Morning Headlines: Feds Seize Records on Cleveland Employee in Raid; Browns Fire Lead Executive

Dec 8, 2017

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, December 8th:

  • In overnight raid, feds seize records related to city employee's engineering firm;
  • Lawmakers consider cuts to living allowances for state's largest pension system;
  • FBI uncovers two drug rings that sold fentanyl;
  • Natural gas plant near Toledo is approved;
  • District court upholds Cleveland's right to choose local workers for city projects;
  • Youngstown State extends President Jim Tressel's contract;
  • John Glenn memorial sculpture supporters seek state funding;
  • O'Neill says he will resign from the Ohio Supreme Court to run for governor;
  • Browns fire their lead executive;

In overnight raid, feds seize records related to city employee's engineering firm
Cleveland.com is reporting it has obtained records related to an overnight raid by federal agents Wednesday at Cleveland City Hall. A warrant shows the FBI, IRS and Department of Housing and Urban Development searched the city’s Division of Engineering and Construction around 9 p.m. They took files related to a city engineer and inspector who owns an engineering firm. Feds also looked into a Geauga paving company that’s received at least $7 million in city contracts over the last three years. Cleveland.com reports the city only fulfilled its records request after “considerable pressure” on city officials.

Lawmakers consider cuts to living allowances for state's largest pension system
State lawmakers are considering cuts to cost-of-living allowances for members of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Deliberations began this week on House Bill 413, which matches cost-of-living adjustments for retirees to the typical cost of the goods and services people need, known as the Consumer Price Index. The Dispatch reports supporters of the bill say it will help save the retirement system about $4 billion by lowering the adjustment cap from 3 percent to 2.25 percent. Critics are questioning the need for cuts, saying the $72 billion fund is in good shape.

FBI uncovers two drug rings that sold fentanyl
Twenty-six people in greater Cleveland are being charged as part of a drug ring that sold fentanyl and heroin. Federal agents raided car repair shops and dealerships that were being used as fronts to store drugs and launder drug money. Prosecutors say the rings used the U.S. Mail, FedEx and UPS to have drugs shipped in from Puerto Rico. Court records show the drugs, which included fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, were sold throughout Cleveland and Toledo.

Natural gas plant near Toledo is approved
Regulators have approved the construction of a new natural gas power plant in northern Ohio. The Ohio Power Siting Board on Thursday approved plans for a plant in Lucas County just outside Toledo. The new 955 megawatt plant will be built next to another natural gas plant that began operating earlier this year. About a dozen natural gas power plants are being built or are in the planning stages around the state. They use gas from shale fields in Ohio and neighboring states and turn it into electricity.

District court upholds Cleveland's right to choose local workers for city projects
A 2016 state law that does not allow cities to hire workers based on where they live has once again been ruled unconstitutional. A district court Thursday upheld an earlier ruling and said the legislation violates the rights of city government to manage its own hiring laws. Cleveland had sued the state in 2016, saying the law encroached on the city’s Fannie Lewis Law. The law requires the city to hire at least 20 percent of its workers locally for projects of $100,000 or more. It’s not clear whether the state will appeal the ruling.

Youngstown State extends President Jim Tressel's contract
Youngstown State University and its president have agreed to extend his contract for another year through June 2019. Trustees say that the campus has seen great progress since Jim Tressel took over in 2014, including a 25 percent increase in freshman enrollment. Tressel's annual salary will remain the same at $300,000. Trustees also approved a tuition increase and freeze plan. Tuition for in-state freshman next fall will increase to nearly $9,000 and then freeze for four years. The plan follows similar moves by the University of Akron and Cleveland State. Kent State is expected to implement the plan at its board of trustees meeting next week.

John Glenn memorial sculpture supporters seek state funding
Organizers of a sculpture effort to honor the late John Glenn are banking on Ohio's love of the famous astronaut to try to attract some state funding. A New York graduate student championing creation of the statue says he's preparing a request for about $20,000 in state funding toward estimated project costs of between $175,000 and $200,000. Capital budget requests are due Jan. 3. The sculpture would be placed outside the John Glenn Post Office in Glenn's birthplace of Cambridge. The first American to orbit Earth died a year ago Friday at age 95.

O'Neill says he will resign from the Ohio Supreme Court to run for governor
Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill says he's staying in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race and has decided when he's leaving the high court. O'Neill tells The Associated Press he'll specify that date in a resignation letter he plans to submit to Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor today. The date must precede the Feb. 7 candidate-filing deadline. O'Neill's statement about his candidacy comes amid efforts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to oust him from the court. O'Neill previously said he would leave the race if former federal watchdog Richard Cordray decided to run. Cordray announced his candidacy for governor earlier this week.

Browns fire their lead executive
The Browns on Thursday fired their lead football executive Sashi Brown. Brown was unable to produce more than one win over two seasons. However, owner Jimmy Haslam decided to keep coach Hue Jackson around for another season despite a 1-27 record. Hours after Brown was let go, the Browns hired former Kansas City executive John Dorsey as their new general manager. Dorsey, who was fired by the Chiefs in June after four seasons, was partially credited with the club's renaissance. The Chiefs went 43-21 under Dorsey's watch and made the postseason three times.