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April 2009 | Butler County News and Issues
 

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April 2009

Boehner responds to sheriff’s potential challenge

From this story in today’s Dayton Daily News:

(John) Boehner, the (U.S.) House Minority Leader, seemed undeterred by a possible primary challenge next year. On Tuesday, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones took out a petition to run for Congress in the 8th Congressional District, which Boehner has represented since 1990.

Jones, who has garnered a national and sometimes controversial reputation for his strong comments against illegal immigration, said he is forming an exploratory committee to decide whether to run.

Boehner said his focus was on issues other than the congressional race. “My focus is on trying to help our economy, trying to control the size of government in Washington, and trying to make sure American families and small businesses get to keep more of what they earn in order to get the economy going again,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to continuing to serve the constituents of the 8th Congressional District.”

Go here for our online poll. The results so far:

What was your reaction to learning that Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones may challenge U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner for his congressional seat next year?

  • Jones doesn’t stand a chance: 41.75%
  • Boehner better start packing: 31.07%
  • Boehner should go, but why does it have to be Jones?: 20.39%
  • This is going to tear the Republican party apart: 6.80%

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Dog reunited with owner

Press release from Butler County Dog Warden’s office:

Nanuk, or “Nookie” is a service dog who went missing last week from her owner in Hamilton Ohio and was found Wednesday thanks to the efforts of Bob Goettelman from the Butler County Auditor, Roger Reynold’s Office and Ron Woods of Temperance Michigan.

Nookie wandered away from her owner and was found by Mr. Wood’s Brother-in-law while fishing in Hamilton. He then took the dog to his brother in law in Temperance, MI.

Nookie was thankfully wearing her Butler County Dog license (service dog id).

Mr. Woods then contacted Butler County Auditor, Roger Reynolds office, where Bob Goettleman, was unable to reach owner, since the phone had been disconnected. He was able to locate owner, Heather Komnenovich, by a internet search and found her Mother’s obituary in the Oxford Press News and then contacted a family member who would meet her at the funeral that day and give her the news that her dog had been found.

Chief Julie Holmes of the Butler County Dog Wardens Office was contacted by Mr. Goettleman to help with making the arrangements to help get Nookie Home. Chief Julie Holmes immediately volunteered to help and drove last night to Lima, Ohio (a 1/2 way point) to meet Mr. Woods. Nookie was able to stay the night at the Chief Dog’s house and will be reunited today with her grateful owner at 10:00 AM the Animal Friends Humane Society at 5225 Hamilton Trenton Rd, Trenton Ohio.

The Animal Friends Humane Society has graciously offered to have Nookie checked out by a Veterinarian prior to her reunion.

The Butler County Dog Warden would like to graciously extend a BIG THANK YOU to Mr. Ron Woods, Bob Goettleman and Auditor Roger Reynolds for helping make this reunion possible.

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Ruscigno pleads guilty to tax charges

Hamilton nightclub owner and former GOP politico Joe Ruscigno pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday, April 29, to tax obstruction charges.

Ruscigno admitted to fudging the books of West Chester Twp.-based court reporting business Fitch Reporting Inc., to justify lowering weekly payments of back taxes to the IRS.

The statement of facts to which Ruscigno pleaded guilty said he submitted a false profit and loss statement to the IRS in 2007. Ruscigno owned the company with his ex-wife, Jane Fitch, who was not named in the charges.

Ruscigno also signed a plea agreement offering him the possibility of a reduced sentence if he pleads guilty and cooperates with law enforcement “regarding his activities and those of others in relation to the offense charged…and all other criminal activity of which he is aware,” including, “participating in covert law enforcement activities.”

The charges against him carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison, one year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and a $100 assessment.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Aug. 25. It was originally set for Aug. 5, but U.S. Judge Herman Weber moved the date when Ruscigno said that was his and wife Rawnica Dillingham’s wedding anniversary.

The two own V’s Nightclub in Hamilton, which may lose its liquor license after police raided the business and claim exotic dancers there were violating the city’s adult entertainment ordinance.

The two used to be active in Butler County Republican Party politics, with Ruscigno serving as party finance chairman.

But they had a falling out with the party, culminating in a failed run by Dillingham for county commissioner in the GOP primary last year without party endorsement.

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County commission agenda

Below is the agenda for tomorrow’s Butler County commission meeting.

Anything look interesting to you?

(Click on the top right corner to enlarge)

County 043009

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Is county health department doing enough to prepare for swine flu?

With 64 confirmed cases of swine flu across the country — including one in Ohio — and one child dead in Texas, local response and preparation efforts have varied.

The Warren County Combined Health District has established a prerecorded Swine Flu Hotline that will be updated as new information is obtained. Residents can call the hotline at 513-695-INFO, 513-925-INFO, 937-425-INFO, or 513-261-INFO to receive the updated information on Swine Flu. The Ohio Department of Health has also set up a toll-free number to call for specific questions; the hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 1-866-800-1404.

Middletown health officials have issued an advisory with precautions residents can take.

The Butler County Health Department has posted a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on their Web site.

Are local health departments doing enough to prepare the public? One man thinks not.

This story is in today’s paper:

There is a fine line, health officials say, between educating the public about the potential of flu pandemics and terrifying them.

The Ohio Department of Health, for example, confirms that there is one documented case of swine flu in the state — a 9-year-old boy recovering at home near Cleveland — but they won’t release the number or location of suspected cases.

To determine if those cases are indeed swine flu, samples of the virus are sent to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta. The process can take 24 hours.

Hamilton health officials investigated a sick person on Monday, April 27, and determined that the illness wasn’t swine flu. There have been no local samples sent to the CDC, Butler County and city officials said.

There were 64 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States, including 45 in New York, as of Tuesday, April 28, according to the CDC.

“I think what people need to do is be vigilant, they need to be aware but not panic,” said Butler County Health Department Director Patricia Burg. “If I came down with flu symptoms, and I just got back from Mexico, I would be concerned right now.”

Burg said local health officials are ready should the swine flu breach Butler County’s borders. They’re in wait-and-see mode now, after educating schools, hospitals and other agencies about what to look for and what to do if the deadly flu is detected.

But local governments aren’t doing nearly enough to prepare the public, worries one local man.

Frank Colon, a retired professor of family medicine at the University of Cincinnati, believes a mass education effort should be under way.

“We need something to deal with epidemics in which you have to stay close to home, but you have to find a way to take care of yourself,” Colon said. “We need to tell people what they need in their homes to deal with this.”

That includes stocking up on needed medication for people with chronic illnesses, and keeping at least a week’s worth of groceries on hand, he said. Otherwise, there will be crowds at the grocery store after the flu is here, and that’s when people should be staying away from each other.

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Jones v. Boehner?

Here is the full story from today’s paper about Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones weighing a run for congress against U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner:

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has taken the first step to challenge U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner in next year’s GOP primary.

Jones pulled a petition at the Butler County Board of Elections Tuesday, April 28, to take on the West Chester Twp. Republican in the May 4, 2010, primary for the U.S. 8th Congressional District.

He now has until Feb. 19, 2010, to collect 50 signatures and pay a $85 filing fee.

“All I did was pick up a packet,” Jones said Tuesday night, saying he is not at this point a candidate for the congressional seat.

Jones, 55, of Liberty Twp., said he is forming an exploratory committee to determine whether a bid for the 8th Congressional District is the right move.

“At this point I am the sheriff of Butler County, I am not a congressional candidate. I love being the sheriff and working with the people,” Jones said. “I am looking to see if I can do more by remaining sheriff or as a congressman.”

Why isn’t Jones considering a run at county commission or a state seat?

“Timing is everything,” Jones said. “The three commissioners we have now won’t be leaving soon. The 8th Congressional District is a conservative district (that) I do well in. We’ll have to see.”

Both Boehner and Jones are popular candidates and powerful fund raisers. Boehner won his re-election bid last year with 68 percent of the vote; Jones won his with 71 percent.

Although Boehner leads his party in the U.S. House, Jones is no stranger to the national stage. His strong — and sometimes controversial — stance against illegal immigration has drawn the spotlight more than once.

