by German Lopez
105 days ago
Local senator to run for lt. governor, audit clears JobsOhio, House OKs "stand your ground"
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati as his running mate
for his bid against Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Although Kasich is widely
perceived as a favorite as the incumbent, recent polling found the race is tied. (The poll was commissioned by Ohio Democrats, but the firm behind it was deemed the most accurate national pollster of 2012.)
Republican State Auditor Dave Yost’s long-awaited audit of JobsOhio found no substantial conflicts of interests at the privatized development firm established by Gov. Kasich and
Republican legislators to replace the public Ohio Department of
Development. But the audit found 113 items totaling
nearly $69,000 in inadequately documented expenditures financed through the state’s leased liquor profits and insufficient safeguards to identify
potential conflicts of interest. In a statement, John Patrick Carney, the Democratic candidate for state auditor running against Yost in 2014, claimed the audit was “a whitewashed attempt that fails to give taxpayers a full accounting of JobsOhio” and touted it as evidence the state auditor’s office needs change. CityBeat previously wrote about criticisms towards JobsOhio in further detail here. (Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Rewrote paragraph to add Carney’s comments.)
The Ohio House yesterday approved sweeping gun legislation
that would impose “stand your ground” rules in the state and
automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states.
“Stand your ground” rules remove a duty to retreat before using deadly
force in self-defense when a person is in areas in which he’s lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat when a person is
in his home or vehicle. The bill is particularly controversial
following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a
“stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in
the trial that let Zimmerman go free. The bill now requires approval
from the Ohio Senate and Gov. Kasich to become law.
Commentary: “False Equivalency Confuses Streetcar Debate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes new early voting limits
that would shorten the in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days
and remove a “golden week” that allows Ohioans to simultaneously
register and vote in person. The Ohio Association of
Election Officials claims the limits are necessary to establish uniform
voting days across all counties without placing too much of a burden on
smaller counties. But Democrats claim the limits aim to suppress voters.
The Ohio Senate yesterday cleared the new early voting limits, which now require approval from the Ohio House and Gov. Kasich to become law.
If property and business owners along the planned
streetcar line sue over the cancellation of the $133 million project, legal experts say they have a very slim chance of winning.
The threat of litigation is one of the potential back-up options
discussed by streetcar supporters if Mayor-elect John Cranley and the
incoming City Council agree to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners agreed to increase the tax return local property owners will get
as part of the deal funding Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball
Park. The deal boosts the rebate to $13 million in 2014, up from $10
million in 2013 but still below the $20.5 million promised to property
owners after voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the stadiums.
Commissioners estimate property owners will receive nearly $46 for each
$100,000 of property value from the boosted rebate, up from $35 this
year, but Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told CityBeat that the exact number is unclear until the tax commissioner approves new tax rates.
College campuses generally struggle with too-frequent cases of sexual assault, but one lawsuit from an alleged victim is targeting Miami University
for supposed negligence and a breach of the student code of conduct.
The female student claims she was raped by former Miami University student Antonio
Charles, but she says that multiple red flags could have prevented the
alleged incident. Charles was eventually expelled from Miami University for “sexual
misconduct” in response to the incident involving the plaintiff, but
that was after he was investigated for multiple other accusations related to sexual misconduct. Miami University Sexual
Assault Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson defends some of the
university administration’s actions regarding sexual assault cases as a
strict adherence to protocol and blames some of the public perception on
the administration’s lack of awareness about the atmosphere.
Cincinnati’s economy will grow more slowly than the nation’s economy next year, according to Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development’s panel of five regional economists.
Al Neyer plans to build a $22 million luxury apartment tower in downtown Cincinnati.
Cancer research done on mice might get screwed up by standard laboratory temperatures.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:14 PM | Permalink
Department of Job and Family Services cited for multiple errors
The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) was reprimanded in a state audit released Thursday that uncovered inadequate protocols and failures to correct previous audits’ findings.
