.

Lawsuit over Columbus soccer team's planned move is put on hold
An Ohio judge has ordered a 90-day pause in a lawsuit that seeks to stop Columbus’ Major League Soccer team's proposed move to Austin, Texas. The Dispatch reports judge issued the order on Tuesday. The lawsuit filed by the Ohio attorney general and the city of Columbus cites a law enacted after the original Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996. Under the law, Ohio sports teams using publicly supported facilities must give six months' notice and allow cities or residents a chance to buy the team. The city has argued the owners of Crew SC were vague about their notice. The judge will meet with both parties to determine how to structure a potential sale. Both sides also must help determine the team's value.

Browns in the playoffs? ESPN says maybe
An ESPN writer has listed the Cleveland Browns as a possible playoff sleeper this year. That would be quite a turnaround for a franchise that went winless last season and hasn't been to the postseason since 2002. ESPN's Mike Clay wrote offseason trades and high picks in this year's NFL draft could position the team to challenge for a wildcard playoff spot in the AFC. The article cites newly acquired quarterback Tyrod Taylor and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines, T.J. Carrie and rookie Denzel Ward as improvements. The Browns are 1 – 32 the past two seasons under Head Coach Hugh Jackson.