Boehner spokeswoman Jessica Towhey issued the following statement in response to Jones’ bid: “Congressman Boehner continues to proudly serve Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, working hard to develop better solutions for his constituents that will create jobs, lower taxes and put our state and nation on the path to prosperity.”

Butler County Commissioner Gregory Jolivette has stood opposite both men: running against Boehner in 1990 and opposing Jones on several issues over the years.

Jolivette called Jones an “astute politician,” but said he faces an uphill battle.

“I think the sheriff has a long way to go to try to beat John Boehner,” Jolivette said. “John has been a congressman now since the 1990s, (and) has a lot of support throughout the district.”

GOP leaders do not relish the prospect of a hotly contested primary, especially with one of the party’s national leaders while the party fights to take back the majority.

“It’s always unfortunate if we have a contested primary,” said Butler County GOP Chairman Tom Ellis. “If we should find ourselves in that type of situation, it’s divisive and expensive and certainly at this time we don’t need that.”

In addition to much of Butler County, Boehner’s district includes all or parts of Montgomery, Darke, Mercer, Miami and Preble counties.

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Jones pulls petition to challenge Boehner

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has pulled a petition to challenge U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner in next year’s GOP primary, county Board of Elections officials confirmed today, April 28.

By pulling the petition this morning, Jones initiated the first step in taking on the West Chester Twp. Republican in the May 4, 2010 primary for the U.S. 8th Congressional District.

He now has until Feb. 19, 2010 to collect 50 signatures and pay a $85 filing fee.

Both are popular candidates and powerful fund-raisers. Boehner won his re-election bid last year with 68 percent of the vote; Jones won his with 71 percent.

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Commissioners taking meeting on the road

Press release from Butler County:

The Butler County Board of Commissioners will hold a commission meeting at Miami University’s new Voice of America Learning Center on May 4 at 7:00 P.M. in West Chester, Ohio.

To encourage citizen participation, the Board of Commissioners will hold one nightly meeting each month in a different city, village or township located in the county. The Board will announce future meeting dates and locations prior to each meeting.

Meeting agendas are available on the web at www.butlercountyohio.org/commissioner under “commission meetings.”

The Voice of America Learning Center is located at 7847 VOA Park Drive, West Chester, Ohio 45069 (corner of VOA Park Drive and Cox Road).

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Recap: The saga of Children Services

Human drama behind closed doors; heroic feats documented only in confidential reports. In case you missed it, here are links to the stories that ran all last week about Butler County Children Services:

Sunday: Children Services saves family on brink

Monday: Family preservation program scrutinized

Tuesday: More children than they can care for. Stories here and here.

Wednesday: A knock on the door can be dangerous. Stories here and here.

Thursday: Drugs feed cycle of neglect

Friday: Foster parents perform thankless job

Saturday: Many feel mistreated by agency. Stories here and here.

Sunday: True stories from Children Services. Stories here and in Sunday’s paper (still in stands).

What do you think about the series? What do you think about the agency and the work it does?

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County: State cuts put elderly at risk

Hundreds of elderly Butler County residents will be put at risk of abuse or even death and dozens more could be forced into nursing homes by proposed cuts to the state budget, according to county officials.

House Democrats proposed a budget this week that included $12.5 million for adult protective services statewide, compared to $62 million in previous years.

This could decimate the program, worries county officials.

This is a program that investigates abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly residents. There were 576 such allegations involving 493 people last year, 271 of which were found to be valid, according to Kevin Kurpieski, program supervisor.

Many of these cases are self-neglect, when someone ceases to be able to take care of themselves. Kurpieski said his workers often find homes with trash, newspaper and clothing “in piles up to levels you would not even imagine, those are prob some of the most common things we see.”

“With the five workers and myself, it’s a challenge every day to try to serve the population we’re working with,” he said.

This was with $989,267 in funding for this year. If the budget isn’t changed, only a fraction of this will be there when the new fiscal year starts in July.

“It is a critical service for older adults in the community that are subject to those kinds of issues,” said Cynthia Stever, director of LifeSpan, which is administers the county’s elderly services program.

“If we didn’t have adult protective services in Butler County, we could see another Marcus Fiesel on the other end of the spectrum,” she said.

LifeSpan provides the county’s homemaker and personal care service, which helps more than 85 disabled or elderly clients with household tasks so they can stay in their homes. The funding cut would reduce the service to nothing, Stever said.

“Two hours a week to keep them in their own apartment or home is a lot less expensive than having to put them in a facility, and that’s the alternative,” Stever said.

“I’m able to have the girl run my errands, she cleans, things like that…me being disabled, those services are really urgent, they are really needed,” said Sheila Knox, 51, of Middletown.

“If not for their services, to be honest, I would be living in filth.”

LifeSpan wrote a letter to Butler County Commissioners, who in turn wrote a letter to the county’s four state lawmakers asking them to restore the funding.

“Without these services, there is a risk of injury or death of the elderly of Butler County because there are no other funds to cover the cost of these vital services,” says the letter from commissioners.

State Rep. William Coley, R-West Chester Twp., lambasted the Democratic majority, saying they are giving money away to special interest constituents but “slashing programs that are vital to the absolute most vulnerable citizens we have.”

“It’s just another example of the bizarre priorities we’re seeing from the administration,” he said.

The House is schedule to vote on the budget next week. Then it goes to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration. It must be enacted by June 30.

Permalink | Comments (2) | Post your comment | Categories: Butler County, Economy, Statewide issues

Boehner, Schmidt, Turner: Warren County’s rejected funds should go to U.S. debt

Press release from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp.:

Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) today applauded Reps. Jean Schmidt and Michael Turner for announcing they will introduce legislation to allow Warren County (OH) to return rejected federal “stimulus” dollars to the U.S. Treasury to pay down the national debt.

“Local leaders in Warren County, Liberty Township and other communities are standing up for our children and grandchildren by taking a principled stand against Washington’s insistence on spending money we simply do not have,” Boehner said. “The funds Warren County has declined should be returned to the federal Treasury to reduce the national debt, and I commend Jean Schmidt and Mike Turner for their leadership in writing legislation to help ensure this happens. I hope House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow the bill to come to a vote immediately once it is introduced.

“The trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ passed by Congress recently was an act of generational theft, putting hundreds of billions of debt on our children and grandchildren to pay for projects that in far too many cases will not create jobs. We could have passed legislation that created twice as many jobs at half the cost.

I and Rep. Eric Cantor personally presented the President with just such a proposal. Unfortunately, this more responsible approach was rejected by the Democratic Congress, and our now our children are paying the price,” Boehner noted.

NOTE: On March 17, 2009, Warren County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject $373,000 in federal stimulus dollars that were earmarked for the purchase of three shuttle vans. Warren County, however, did not apply for the money, and officials made clear that the county’s current fleet of vans adequate to suit residents’ needs. In rejected the funds, commissioners said they were concerned about funding requirements once the federal dollars dried up.

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Dillingham, Ruscigno update - are they getting a fair shake?

A few updates on the continuing legal woes for Butler County commission candidate turned bar owner Rawnica Dillingham and her husband, Joe Ruscigno.

First, this story (go here for the full version, including photos of the dancers):

The cases for local nightclub owner Rawnica Dillingham and the exotic dancers who performed at her club have been continued again until June.

Dillingham, a former candidate for Butler County Commission, and her attorney, Louis Sirkin, were in Hamilton Municipal Court on Thursday, April 23, when her case was continued until a June 25 pre-trial hearing.

Dillingham is accused of violating Hamilton’s adult entertainment ordinance by not having a performance area clearly defined separate from the patrons area during a Feb. 24 performance at V’s Nightclub.

The exotic dancers hired to perform at the Millville Road nightclub also have hired an attorney and are denying any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, the city is trying to take away the club’s liquor license. Dillingham has hired an attorney (who is also a Hamilton school board member) to fight it. Here’s the latest on that (Go here for the full story, including Hamilton’s response):

A bar that is at risk of losing its liquor license may not be as much of a burden on police as appeared in a comprehensive report provided to City Council.

Council members decided this week to postpone a resolution that would object to the renewal and transfer of the liquor license at V’s Nightclub, 1483 Millville Ave.