But HCDJFS spokesperson Brian Gregg says a lot of the
audit’s findings could be outdated because they’re based on data from 2011. “We’re working on information that is two years old
but was just presented to us,” he says.
HCDJFS, which handles the county’s social services and
welfare programs, was criticized for not keeping proper
documentation and failing to conduct various checks required to gauge whether
federal, state and local funds should be used for child support
Gregg blames the inadequacies on a bout of temporary chaos caused by funding reductions and layoffs, which he
pinned on state government cuts from 2008 that cost HCDJFS roughly half
its budget. Since then, he says the county has retrained staff to manage the agency’s smaller size.
Gregg also noted that the sampling size for the findings —
25 — was fairly low. “You can get a bad batch,” he says. “I don’t want
this to be indicative of the program.”
Instead, Gregg points to county-by-county data for child support that put
Hamilton County above all other metropolitan counties in Ohio for cost
effectiveness. The data, produced by the Ohio Department of Job and
Family Services in 2012, found Hamilton County is getting $28.52 in child support
for every $1 it pays staff to collect support. In comparison, Cuyahoga
County’s ratio was $8.56-to-$1 and Franklin County’s was $11.62-to-$1.
“We’re probably the best and most efficient metropolitan
county in the state when it comes to child support collection,” Gregg
The audit also found HCDJFS paid more than $330,000 in
excess rent in 2011, more than $24,000 of which was allocated to local
funds while the rest was charged to state and federal funds. A 2010
state audit found similar excess rent charges.
The agency told the state auditor’s office it will
continue working with the county budget office and prosecutor to correct
the lease agreement that led to the excess rent.
“That’s a result of a way the state interpreted a federal
law in 2010,” Gregg says. “We’ve had that lease from ’93 on. There was a
change in 2010, and we’re now working with the county to get in
HCDJFS employees were also found to be inadequately
tracking their working hours, which the agency says it’s now correcting by setting up a new computer system.
The new findings were heaped on top of old errors found in previous state audits, including several misused funds. Many of the old errors remain uncorrected.
But none of the new findings indicated that HCDJFS has to refund money to other government agencies.
“We feel good that there were no findings for recovery. We
don’t owe anything. These few things that they did find are managerial,
and we’ll work them out,” Gregg says.
The same didn’t apply to one case of overcharge — totaling
$2,400 — at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which the Sheriff’s Office says led to an investigation and criminal
charges against the property officer supervisor as well as new policies to protect payment systems in the future.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Republicans are attempting to block a full public audit of JobsOhio — signaling they have something to fear.
by German Lopez
FitzGerald calls on Kasich to veto bill
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is calling on Republican Gov. John Kasich to veto a bill that would prevent State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, from fully auditing JobsOhio, following months of controversy surrounding the private nonprofit entity."I further encourage the Governor to return to
negotiations with Auditor Yost, with the explicit goal of establishing
an open and transparent process by which the people of Ohio can be sure
JobsOhio is spending our tax dollars efficiently, and that the program
is doing what it is supposed to be doing: creating Ohio jobs,"
FitzGerald said in a statement. "The people’s money is the people’s
business, and this bill, which slams shut the door on accountability, is
simply unacceptable."Yost claims he can audit JobsOhio's liquor profits, which add up to $100 million a year, and private funds, such as donations.But the bill effectively defines JobsOhio's liquor profits as private funds that can't be audited by the state
auditor. Under the proposal, Yost could only audit liquor profits and excise taxes that JobsOhio owes to the state, with all other funds effectively deemed private.
