0 Comments · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Homeless advocates gathered in front of
the Hamilton County Courthouse on Oct. 16 to speak out against the
county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the
courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center and threaten jail time.
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO)
suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments,
stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his
staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.
by German Lopez
Audit slams former sheriff, part of The Banks sold, local abortion clinic could close
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also
nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at
1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.An audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) found
former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked
leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff
fiercely loyal during his 25 years in charge of HCSO. The Oct. 15 audit
claims the agency was “largely frozen in time” and didn’t meet the most
basic modern standards, including a failure to adopt computer
spreadsheets and other modern technologies instead of keeping
paper-based records that only one person can access at a time. The audit
claims a few possible consequences for Hamilton County: outdated
policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked,
under-trained staff. To fix the mistakes, the audit recommends various
investments and changes to policies that could prove costly to the
county — perhaps too costly to a county government that has been forced
to make budget cuts for the past six years. Read more about the audit here.
Developers sold the apartments and 96,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space
in the first phase of The Banks for $79.5 million. In a memo, City
Manager Milton Dohoney claimed the sale is a sign of the strong market
that’s being built in Cincinnati. Dohoney noted that the sale will
provide nearly $1.2 million for the city and county, which will likely
go to other projects in The Banks, and allow Carter and The Dawson
Company to repay the city and county’s nearly $4.7 million retail fit-up
loan three years in advance. The sale should also increase the
property’s assessed value, which Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes previously
put at $52 million, or $27.5 million less than it actually sold for,
and subsequently lead to higher property-based tax revenue, according to
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could force
the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to
close after a health examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the
clinic’s license because it couldn’t establish a patient transfer
agreement with a nearby hospital. Abortion rights advocates touted the
closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed
state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But
ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion
clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich
in June signed the state budget
and its anti-abortion restrictions into law. Meanwhile, Ohio Right to
Life praised the state for closing down or threatening to close down
five abortion clinics this year.
Reminder: Officials project the streetcar will have a much greater economic impact in downtown than Over-the-Rhine, despite what some detractors may claim.The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office last night began threatening to arrest homeless people who refuse to leave the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center and find another place to sleep, according to Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The sheriff’s office says the steps are necessary to put an end to public urination and defecation on county property, but homeless advocates say the county should focus on creating jobs and affordable housing to solve the root of the problem. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.
Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson questioned her fellow Republicans’ legal threats
against Gov. John Kasich’s plan to bypass the legislature and get the
federally funded Medicaid expansion approved through the Controlling
Board, a seven-member legislative panel. Davidson says Kasich is on
“firm ground” legally because the state budget contained a provision
that allows the state’s Medicaid director to expand the program. The
Kasich administration on Oct. 11 announced its intention to call on the Controlling Board to take up the expansion, which will use federal Obamacare funds for two years to extend Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Ohio Libertarians and Greens threatened to sue the state
if the legislature passes a bill that would limit ballot access for
minor political parties. The Ohio Senate already approved the
legislation, and an Ohio House committee is expected to vote on it at a
hearing on Oct. 29.
More charges have been filed
against a local spine doctor accused of carrying out unnecessary
surgeries in the Cincinnati area and Florence, Ky., and billing health
care programs millions of dollars, according to court documents released
A race car managed to swap fossil fuels for hydrogen power.
by German Lopez
Simon Leis’ reign kept sheriff’s office “largely frozen in time,” audit finds
A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.According to the Oct. 15 audit, the result was an agency “largely frozen in time” that failed at adopting modern standards and practices for policing and corrections facilities.As one example, the audit found the agency still uses what it colloquially calls “The Book,” a single, massive paper-based trove of financial data and other information, instead of modern technologies, such as computer spreadsheets. Not only did the agency insist on sticking to the old ways of keeping records, but one unit head reportedly told auditors that she simply does not trust computers.The audit presents various consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff.“A mid-level supervisor indicated that in his twenty-plus year career, he has never had updated use of force training beyond the initial academy. This is inconsistent with the best practices and exposes the HCSO, the County, and officeholders to unnecessary legal liability,” the audit found.Leis’ policies also had a negative effect on newcomers trying to build a career on the county force, according to the audit.“The command staff was comprised exclusively of personal and political associates of the former sheriff, some with no true law enforcement experience except at that level,” the audit noted. “Almost no career employees were promoted above the rank of lieutenant, despite advanced training including degrees and other training (e.g. Southern Police Institute) directly related to their careers.”One staff commander interviewed for the audit reportedly said the failure to identify, train and promote new leaders created “The Lost Generation” at HCSO.One explanation for the dire circumstances, according to the audit, is that the agency completely lacked inspection and planning functions that would have examined policies and practices for certain standards and established plans to fix discovered errors.Another possible cause: The audit found that five years of cuts created staffing gaps in several areas, particularly correctional facilities. Still, the audit found the sheriff’s staff is so loyal that its members would quickly embrace and adapt to changes given through the chain of command. “This is a key advantage, and we have no doubt that both sworn and non-sworn HCSO members will readily and rapidly implement chosen reforms and changes,” the audit claimed.The audit recommends various new investments and changes in standards for HSCO. It notes that some of the investments, such as a greater focus on modern technology, could help make the agency’s work more efficient and allow a reduction of non-sworn staff — and the costs associated with them — through attrition.But the investments would involve a substantial policy shift for Hamilton County, which carried out major budget cuts in the past six years just to get to a point this year where large reductions or tax increases aren’t necessary to balance the annual budget.Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil promised the audit during his 2012 campaign. It was conducted by former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Scott Greenwood and former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.The HCSO audit:
by German Lopez
Advocates say tactic focuses on the wrong problem
Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton
County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people
sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.