Dave Davidson, an attorney and Hamilton school board member, spoke to council members on behalf of V’s owner Rawnica Dillingham, a former Butler County commission candidate.

Davidson asked council Wednesday night, April 22, to reconsider the issue because the record of 80 or more police calls to the establishment from May 2008 to April 2009 is not an accurate representation.

Seven of those calls were for seven officers who responded to V’s on Feb. 24 in reference to an illegal adult entertainment show, Davidson said. Eleven calls were routine checks by patrol officers in which no violations were reported, he added.

“You’re putting this business at risk,” Davidson told council, “telling the state that the city of Hamilton has a problem with this business based on what clearly can be seen is not accurate information.”

Now the question: Do you think all this pressure is being brought to bear on Dillingham because her bar is indeed a nuisance. Or is there some sort of payback for taking on Butler County Commissioner Charles Furmon (former Hamilton mayor and police officer with deep connections)?

Oh, and then there’s Ruscigno. His arraignment on charges of tax obstruction has been rescheduled for April 29.

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Should Butler go after Warren County’s stimulus money?

Update: Warren County Commissioner Mike Kilburn made MSNBC host Keith Olbermann’s “World’s Worst Person” list for his stance on giving back federal stimulus money (more on this below). Here’s the video:

Original post:

Since Warren County commissioners have become the only county in the state to turn down federal stimulus money (from this story):

Warren County told the Ohio Department of Transportation to keep $373,000 allocated for transit improvement. In fact, commissioners also are looking for a way to turn down another $1.8 million in stimulus funding available to the county for energy efficiency improvements to government buildings.

“I was critical of Bush when he supported the bank bailout and the fact he didn’t veto a single budget,” said (Warren County Commissioner Mike) Kilburn, a staunch conservative. “The fact is, Obama is the man now. No one should be surprised. He’s never run anything, never done a payroll. I’m singling out actions and fiscal policy that will run this country off a cliff.”

Lucas County commissioner Ben Konop wrote a letter offering to take it:

Konop told the commissioners that high unemployment and foreclosure rates compel his county to welcome every available dollar to put people back to work. He said the stimulus money comes from tax dollars paid by citizens.

“I am confident they want to see that money returned to the community,” Konop wrote.

Kilburn didn’t go for the idea:

“Stop spending money you don’t have and start being accountable to the taxpayers,” Kilburn told Konop. “God only asked for 10 percent, why do the politicians in Washington, D.C. think they deserve more than 40 percent?”

The question: Should Butler County, which is slated to receive millions in stimulus dollars, offer to take the money off its eastern neighbor’s hands? Or do Warren County leaders have the right idea?

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County to cut water, sewer rates

Press release from Butler County Water and Sewer Department (story to follow):

The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution today reducing water and sewer rates for all customers of the Butler County Water and Sewer Department (BCWS).

The new rates will be effective June 1, 2009. BCWS will pro-rate bills calculated in June so that all water and sewer usage that takes place that month will be billed at the new, lower rate.

What this means for the average residential customer using 6,000 gallons per month is a monthly savings of 5.5 percent for water service and 13 percent for sewer service.

Commercial and industrial class customers will receive water and sewer rate reductions of more than 20 percent.

“To achieve a rate reduction for both residential and business customers, the Butler County Water and Sewer Department has taken a “back-to-basics” philosophy. This philosophy is part of a reorganization plan which has involved reducing energy, chemical, debt, purchased services and labor expenses,” said BCWS Director Robert Leventry.

BCWS recently contracted with Malcolm-Pirnie to perform a cost-of-service study to establish new water and sewer rates. The study analyzed how BCWS allocates costs to each of its seven customer classes: residential, multi-family, commercial, industrial, wholesale, landscape irrigation and fire service. Since each customer class places different levels of demand on the county’s system, each class received a different rate reduction percentage.

“It has been a long-term goal of the Butler County Commission to lower water and sewer rates for county rate payers. It is great news that in these unprecedented economic times that both homeowners and existing business and industry will receive significant rate reductions. The lower rates will also be a financial incentive for attracting new businesses and jobs to Butler County,” said Butler County Commissioner Gregory Jolivette.

“BCWS carefully determined the rate reduction so that the county can continue providing a reliable supply of water, maintaining and improving our infrastructure and complying with all future regulation requirements,” said Butler County Commissioner Charles Furmon.

“The recent decision by the Butler County Board of Commissioners to implement a water and sewer rate reduction is great news for all businesses in the county. With the current economic environment, any decisions directed to maintaining the business base in the county are welcome. As a major user of the water and sewer utilities, the impact to Pierre Foods will be significant. We greatly appreciate the county’s efforts to plan for the future, implement plans to reduce costs and pass along the savings to the customer,” said Gary Sluss, senior vice president of engineering for Pierre Foods.

Customers who would like to estimate how much they will save per month can log onto www.butlercountyws.org and use the department’s online bill calculator. Customers can also call customer care at (513) 887-3066.

Governed by the Butler County Board of Commissioners, BCWS is a public utility providing essential services to Butler County residents in West Chester, Liberty, Fairfield, Hanover and Ross townships and the Village of New Miami. Services include water, wastewater treatment and solid waste management.

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Tweet…tweet, tweet

Do you Twitter?

It’s all the rage among the techno-hip crowd, and not to be left in the cyber dust, I have created a Twitter account that will include posts from this blog and perhaps other items of interest.

Follow me at www.twitter.com/JoshSweigart

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Combs introduces legislation to ban red light cameras

Press release from state Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton:

COLUMBUS - State Representative Courtney Combs (R- Hamilton) today introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, counties and townships.

“The companies with contracts to install and maintain the red light cameras in Ohio are making millions off Ohio citizens and on top of that the money is being taken out of state,” Combs said. “It is time to put a stop to the invasion of our privacy and having big brother looking over our shoulders.”

One of the largest red light camera companies in the country is based in Arizona and operates cameras in 22 states, including Ohio. The company reported after-tax profits of $10.6 million in 2008, up from $7.3 million in 2007. More than half of the revenue generated from red light cameras goes back to the operational company.

“Some jurisdictions have even gone as far as shortening the yellow light times on intersections that have red light cameras,” said Combs. “This is a money grab. And while some say it is too late to put the technology genie back in the bottle, using the technology just because it is available does not make it right. Is the next move having cameras catching jaywalkers crossing the middle of the street?”

The legislation, House Bill 143, will stop the use of any traffic law photo-monitoring device. However, the measure would not apply to “home rule” cities due to a 2008 Ohio Supreme Court ruling. The ruling stated that an Ohio municipality does not exceed its home-rule authority when it creates an automated system for enforcement of traffic laws that imposes civil liability upon violators, provided that the municipality does not alter statewide traffic regulations.

There are mixed studies on the effectiveness of red light cameras on saving lives. A U.S. Department of Transportation study showed that decreases in injuries from side-collisions were offset by increases from rear-collision. Currently, nine other states have banned automated citations through judicial or legislative action.

The bill will be referred to a committee next week for further discussion.

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County commission agenda

Below is the agenda for tomorrow’s Butler County commission meeting.

Anything look interesting to you?

(Click on the top right corner to enlarge)

County 042309

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Pulitzer prize winning series examines sheriff’s immigration efforts

The East Valley Tribune in Arizona recently won a Pulitzer prize for a series examining the effect of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s aggressive enforcement of illegal immigration.

Comparisons are often made between Arpaio and Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, who has made illegal immigration enforcement central to his local law enforcement efforts.

Here is the series. There’s a lot to it.

What do you think? Are there any parallels between Maricopa and Butler counties?

Permalink | Comments (0) | Post your comment | Categories: Butler County Sheriff's Department, National issues

Boehner on video: Concerns about carbon dioxide ‘almost comical’

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., issued the following assessment of climate change:

“The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.”

When pressed by Stephanopoulos on the Republican plan to deal with climate change:

“It’s clear we’ve had change in our climate, the question is how much does man have to do with it, and what is the proper way to deal with it.”

Here is the full video:

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Furmon the maverick?

Butler County Commissioner Charles Furmon has emerged in recent months as a voice of opposition on the board.