JobsOhio was established by Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency's liquor profits come from a lease deal with the
state to run Ohio's liquor operations. Yost argues the liquor profits are
intrinsically public money because the money would be in public hands if JobsOhio wasn't handling
operations.But other Republicans, led by Kasich, say
opening JobsOhio to full audits would slow down the agency, hindering its
ability to quickly react to economic changes and tides. Kasich has often said the private nature of JobsOhio allows it to move at the "speed of business," which he claims fosters stronger economic development in Ohio.Democrats have pushed back against the notion, saying JobsOhio's private nature only makes it more difficult to hold the state government accountable. With the latest bill, Democrats, who have now taken to dubbing the agency "RobsOhio," say their concerns are being vindicated.But the bill could have far-reaching effects beyond JobsOhio that would effectively disallow the state auditor to audit privately funded accounts in any institution that receives public funding.Despite Yost's pleas to involve him in the process, the auditing bill was passed through the Ohio House and Senate in just two days without his input.Democrats were quick to criticize the bill, asking what JobsOhio has to hide.Kasich is expected to sign the bill to make it law.JobsOhio isn't the only privatization scheme pushed by Kasich. He also sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a northeastern Ohio prison, to the Corrections Corporation of America. So far, inmate reports and inspections have largely found deplorable conditions at the Lake Erie facility ("From the Inside," issue of May 29).
by German Lopez
State could block JobsOhio audit, council approves budget, streetcar budget fixes in June
The Ohio Senate sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that prevents the state auditor from auditing private funds
at JobsOhio and other publicly funded private entities. State Auditor
Dave Yost has been pursuing a full audit of JobsOhio in the past few
months, but state Republicans, led by Kasich, have opposed the audit.
Ohio Democrats were quick to respond to the bill by asking what JobsOhio
and Republicans have to hide. JobsOhio is a privatized development
agency established by Kasich and Republican legislators meant to eventually
replace the Ohio Department of Development.
City Council passed an operating budget
yesterday that slashes several city services but prevents laying off
cops and firefighters. Human services funding, which goes to programs
that aid the homeless and poor, is getting some of the largest cuts,
continuing what Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition
says is a decade-long trend that has brought down human services
funding from 1.5 percent of the budget to 0.3 percent. The budget also
makes cuts to other programs and raises property taxes and several fees.
City Council will likely vote in June on how to fix the
streetcar budget gap. So far, the only known plan is the city manager’s
proposal, which would pull funding from various capital funding sources.
The streetcar budget is part of the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state
The Ohio Senate budget bill increases education funding
over the Ohio House bill. The Senate bill raises the limit on how much a
school district can see its state funding increase, potentially putting
fast-growing suburban schools at an advantage. The House and Senate
bills use a model that gives schools base funding for each pupil — a
model entirely different from Kasich’s proposal, which critics labeled wrongheaded and regressive.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections that will send 39 more “double voters” to the prosecutor.
In most cases, the “double voter” filed an absentee ballot and voted
in-person with a provision ballot on Election Day. The provisional
ballots always ended up being tossed out, but Republicans say they want
to find out if there were any bad intentions. Board of Elections
Chairman Tim Burke, who’s also head of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party, called Husted’s decision a “travesty,” labeling the investigation a
“witch hunt, aimed at scaring the hell out of voters.” Husted, a
Republican, said the cases at least deserve an investigation, even if
they don’t lead to an indictment.
Mayor Mark Mallory and local business leaders are calling
on Congress to take up immigration reform, which they argue will come as
a boost to the economy. “In order to continue to have the strongest
economy in the world, we need to have the most innovative and creative
ideas being developed right here in Cincinnati and across the country,”
Mallory said in a statement. “That requires the best and brightest
talent from around the globe being welcomed to our country through a
fair and sound system of immigration.”
WVXU says the list of local bike friendly destinations keeps growing.
Traveling to Mars could get someone fried by radiation.
by German Lopez
Kasich tax plan criticized, JobsOhio records due today, workers demand prevailing wage
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite
parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused
on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set
aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other
complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and
school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax
expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money
to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general
revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in
fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio
today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under
criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he
should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which
include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only
public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit,
privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development,
which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid.