The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit
in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new
policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being
Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer
money to address public defecation and focus on the
state of the economy. He’s asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in
jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”
If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at
least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens,
which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless
people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.
At the press conference, Spring was joined by several
homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a
similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on
county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as
alleys and abandoned buildings.McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a “sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials’ attention.Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services,
which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians. Several council
candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski,
say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a
priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an
improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.
Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.
As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other
advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The
march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine. The lawsuit:
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon
Leis is retiring after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on
Jan. 6, 2013, but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.
by Andy Brownfield
Retiring sheriff will take visiting judge job in 2013
Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is retiring
after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on Jan. 6, 2013,
but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.
The lawman best known for the raid of the Contemporary
Arts Center over an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and
his prosecution of pornographer Larry Flynt will begin serving as a visiting judge in 2013, according to letters first published by The
Before being appointed sheriff, Leis served as a Hamilton
County Common Pleas judge from 1982 to 1987. Prior to that he was
Hamilton County prosecutor for 12 years.
The letters dated May 1, 2012 and Oct. 22, 2012 indicate
that Leis wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to let
her know he was retiring and was interested in being assigned as a
Visiting judges are in charge of all of the cases other
judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets. Leis will be
paid the standard visiting judge rate of $60.68 per hour.
Since Leis last served as judge 25 years ago, O’Connor is
requiring him to shadow another judge for a day or so to get back up to
speed. Leis has kept his law license current since becoming sheriff.
by Andy Brownfield
Proposed 'austere' budget would cut $14.4M from 2012 levels
A vote on the 2013 Hamilton County budget is being delayed
a week at the request of the sole Democrat on the Board of County
Commissioner Todd Portune asked Board President Greg
Hartmann at a Monday staff meeting to push back the vote a week to
address funding to juvenile courts and the county’s plan for future
Hartmann, who earlier denied Portune’s request to issue
securities to raise millions to balance the budget, agreed. He said it
was important that all three commissioners agree on the budget.
Portune told reporters he wanted to see more funding for
juvenile courts. The proposed budget would cut about $3 million from the
juvenile court’s 2012 appropriation.
He said he also wants to see specific plans on how and
where the county will invest in economic development. He and Hartmann
disagree about whether that kind of planning belongs in a budget.
Hartmann had the proposal developed after commissioners rejected three plans from County Administrator Christian Sigman, two of which would have raised taxes. The $192 million budget under consideration cuts about $14 million from the 2012 appropriation levels without raising taxes.
The proposed budget makes a number of what Hartman calls “modest cuts” in almost every county department.
All three commissioners have stated that public safety
funding is a priority. The Sheriff’s Department would see a small
reduction of $27,033, bringing its budget to almost $57.5 million.
However, the department would also face an additional $4.3
million in expenses next year, giving incoming Sheriff Jim Neil an
effectively reduced budget.
The Emergency Management Agency would get a nearly 40 percent increase in the proposed budget, up to $400,000.
The Board of Elections would see its budget slashed 36.2
percent to $6.9 million. However, its expenses would also be lower in
2013 because there is no presidential election as there was in 2012.
The proposed budget would bring the Department of Job and
Family Services’ appropriation to $832,900 — a reduction of $10,360.
However, that funding level is dictated by the State of Ohio and not the
The Hamilton County Prosecutor would also see a small
increase of $37,597 intended to hold level its funding from 2012, as the
department went over-budget. The prosecutor has the ability to sue the
county over its budget appropriation, so the department typically
maintains level funding.