This is perhaps an odd role for the former lawman, who has been a commission fixture for more than 14 years and is so soft-spoken he is sometimes barely audible.

But the only two recent issues that have pitted commissioners against each other - altogether, disagreement on the dais is still rare - Furmon has been the odd man out.

First there was the ousting of former Emergency Management Agency Director William Turner.

Furmon sat on the EMA board and voted along with the board in a vote of confidence for Turner. This ran directly against commissioners Donald Dixon and Gregory Jolivette, who wanted Turner gone.

Furmon lost this endeavor. Turner is gone.

More recently, Furmon was the only commissioner to oppose a controversial Children Services policy that would give adoption preference to traditional married couples over single parents or same sex couples.

Said Furmon:

“I don’t think (the policy) was proper. We’re advertising like everything in order to find (adoptive parents). I think to try to exclude a certain group is dead wrong.”

He won this argument, after the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office ruled the policy was not allowed under state law.

This latter argument was also more high profile, with state lawmakers, powerful nonprofits and hundreds of signatures on citizen petitions involved.

Furmon just won re-election, so it’s pretty early to be campaigning.

So the question: Why do you think Furmon has become a gadfly? What do you think about the stances he has taken?

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The ongoing saga of Children Services

In the midst of an eight-part series on Butler County Children Services (see previous stories here), a five-month-old girl went to the hospital with severe injuries last week allegedly at the hands of her father.

It’s a complicated tale. The child’s mother is a child herself, a teenager in the custody of Butler County children services who got pregnant by the grandson of her foster mother.

Here is part of the story (for the full version, including questions about how the foster parent was allowed to take in children after the girl became pregnant, go here):

Butler County Children Services officials are trying to figure out how a 5-month-old girl — staying in the same foster home where the child’s mother was impregnated — was reportedly squeezed so hard her ribs cracked.

The child’s father, Antoine Rucker, 21, of Cincinnati, is in Hamilton County Jail on a $100,000 bond facing two charges of felonious assault.

Rucker was arrested Thursday, April 16, after fracturing the infant’s ribs, causing her lungs to collapse and “squeez(ing) the victim’s chest cavity causing damage to her heart,” according to the arrest report.

Rucker’s case is scheduled to go before a grand jury April 27.

The child’s mother is 17 and is in the custody of Butler County Children Services, as she was when she was placed with foster parent Rosalind Hedges in Springfield Twp. in November 2007.

Rucker is Hedges’ grandson.

The young mother was removed from Hedges’ home in February 2008, but recently left the infant there for a couple weeks with the agency’s blessing so she could rest, according to interim Butler County Children Services Director Jeff Centers.

“The father had no record, no history of violence, it was essentially a family placement,” he said. “It made sense.

While Hamilton County court records say the abuse took place March 24, Centers said a caseworker saw and held the child the day before she was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on April 15 with injuries.

“What happened between the evening of the 14th and the evening of the 15th?” Centers asked. He said the child is “doing well” and appears to have suffered no long-term damage.

And our series on Children Services continues today with this story and this story.

Here’s the gist:

Twenty-four women who currently have cases with Butler County Children Services have a combined 179 children.

Before former Children Services Director Michael Fox retired from the agency at the end of March, this is one issue he lamented leaving on his desk: men and women having more children than they have the means to care for.

Fox referred to public concern over the California woman who had octuplets in January without the apparent means to support them, saying that someone who has nine children in as many years or has seven children by age 23 is just as costly to taxpayers.

“If there is one thing I would like to have done that needs to be done is you’ve got to be aggressive in approaching the community in turning off the spigot,” Fox said.

The agency even conducted a study, nicknamed the “Dirty Dozen Analysis,” of the parents who have dealings with the agency who had the most kids. Of the 21 adults surveyed — with a combined 124 children — 42 percent of the parents had no high school diploma, 80 percent had criminal records and 67 percent were unemployed.

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Boehner, West Chester Twp. business owner have tax complaints

From this story:

The CEO of a local high-end pigment manufacturing company painted a dark picture of his family business’ future under tax initiatives put forward by President Barack Obama.

U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., toured the Shepherd Color Company Monday, April 20, and listened to the business owners’ concerns.

“With the tax that’s being proposed, we wouldn’t be able to erect this,” company CEO Tom Shepherd told Boehner, gesturing to a massive $1 million paint-making robot that scooped and cooked pigment powder.

Shepherd — whose companies in West Chester Twp., Middletown, Newport, Ky., and Monroe employ hundreds of people — said chief among his concerns is the proposed cap-and-trade carbon emissions program, which could cost his company “millions of dollars a year.”

In addition to making him buy carbon emissions allowances, Shepherd said the policy would drive up the cost of electricity, which it takes a lot of to cook kilns at 2,000 degree Fahrenheit.

He also asked Boehner to stop the proposed estate tax, saying his is a fourth generation company and he doesn’t want 45 percent of his share of the company taxed away when he dies.

“There’s a fifth generation, and I’d like nothing better than for them to be able to come into the businesses and own it,” he said.

Finally, he beseeched Boehner to do something about a little-discussed change in Obama’s budget that would tax the appreciation of raw materials that go into his products.

“Businesses like The Shepherd Color Company are the driving engines of our economy,” Boehner said. “Higher taxes mean they’re not able to invest in their business, which at the end of the day means they have to hire less people.”

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Butler County roundup - Food stamp errors, Children Services

In addition to launching a weeklong series about Butler County Children Services, we had a package of stories in our paper yesterday about what happens when Job and Family Services erroneously gives out food stamps.

Here is the intro story on that:

When Sandee Beckett of Hamilton lost her job in October and went on unemployment, she turned to Butler County for help. They awarded her $176 a month in food stamps through January.

“If I hadn’t had that, I don’t know how I would’ve survived,” she said.

Then she got the bill.

Turns out that Beckett earned $94.20 too much to qualify for the program. But she didn’t know that when she gave them her unemployment paperwork and they approved the aid.

Now Beckett, still unemployed, is on the hook for $504.

“It was their error,” she said. “I’m still behind on my car payment.”

The agency told Beckett she can make payments as little as $5 a month. But if she pays nothing, they’re going after her income tax return.

Jerome Kearns, assistant director of Job and Family Services, would not comment specifically on Beckett’s case.

But he did say mistakes and fraud are on the rise as the county doles out record amounts of food stamps in answer to layoffs and recession.

Butler County Job and Family Services has given food stamps to 204 people who didn’t qualify for them from Jan. 1 to April 1 this year, totaling $77,123 that the agency is asking these people to pay back.

The sum is a small fraction of the 36,749 people collecting food stamps in March alone, with a total cost of more than $4.2 million.

Of these 204, 97 are deemed “administrative errors,” 98 are “client errors” and nine are fraud.

Kearns says the county has been nationally recognized for its food stamp accuracy, and not all the administrative errors are the county’s fault. But they’re not the clients’ fault either, and they’re the ones being asked to pay it back despite being in financial straits.

  • In this story, we explain how mistakes happen, and how Job and Family Services officials say they are rare.
  • In this story, Sandee Beckett tells her story, and worries that others could fall through the cracks.

Also, all this week we will be exploring Children Services, and telling the stories of caseworkers and clients:

Human drama behind closed doors.

Heroic feats documented only in confidential reports.

Tales of family tragedy, and of hard-won success in struggles against poverty, drugs and abuse.

These all are parts of the story of Butler County Children Services, the government agency that works to protect children and preserve families.

Today and the rest of the week, we tell the stories of the caseworkers on the front lines of the seemingly endless job of keeping children safe.

We’ll look at how the agency has changed in recent years since the death of 3-year-old Marcus Feisel in August 2006 at the hands of his foster parents, and under the administration of recently retired director Michael Fox.

We’ll also look at the challenges that remain.

Here’s the lineup for the week:

  • Sunday: Children Services saves family on brink
  • Monday: Family preservation program scrutinized
  • Tuesday: More children than they can care for
  • Wednesday: A knock on the door can be dangerous
  • Thursday: Drugs feed cycle of neglect
  • Friday: Foster parents perform thankless job
  • Saturday: Many feel mistreated by agency
  • Sunday: True stories from Children Services

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Dynus trial delayed - again

Trial has been delayed yet again for the former owner of the fiber-optics firm that allegedly took out a multi-million dollar loan in Butler County’s name without county approval.