In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing
wage established in state law because the project is using public funds
and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology
with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use
expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city
promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find
new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference
today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will
seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The
initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which
would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions
if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a
statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight
is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think
this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000
for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility
for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s
entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
A new report from the state auditor found
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools manipulated
attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to
lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Interim report highlights attendance scrubbing in a minority of school districts
The state auditor today criticized both the Ohio Department of
Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim
report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the
practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating
claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for
better results in Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and
school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for
different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.
results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in
Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a
fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on
the honor system” to report their own data.
“The current system relies upon local schools and school
districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the
outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before
labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”
The report advised the state government to reform ODE to
introduce “independent oversight.” Specifically, Yost asked for
oversight to be transferred to “an independent agency or commission
appointed by the General Assembly” instead of relying on schools to be
honest. This oversight should be conducted throughout the year, not just
at the end of the school year like it's done today, according to
The state auditor’s report also asked ODE to develop
better methods for tracking students. In particular, the report suggested
using SSIDs — ID numbers that are given to students in the Ohio’s
school database — to track all withdrawals and transfers for students.
But those were only a few of the many suggestions. The report laid out other proposals: Set clear attendance rules for school
boards, provide due process to students being kicked out for poor
attendance, require stricter attendance records at each school, stop
providing school report card data early, create a centralized source or
manual for accountability resources and establish a statewide student
information system with clearer uniform rules and standards.
John Charlton, spokesperson for ODE, says the state will
look into enforcing “additional safeguards.” He says ODE already
“upgraded” EMIS, which is the system used by schools to report data,
this year, but more is coming.
“We’ve been cooperative with the auditor’s office, and
we’ve established a productive working relationship about his inquiry,”
he says. “We’ll take the input that’s provided from the auditor’s office
into consideration when we make upgrades for next year’s (EMIS)
But the report did not just blame ODE and the state
government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with
evidence of school scrubbing. Columbus City School District, Toledo
City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Marion City
School District and Campbell City School District were the main
offenders. Other school districts were found to have errors but no scrubbing.“We’re actually encouraged but not surprised that this
interim report shows that most Ohio schools and districts that have been
visited to date have been following the rules for reporting data to the
state,” Charlton says.Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was partially investigated as part of the auditor's interim report, but results for CPS were found to be “indeterminate” as the school district finishes gathering all its data.The full report can be read here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value
Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the
findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in
Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple
including potential conflicts of interest.
by German Lopez
Hamilton County school overpaid in potential conflict of interest
State Auditor Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value
Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in downtown
Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple instances —
including potential conflicts of interest.
“Those who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars must take
special care and spend them wisely,” Yost said in a statement. “This
school appears to have management issues that must be addressed
In a potential conflict of interest, the school paid
Echole Harris, daughter of the school’s superintendent, $82,000 during
the school year and $17,000 for a summer contract for the position of
EMIS coordinator, who helps provide data from VLT Academy to the state. Mysteriously, the school did not disclose the summer contract
in its financial statements. The school says the superintendent abstained from all decisions related to Harris and presented the summer contract to the school board. Still, Yost referred
the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The audit also criticized VLT Academy for approving a
$249,000 bid for janitorial services that were owned and provided by a
school employee. The bid was the most expensive among other offers
ranging between $82,000 and $135,600. According to the school’s own
minutes, “Each company states that they can deliver a work product that
will meet or exceed the standards provided in our checklist,” adding
little justification to the high payment and potential conflict of
interest. The school insists its pick was the best qualified because it offered additional services. The bid approval was also
referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The school was found to be overpaying its IT director as
well. Keenan Cooke’s salary for the 2010-2011 school year was supposed to
be $55,000, but the school overpaid him by $3,333 with no record of
intent. The state asked for Cooke and Judy McConnell, VLT Academy’s
fiscal officer, to return the excess payment to the state. The school acknowledged McConnell's responsibility.
To make the potentially excess payments worse, VLT Academy had a net asset
deficiency of $412,754 as of June 30, 2011, according to the audit. The
school promised the auditor it will cut costs and find revenue
generators to make up for the loss.