On Wednesday, April 15, U.S. Judge Sandra Beckwith agreed to a request from Orlando Carter’s attorneys to reschedule his trial from May 11 to July 22.

Carter pleaded not guilty in June to an 11-count federal indictment. The charges include making false statements to secure more than $10 million in loans and lines of credit for personal real estate and the operation of his business.

In a meeting with Beckwith, Carter’s legal team asked for an extension because they had not yet retained an accountant and one of his attorneys had a scheduling conflict. This is the fifth date set for the trial. It has been rescheduled several times because Carter has changed his legal representation.

“No further continuances will be granted,” Beckwith wrote in her order granting the extension.

Carter is the first to go to trial since Carter’s business, Dynus Corp. allegedly took out a $7 million line of credit in the county’s name for a pending fiber optics contract.

Former Dynus president James Smith and employee Karin Verbruggen both pleaded guilty to related charges in 2006 and 2007 and both are still awaiting sentencing.

And former county auditor Kay Rogers pleaded guilty in January 2008 to bank fraud in relation to the Dynus contract. She resigned from public office, but is also awaiting sentencing.

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The GOP wants that seat back — badly

At least once a week since U.S. Rep Steve Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, was elected last year, I get a press release from the National Republican Campaign Committee about Driehaus.

It has been an unrelenting assault, chipping away at Driehaus in anticipation of trying to unseat him in 2010.

Driehaus, whose district includes the southwest quarter of Butler County, unseated Republican Steve Chabot last year. This set both into a foot race for a rematch, with Driehaus raising $197,144 in the first quarter of this year and Chabot adding $232,080 to his war chest, which dwarfs Driehaus’.

These numbers come from this story, a statewide overview of first quarter fund-raising by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Here is the e-mail I received from the NRCC today (they’re taking to the phones):

Washington — The NRCC announced a new offensive of robocalls aimed at holding Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) accountable for following Nancy Pelosi’s lead to open the doors for a brand new energy tax that will hit every family in Ohio  The robocalls confront Driehaus for his support of this so-called “Cap-and-Trade” program - better known as “Cap-and-Tax” - that could lead to $650 billion in new energy taxes and cost jobs.

“Steve Driehaus has failed to be honest about his willingness to support a devastating energy tax increase at the expense of his constituents in Ohio” said NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain.  “We will continue to hold Steve Driehaus accountable for rubber-stamping Nancy Pelosi’s agenda that will burden middle-class families and inflict further damage on an already fragile economy for years to come.”

The robocalls began this week during the congressional recess while Steve Driehaus will have to face his constituents and try to explain why he voted for a $3.5 trillion budget, paving the way for a national energy tax that will hit every person who flips on a light switch.

Below is the script for the robocall:

Hello, this is (male voice) calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee with an urgent message about jobs in our area. Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Steve Driehaus voted for a budget with a trillion dollar deficit, now Congressman Steve Driehaus may support Nancy Pelosi’s Cap and Trade energy tax that could increase taxes by $650 billion dollars. These democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Steve Driehaus don’t get it. Raising taxes on energy could cost us jobs, maybe even yours. Balancing our own checkbooks is hard enough without raising taxes. Call Congressman Steve Driehaus today at 202 225-3121 and tell them to stand up for jobs and not new taxes. Paid for by The National Republican Congressional Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. W-W-W-dot-N-R-C-C-dot-O-R-G. 202-479-7000

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Boehner blasts Strickland for ‘transportation slush fund’

Press release from U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp.:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ohio’s Republican congressional delegation today sent letters to Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood citing concerns about how Ohio is spending its federal stimulus dollars on studies that won’t create jobs and requesting openness and transparency for taxpayers. Fulll text of the letters is below and available here and here .

The Associated Press reported Monday that Ohio has refused to fund some “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects to set aside $57 million for transportation studies.

“While the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act does give governors flexibility on how they spend their state’s federal dollars, it appears that Ohio officials are violating the spirit of the law by diverting money intended for ‘shovel-ready’ projects into a planning slush-fund for proposals that have no funding stream,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary LaHood.

Ohio’s congressional Republicans previously called on Gov. Strickland to establish an independent, bipartisan oversight board to ensure transparency in how federal dollars are being spent. Gov. Strickland has not responded to that request.

“This is not the first time that your administration has decided to spend federal stimulus in a manner inconsistent with the intentions of the bill and contradictory to the expectations of recipients,” lawmakers wrote to Gov. Strickland, citing a March 14 Cleveland Plain Dealer article detailing concerns from Cleveland schools officials about how education dollars are being allocated.

“In light of media reports indicating that these federal tax dollars are being allocated to programs that clearly violate the spirit of the law, we again ask that you immediately create an independent oversight board to give Ohioans a full and detailed accounting of how taxpayer dollars have already been spent and all planned allocations for the remainder of the year,” lawmakers wrote to Gov. Strickland.

Permalink | Comments (3) | Post your comment | Categories: National issues, Republican Party, Statewide issues, Transportation

Children Services policy now in state lawmakers’ hands

HAMILTON — The question over whether married couples should get preference in adoption placement appears to be settled on the local level, Butler County commissioners said this morning, April 16.

Now it’s up to state lawmakers to decide whether to take up the issue.

As far as commissioners are concerned, the policy — which gives preference in adoption placement to married couples over single parents or same-sex couples — has never been implemented and now won’t be.

The policy was created by former Children Services director Michael Fox and put on hold pending legal review. The county prosecutor’s office issued an opinion last week that state law allows only the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to alter the state-mandated preference for adoption, which makes no mention of marital status.

Commission President Donald Dixon has voiced support of the proposed policy, and still believes that children do better in homes with married parents.

But he said today that children can thrive in a number of environments, and “no group should be discriminated against or be made to feel they don’t’ have the same opportunities as everyone else.”

He and Commissioner Gregory Jolivette, who also supported the policy, said they won’t be pushing a change in state laws. His only message to legislators: “Let’s not do anything that will limit finding suitable parents for children in Butler County.”

Dixon and Commissioner Charles Furmon, who had opposed the policy, signed a petition from Liberty Twp. resident Carla Brittain, who has collected 655 signatures opposing the policy.

Brittain gave a half-hour presentation to commissioners this morning, outlining research that says children do just as well when raised by same-sex couples.

She also read a letter from Amy Keller, who with her same-sex partner has two adopted children, one foster child and two other children in her home. All of which are thriving, she said.

“The only difference between our family and yours is that both parents are women,” Keller wrote. “We are women who devoted our lives to loving and caring for the children that God and Children Services has entrusted to us. Please take this into consideration when reviewing policies.”

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County commission agenda

Below is the agenda for the Thursday, April 16, Butler County commission meeting.

I’m going to try to post these before every meeting (they’re generally twice a week; there’s a calendar at the bottom of the agenda). Let me know if you think that is useful, or just a waste of everyone’s time.

County 041609

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Children Services applicants - correction

In this post (and subsequent story), I said that no elected officials had applied for the job of Butler County Children Services director.

My apologies; I was wrong.

I forgot that Jerome Kearns, assistant director of Butler County Job and Family Services, is also Fairfield City Schools Board of Education president.

So there is indeed an elected official in the running for the job.

This follows the recent trend: the last time the job came open, it was filled by then-county commissioner Michael Fox. And a front-runner for the Emergency Management Agency director post is Middletown City Councilman Bill Becker.

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The applicants for Children Services director

This time, no elected officials applied for the job of Butler County Children Services director by the Monday, April 13, deadline.

But the list of 33 applicants did include a few county employees. See the full list of applicants below.

Jeff Centers, former agency finance director who was named interim director after Michael Fox retired March 31, dropped off his resume.

“This agency has seen its share of turmoil and controversy,” Centers wrote in his cover letter, hoping “a level of stability and a sense of normalcy may be returned to (staff) in the future.”

Applications also came from Children Services Ombudsman William Morrison, and Butler County Job and Family Services Assistant Director Jerome Kearns.

One applicant who wanted to be an elected official is Terri King, a Madison Twp. attorney who ran for state House of Representatives last year. She is among three lawyers to apply for the job.

Out-of-county applicants include Jeffery Felton, whose resume says he was assistant director of children services at Hamilton County Job and Family Services. Pelton is one of three applicants who worked for Hamilton County.

The agency has indeed seen controversy in recent years. Fox quit his job as county commissioner and was hired to take over the agency after its governing board was abolished and director fired in the wake of the death of a child in foster care.

His tenure was controversial as well. One of the issues the next director will have to tackle is a policy Fox enacted that gave preference in adoption placement to married couples over single parents or same-sex couples.

Last week, the county prosecutor’s office issued an opinion that this policy is not allowed under state law. Commissioners had suspended the policy when learning of it in March.

Applicants for Butler County Children Services Director (and most recent or relevant experience listed on their applications):

  • Jeffery Felton, former assistant director of children services of Hamilton County Job and Family Services.
  • Bryson Thompson, corrections officer at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office
  • William Morrison, ombudsman at Butler County Children Services
  • Terri King, Madison Twp. attorney and former juvenile court magistrate
  • Ron Blake, private practice therapist, Saratoga, Wyoming
  • Keith Gebhart, former pastor, First Church of God, Hamilton
  • Debi Blackmon-Hull, counselor, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
  • Casey Allen, community services coordinator, Area Agency on Aging, Dayton
  • Brian Hall, family service worker, Butler County
  • Steve Eleton, former manager at Fernald Environmental Management Project, Cincinnati
  • Mary Ditmer, private practice attorney in Lewisburg specializing in juvenile law
  • Robert Hoskins, Cincinnati attorney
  • Kristine Koffler, former learning styles director of a boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina
  • David Mazur, controller for Mazur Enterprises, Inc., Panama City, Florida
  • Lesia Syrowatka, personal assistant and consultant in Dearborn, Michigan
  • Elysem Jones, senior new media sales executive, Cox Ohio Publishing, Dayton
  • Ogbazgy Asmerom, former social work supervisor, Hamilton County Job and Family Services
  • Debra Cunningham, section chief of child support enforcement, Hamilton Count Job and Family Services
  • Terrall Putnam, former health and safety director, Cargill, Dayton
  • Sharon Bogan, executive director of Middletown Adolescent Leaders Achieve
  • Alan Laney, director of training for Iraqi police and former captain in the Fairfield Twp. police department
  • Monica Notestine, senior mortgage loan originator, Fifth Third Bank, Centerville
  • Shirley Alsup, director of nursing co-op program University Hospital
  • Jerome Kearns, assistant director of Butler County Job and Family Services
  • James Sherman, vice president of Eastway Corporation, Dayton
  • Timothy Derickson, special education teacher, Lakota Local School District (not the state representative)
  • Maren Peebles, former academic dean, Miami-Jacobs Career College, Dayton
  • Kristen Simonds, case manager, Talbert House and affiliates
  • Joanne Elizabeth, medical social worker, St. Luke Hospital East
  • Coleen Kelly, consultant, 4C’s, Cincinnati
  • Jeff Centers, interim director, Butler County Children Services
  • Charles Lindeman, private practice mental health therapist, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Andrew Baughey, children services investigator, Clermont County Children’s Protective Services

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County prosecutor: Children Services policy contrary to state law

State rules don’t allow for a proposed Butler County Children Services policy that would give preference in adoption placement to married couples, according to an opinion from the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office.

Here is a copy of the opinion:

(Click on the top right corner to enlarge)

CSLegalReview

Analysis:

State law outlines the preferential order to be given to potential adoptive parents. It gives preference first to adult relatives of the child or someone named by the birth mother, then the child’s foster caregiver, then other suitable prospective families.

The local policy — created by former agency director Michael Fox then suspended by commissioners pending legal review — mirrors this list, with one exception.

It adds “Married mother and father as long as such are available unless the agency determines that the placement is not in the best interest of the child,” as second in the order. This has drawn criticism from single and gay foster parents.

The 4-page opinion, dated April 7 but delivered to county leaders Friday, April 10, says local children services agencies don’t have the authority to amend that order without a change in statute or a rule change by the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

“For this reason, our advice in response to your question is that the policy change recommended by (Fox) is contrary to the mandatory preferential order described in the regulations promulgated by the director of ODJFS,” says the opinion, signed by Assistant County Prosecutor Roger Gates.

Commentary:

“I don’t think (the policy) was proper,” said Commissioner Charles Furmon, the only commissioner to oppose the policy. “We’re advertising like everything in order to find (adoptive parents). I think to try to exclude a certain group is dead wrong.”

Commission President Donald Dixon declined to comment, saying he hadn’t yet read the opinion. Commissioner Gregory Jolivette could not be reached. Both had voiced support of the policy if it passed legal review.

Background

The policy has never been used in an adoption placement, according to Jeff Centers, interim Children Services director. He declined to comment on the prosecutor’s letter.

But the policy — the first of its kind in the state — has drawn support from conservative activists, including Cincinnati-based Citizens of Community Values and all four of the county’s state lawmakers.

These two groups cite a legal opinion issued by CCV attorney David Langdon, who deemed the policy in-line with federal and state statutes.

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EMA loses $79,500 in grants

The Butler County Emergency Management Agency has had to turn down $79,500 in state and federal grants, partly because the agency has no permanent director.

Butler County was slated to receive a $18,500 homeland security grant to conduct a regional exercise with Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren Counties this year. But planning for the exercise had to be started by March, and hasn’t been done.

“We didn’t want to do one and not do it the way it should be done,” said Sue Isaacs, interim EMA director who was appointed from office manager to keep the agency running.

“We can do it next year and do it right,” she said.

Another grant for $61,000 had to go back to the state because it was meant to reimburse the county for equipping a new Emergency Operations Center.

Butler County commissioners decided in January to move the EOC from a cramped office in downtown Hamilton to the former OSU Agricultural Extension Office — which also houses the new emergency communication system.

But the building needs roughly $1.2 million in renovations to bring it up to par, according to County Administrator Tim Williams. And that money isnt’ there.

“(It’s) like having an egg, but not having a nest to put it in right now,” Williams said.

Williams said the EMA would have lost that grant regardless of whether it still had a director.

Isaacs and Williams said the county will apply for the money again next year.

In the meantime, the governing board that controls the EMA is looking over more than 50 applications it has received for the director’s post. The board is meeting Wednesday, April 15, to go over the applications, Isaacs said.

The former director resigned after coming under intense criticism from county commissioners and the county Chiefs of Police Association.

As for other outstanding EMA grants — including another for $423,606 to outfit the new EOC — “I think everything else is in pretty good shape,” Isaacs said.

The full list of outstanding EMA grants, totaling $1.8 million, is below. Ignore my writing in the margins. The ones with little Xs next to them are the ones that were turned down, the ones with checks next to them have already been processed.

(Click on the top right corner to enlarge)

Em a Grants

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Auditor’s office wins award for financial report

Press release from the Butler County Auditor’s Office:

Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds has received awards of outstanding achievement from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the two county financial reports produced by the Auditor’s office and submitted for review in 2008.

Both the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and the Popular Annual Financial Report for the year ended Dec. 31, 2007 met the stringent requirements of the GFOA for award recognition.

“Awards are nice but what is more important to me is that we run a professional, efficient office for the taxpayers of this county,” said Auditor Reynolds. “What these awards signify to me is that the professionalism I expect from not only my staff, but myself as well, is reflected in our work on these financial reports.”

The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program recognizes those state and local governments that go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that provide transparency and full disclosure.

Reports submitted to the CAFR program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and the GFOA Special Review Committee, which comprises individuals with expertise in public-sector financial reporting and includes financial statement preparers, independent auditors, academics and other finance professionals.

The Popular Annual Financial Reporting Awards Program recognizes individual governments that are successful in extracting information from their CAFR to produce a high quality popular annual financial report specifically designed to be readily accessible and easily understandable to the general public and other interested parties without a background in public finance.

Popular annual financial reports submitted to the PAFR Program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and by outside reviewers with experience in governmental accounting and financial reporting.

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V’s nightclub to lose liquor license

Things are not getting better for Rawnica Dillingham and Joe Ruscigno.

V’s Nightclub in Hamilton — owned by former Butler County commission candidate Dillingham, who is accused of violating Hamilton’s adult entertainment ordinance, and Ruscigno, who is accused of tax obstruction — could lose its liquor license.

Here is the story in today’s paper:

Three nightclubs called problem spots by police may lose their rights to sell alcoholic beverages.

The City Council approved a recommendation Wednesday night, April 8, to deny the renewal or transfer of liquor permits for Bob’s Cafe, 666 Hooven Ave., Tailg8tor’s, 1079 Millville Ave., and V’s Nightclub, 1483 Millville Ave.

The denials are based, in part, on police records that show the bars continue to be a problem for police, said city police Chief Neil Ferdelman.

Liquor permits were denied last year for Bob’s Cafe and Tailg8tors, based on the city’s objection, but the revocations are being appealed. Ferdelman said the bars continue to serve alcohol and police continue to respond to fights and noise and property damage complaints.

Officers have responded to 87 incidents at V’s Nightclub since May 2008, Ferdelman said.

The majority of those calls were for fights, he said.

City Manager Mark Brandenburger cited the Feb. 24 arrests at the club of four exotic dancers, who allegedly violated the city’s adult entertainment ordinance, and of V’s co-manager Rawnica Dillingham, who is accused of not having a performance area clearly defined and separate from the patrons.

Brandenburger also cited the legal troubles of the bar’s other manager, Joe Ruscigno, a former finance chairman with the Butler County Republican Party and husband of Dillingham, who unsuccessfully ran for a county commission seat. He recently was indicted on federal charges that he misrepresented the profits of a business to the Internal Revenue Service.

The City Council is expected to approve a resolution on the permit denials at its next meeting. The resolutions will then be sent to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and a hearing will be scheduled, said Hillary Stevenson, the city’s law director.

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Welcome to the new Web site

Welcome to the new Butler County News and Issues, part of the redesign of our Web sites.

If the page doesn’t look right, you may need to update your bookmarks. Go here for the new blog home page, then bookmark that URL.

Not much has changed on this blog, but our Web sites themselves are vastly improved (Check out the Hamilton JournalNews and Middletown Journal). Here is the announcement on our Web site:

We’ve updated our site to make it faster and easier to use. Here are some highlights of what has changed:

Easier navigation

The navigation buttons at the top of each page now drop down a list of subsections that is larger and easier to read than our old design.

Cleaner more functional design

We’ve made our design clearer and more focused on getting you the information you want quickly and clearly:

  • The homepage and index pages have fewer distracting details.
  • Icons for photo galleries now scroll through a large selection of galleries, making it easier for you to find what you want.
  • Article pages now have clearer presentation of related articles and photos.
  • Article pages can now feature bigger, clearer photographs.

Faster page loading

Most pages should load at least twice as fast as in the past.

Upgraded mobile site

Our mobile site, at mobile.journal-news.com , is updated every five minutes with the latest news. The mobile site uses technology that customizes its display to your phone’s size and features.

More places for you to have your say

Nearly every article now invites you to add your comments. Posting of comments is much faster than before and we’ve made it easier to report objectionable comments.

Tell us what you think

Please comment below and let us know what you think of our changes and your suggestions for improvements. If you run into any problems with the site, please e-mail us.

Or you can just comment on this blog

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Applicants for EMA director

Since I promised to give you the full list of applicants to fill the post of Butler County Emergency Management Agency director, here it is.

These are in no particular order. I list the most recent work experience listed on their resumes and, in some cases, former work experience that is applicable.

Any thoughts on who is the most qualified?

  • John Milstead Jr., police chief, Linder Center of HOPE, Mason (a mental health hospital)
  • John Fussner, president of Christopher Technologies, an emergency management software company in West Chester Twp.
  • Mark Wanner, hazardous materials/weapons of mass destruction trainer, Global Training Solutions
  • Joseph Witzman, part-time instructor of criminal law, Southwestern Community College
  • Mark Bowden, trauma nurse, Bethesda North Hospital
  • Janet Stanovich, Madera County, California, emergency services coordinator
  • Paul Myers, senior manager at Myers Associates Inc., Cincinnati
  • George Francis, Bass Pro Shops inventory control specialist, former Hamilton fire captain
  • Donald Walker, first sergeant in the U.S. Army working on a master’s degree in Homeland Security
  • Lori Dorton, nurse at Interim Home Healthcare
  • Jerry Allen, safety director at the Butler County Care Facility
  • Kenneth Woods, worked in environmental health and safety at CH2M-Hill
  • Kimberly Dunn, director of property management, Brighton Properties, Covington, Kentucky
  • James Laughlin, branch manager, The Scotts Company, Marysville
  • Casey Allen, community services coordinator, Area Agency on Aging, Dayton
  • Dave Crawford, former emergency manager in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tom Savin, works at DRC, Inc., in Sharonville with a doctorate in molecular biology
  • Ricky Henderson, holds a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems
  • Marc Dietz, former chief deputy recorder in Hamilton County
  • Bryson Thompson, corrections officer in the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Maurice Van Beck, activity security monitor, Talbert House in Cincinnati
  • Anthony Shupp, department manager at New Horizons Clinical Research
  • Robert Thoroughman, corrections officer at Butler County Court
  • Kim Heyes, social services worker at Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in West Carrolton
  • Chris Hecker, emergency management operations at the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management
  • James Phillabaum, mail manager at First Financial Bank
  • J. David Wade, former department planner at Pontiac Metal Fab, Pontiac, Michigan
  • Emily Witte, former code enforcement officer, San Mateo, California
  • Kenneth Reed, loss control services manager, Ohio Transit Risk Pool
  • David Wahl, regional leader, Primerica Financial Services, Cincinnati
  • Craig Yacks, sales manager, ePremium Insurance
  • William Vieth Jr., DC-9 pilot, security committee chairman, Wilmington
  • Patrick Higgins, project manager, ATC Associates Inc., Cincinnati
  • Clint Mondell, K9 protection specialist, Mountain Protection Services, LLC, Dayton
  • Hugh Yeary, division manager, National City Bank, Miamisburg
  • Bill Becker, Middletown city councilman
  • David Meronk, privately contracted firefighting captain in Iraq
  • Gregory Thomas, firefighter/paramedic, Mason
  • Walter DePaolo, former emergency training coordinator for the Worcester Regional Medical Reserve Corps.
  • Ginger Bonnell, former emergency preparedness coordinator, Seattle Housing Authority
  • Craig Smith, emergency operations manager, Orange County Health Department
  • William Rogers, Middletown police officer
  • Jeff Galloway, director of the Fentress County, Tennessee, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
  • John Boynton, former emergency manager for Yamhill County, Oregon
  • Jeremy Shearer, corrections officer at Lebanon Correctional Institution
  • Fred Petersen, deputy director, Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency
  • John Jones-Bateman, meteorologist, WLWT, Cincinnati
  • Joey Henderson, emergency management specialist, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Richard Kos, emergency preparedness program facilitator, Michigan State University
  • John Hooker, security officer, Bloomington Hospital, Bloomington, Indiana, former director of Monroe County Emergency Management Agency
  • William Curtis, deputy director of Winnebago County Emergency Management, Winnebago County, Wisconsin
  • Scott Fitzsimmons, consultant, Federal Emergency Management Agency center for domestic preparedness
  • Bernard Becker, former fire chief, Clearcreek Fire District, Warren County

Permalink | Comments (22) | Post your comment | Categories: Emergency Management Agency

Sheriff counts on illegal immigrants to balance budget

This story in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch takes a look at the financial toll of illegal immigration, including the revenue benefit it gives to the Butler County jail.

According to the article, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office billed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) roughly $3.2 million to house and transport detainees last year.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones is quoted heavily in the article:

“It would be very difficult to do without” the ICE contract, said Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, an outspoken critic of illegal immigration. “I would, but I’d have to lay people off. And I’d have to cut my prison population.”

On the other side:

“It’s hypocritical,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “It’s a two-faced approached to justice. On one hand, these men and women put up a big face about immigrants not coming into our country. And on the other, their pockets are filling up with money.”

Furthermore:

Local jails’ use of ICE funds to offset costs “does not bode well for Latinos who live in those communities,” said Ricardo Meza, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The need to obtain federal ICE funds will no doubt increase unlawful targeting of Latino drivers and persons by local police, thus leading to racial profiling.”

Responds Jones:

Jones said he’s aware of the criticism. “You get the typical complaints: ‘You’re a racist. You’re a bigot. You’re profiling,’” the sheriff said. “I’ve sent out a memorandum. If (the deputies) were doing that, I’d fire them.” The solution for illegal immigrants is simple, he said: “Come here legally. Don’t violate the law. Become a U.S. citizen.”

There’s a lot more to the article. Read it at the link at the beginning of this post then come back and let us know: What do you think?

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More than 50 vie for EMA post

More than 50 people from across the United States submitted applications to become Butler County Emergency Management Agency director by the Friday, April 3 deadline.

I started listing all of them when I got the first few in, but I don’t have time to type up all 50. Sorry.

The list includes Middletown City Councilman Bill Becker, who has served as both police chief and city manager.

Becker can legally hold both jobs, as long as he abstains from any discussion or vote concerning city funding of the EMA, according to a March 25 opinion from Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (You can read that here: click on 2009-010).

Former EMA Director William Turner had cautioned against this, saying it would call into question any large grants that went to Middletown.

Becker believes his long history in Middletown is an asset, though, according to his application’s cover letter.

“I have been involved in public service most of my adult life and I see this as an opportunity to continue to serve Butler County in a meaningful capacity,” the letter says. “My experience as a police chief and city manager allows me to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.”

Other applicants include the former emergency management director of Monroe County, former Clearcreek Fire District fire chief in Warren County, current emergency services coordinator for Madera County, California, and deputy directors of emergency management in Ottawa County, Ohio, and Winnebago County, Wisconsin.

Pay for the job starts at $60,000 per year, according to the job announcement.

Mark Sutton, Fairfield Twp. trustee and chairman of the EMA board, said the board will meet Tuesday, April 7, to narrow down the field and decide which candidates to interview.

“I don’t know of any reason we can’t have somebody hired by the end of May,” Sutton said.

The lack of a director could already be taking a toll. The EMA board is trying to decide whether to turn down an $18,000 homeland security grant because there’s no one to plan the training exercise the grant is supposed to fund.

Turner stepped down after harsh criticism from local law enforcement and county commissioners following the Sept. 14 windstorm.

Permalink | Comments (5) | Post your comment | Categories: Emergency Management Agency

The future of journalism

With all the bad news about newspapers these days, it was good to see that at least one aspect of the future is bright: tomorrow’s journalists.

I was privileged last week to speak to a Journalism 101 class at Miami University Hamilton about the field they are studying. I talked about the trials and tribulations of my job, and answered questions. The students were particularly fascinated with the story about the exotic dancers busted at V’s Nightclub in Hamilton for allegedly violating the city’s adult entertainment ordinance.

No surprise. They are college students, after all.

I was impressed by their inquisitiveness, and how well informed they are on local issues. People say newspapers are in trouble because young people don’t read them. But that was clearly not the case.

How they read them is changing, though. The class was in a computer lab, and as we went through this blog and other stories online, I watched as some of them pretty much ignored me and surfed news Web sites as I talked.

My talk came on the heels of this story about how journalism majors at MU are way up. I find that amazing, considering these stories about the health of newspapers these days.

And the irony of the fact I just linked to a Google news search is not lost on me.

But amidst all this dour news about news, let me assure you that this newspaper and I aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

But I’m curious: Why do you think so many newspapers are in trouble? Why do you think young people are drawn to the field in spite of it? What do you think is the future of news?

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Butler County roundup - Children Services, roads and GOP

A few stories you may have missed in the paper this weekend:

Any thoughts on any of these stories?

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EMA director - the applicants

UPDATE: The list below is incomplete. There are in fact roughly 30 applicants for Emergency Management Director, but neither the county personnel board nor the EMA office has all the applications. They were all copied and sent to the EMA board members themselves.

I will have a full list for you Monday. I’m told it does include Middletown City Councilman Bill Becker, former police chief and city manager.

Original post:

Today is the deadline to apply for the job of Butler County Emergency Management Director (go here for background on the shake-up at EMA).

Here are the applicants to date, and the job description listed on their applications (it’s open for the rest of the day, so I’ll update if more come in):

  • John Milstead Jr., police chief at the Linder Center of HOPE in Mason (a mental health hospital)
  • John Fussner, president of Christopher Technologies, an emergency management software company in West Chester Twp.
  • Mark Wanner, hazardous materials/weapons of mass destruction trainer, Global Training Solutions
  • Joseph Witzman, part-time instructor of criminal law at Southwestern Community College
  • Mark Bowden, trauma nurse at Bethesda North Hospital
  • Janet Stanovich, Madera County, California, emergency services coordinator
  • Paul Myers, senior manager at Myers Associates Inc., Cincinnati
  • George Francis, Bass Pro Shops inventory control specialist

These are only their current jobs. Many of them cite past experience as more relevant to this position (Francis was a captain in the Hamilton Fire Department, his resume says)

Any idea who you think would be most qualified?

Permalink | Comments (33) | Post your comment | Categories: Butler County

Now hiring: Butler County

Here is a link to the job postings page on Butler County’s Web site. There’s not much there, but the county auditor’s office, MetroParks, the Emergency Management Agency, county care facility and county commissioners are hiring.

High-profile jobs include Children Services director, finance director and EMA director. Full position descriptions are available at the link above.

How good is a county gig? Here is a searchable list of salaries for public employees across Butler County, including city, township and county government.

And here is a story about the Children Services director search from today’s paper:

Wanted: Someone with a master’s degree or equivalent experience in social work and demonstrated leadership skills to take the helm of Butler County’s most scrutinized public agency.

Chosen applicant will be paid far less than his or her predecessor. Deadline to apply is April 13.

Butler County is accepting applications for a new Children Services director. The job posting lists a salary range of $75,232 to $99,000.

Before taking a pay cut this year, former director Michael Fox, who retired Tuesday, March 31, was the highest paid county employee, taking home $134,331, including perks. Jan Heffner, agency director before Fox, had a base salary of $125,000.

County Administrator Tim Williams said the pay cut brings the job in-line with what other agency directors make.

There are no plans at this point, Williams said, to give the new director a contract, as Heffner and Fox had. And there are no plans to include perks such as the $425 monthly car allowance or $300 monthly cell phone allowance Fox received.

But if a candidate wows county commissioners, he or she could ask for more pay, a contract and perks, officials said.

County Commission President Donald Dixon said the board hopes to have a new director within weeks of the April 13 deadline.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a long drawn out deal,” he said.

The only other job commissioners are advertising for is a finance director. This person will coordinate countywide budgets and track spending across offices with the mission of cutting spending wherever possible.

The deadline to apply for that post is also April 13. The pay range is $79,806 to $105,188.

Permalink | Comments (4) | Post your comment | Categories: Butler County

Traditional marriage preference - The Data

When this article ran about a proposed, controversial policy in Butler County Children Services — which gives preference to married couples over single or gay parents in foster or adoption cases — one comment surfaced more than any other from readers:

Where is the data?

This is one of the challenges of covering ongoing stories: we have to give enough background to put things in context, but can’t retell every story leading up to the most recent one.

This paper, to date, is the only news agency that has actually asked for the data. You can find that in this story. An excerpt:

When asked for that data, Fox produced a series of studies conducted by the Family Research Council, which describes itself on its Web site as “as an organization dedicated to the promotion of marriage and family and the sanctity of human life in national policy,” including “combating the homosexual agenda.”

Citizens for Community Values uses the exact same studies. Here is the research they cite. All of the Mapping America studies come from the Family Research Council, here is their Web site.

State lawmakers sent their letters to county commissioners after being contacted by the CCV.

I am not saying there is anything right or wrong with these studies. CCV officials argue that the Family Research Council’s data is scientific and reliable, regardless of its agenda. I am just saying that this is the data Michael Fox and the CCV are referring to.

Permalink | Comments (8) | Post your comment | Categories: Children Services

 

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