Inspector General: ODOT Wasted $49,800

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 @ 5:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 @ 5:59 PM

Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles opened an investigation nearly one year ago into allegations of fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars at the Department of Transportation.

Charles said Wednesday he found the department wasted $49,800 on an employee satisfaction survey that was disregarded when the results came back negative.

According to the state investigative report, ODOT hired an outside firm in 2005 to conduct the survey.

With the help of the employee union, 92 percent of the workers within the department completed the survey.

Later, when the results from many employees contained negative comments about the department, much of it focused on Shaobna Varma, the department’s Deputy Director of Information Technology, top managers attempted to quash the publication of the results.

Managers reportedly fabricated an excuse to recall the report, telling employees there was a technical error in the results and the publication was to be returned.

The Inspector General’s report quotes one ODOT employee who said former ODOT Director Gordon Proctor was livid about the comments in the survey and demanded that the report be returned immediately.

The full report was released a second time, with the critical comments included, but it was released to far fewer people within the department.

The Inspector General found the survey was originally intended to be a management tool for improving the department, but it was never acted upon.

“We question the expenditure of public money on a survey that was mismanaged and whose results were largely ignored,” Charles said.

The same investigative report cleared the department of wrongdoing in the hiring of Varma over other applicants for the job.

The same report though did find the former director showed favoritism to Varma and that prompted friction between her and other employees.

When the administration of Gov. Ted Strickland arrived in 2007, Proctor resigned and Varma was fired.

The report states the firing had an effect on central office morale:

“Varma’s firing in January 2007 was celebrated throughout the agency. Varma told us that she recalls seeing ODOT Finance Department employees who appeared to be cheering as she stood outside ODOT’s headquarters after being escorted from the building. Former Chief of Staff Bob Campbell went so far as to compare the elation at ODOT that day to 'the fall of Communism.' A party celebrating Varma’s firing was held that evening at a popular Columbus brewery.”

Since Proctor and Varma are no longer employed by the state, the Inspector General made no recommendations to the current administration.

The Inspector General did find that Proctor may have violated Ohio’s “revolving door” statute by representing Varma at the State Board of Personnel Board of Review when she appealed to be reinstated by ODOT.

“Consequently, we are referring this matter to the Columbus City Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission,” Charles said.

Jim.otte@whiotv.com

Husted bucks GOP, is against voter photo ID push

Published: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM
Updated: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The official who oversees Ohio's elections says he doesn't agree with a measure proposed by some fellow Republicans to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.   

Secretary of State John Husted tells The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday that he would not change current policy that allows voters to prove their identities with photo IDs or other documents, such as utility bills or paychecks.   

A bill approved by the Ohio House would require voters to show the photo ID before casting an in-person ballot. It is now being reviewed by the Senate.   

Husted instead proposes changes for voters casting early ballots or provisional ballots. He says those voters should be required to give their full Social Security numbers instead of the currently required last four digits.

Election Board Moves Carefully On Husted Investigation

Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 @ 5:35 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 @ 5:35 AM

DAYTON, Ohio -- The Montgomery County Board of Elections attorney will review voting residency laws before the board decides if it will move forward on an investigation of Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering.

The four-person board has asked for the legal review after member Dennis Lieberman, a Democrat, said an Oct. 18 Dayton Daily News article raised questions about Husted's residency and voter registration.

"I think we have an obligation to look into it," Lieberman said.

Republican board members Jim Nathanson and Greg Gantt, county party chairman and chairman of the board, both referred to an investigation of Husted as a "witch hunt." Nathanson said he does not think it "serves anyone" to look into Husted's residency this close to the election.

Husted, elected to the House in 2000, said, "if they haven't filed a complaint (then) they must not think there is a problem."

He is running for a Senate seat from the 6th District against Centerville School Board member John Doll, a Democrat.

The deadline to remove names from the ballot has passed, but the board can review the validity of Husted's voter registration.

A legislator must be a legal resident of his district and can be forced to forfeit the seat if he is not.

Ohio law on residency for voting purposes says a person's residence is the "place where the family of a married person resides."

Husted has been dogged by questions about his residency for several years because he stays with his wife and children in Upper Arlington and is rarely seen at his home in Kettering, 148 Sherbrooke Drive.

He is registered to vote in Montgomery County. His wife, Tina, is registered in Upper Arlington. Jon Husted voted absentee every time he cast a ballot since 2005 and voted in person every time prior to that, according to Montgomery County board of elections records.

Since their marriage in 2005, the Husteds have simultaneously owned or co-owned properties that they've called "principal residences" and received 2.5 percent property tax reductions allowed for owner-occupied homes. The law states that a couple can take the tax break on only one house. Neither Husted applied for an exception.

On Friday, Franklin County Auditor Joe Testa said Tina Husted should repay a tax break the Husteds claimed on the Columbus condominium she and Jon co-owned as a "principal residence" at the same time she got a $207.46 tax break on a different home she owned.

Husted said he and his wife have now repaid $27.22 to the auditor, who told him there are no other problems. Testa could not be reached for comment. Husted said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith informed him "everything is fine" in this county.

However, Keith said he's only verified that the tax break was properly taken on the Kettering home since 1995 and that Husted is registered to vote there. He said it is up to Testa to review that information for possible conflicts with Tina's tax breaks. Keith said he will continue his inquiry.

As of last week, the couple was renting a home at 2672 Coventry Road in Upper Arlington. Husted would not directly say if they moved over the weekend to a house Tina owns at 2305 Haverford Road, Upper Arlington.

"We are no longer renting the Coventry and the only Columbus residence or Columbus property that we own, that my wife owns, is the property on Haverford," Husted said.

(Article courtesy of www.daytondailynews.com)

Husted Residency Still Questioned, To Appear Before Board

Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 @ 7:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 @ 7:27 AM

DAYTON, Ohio -- Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, must appear on Jan. 7 before the Montgomery County Board of Elections, which is investigating whether he lives in his district at the Kettering address where he is registered to vote, the board decided on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

A letter will be sent to Husted outlining what documents the board is requesting he provide to prove his residency, said Steve Harsman, board director. Requests for an investigation came from a Kettering Republican and a liberal nonprofit group after an Oct. 18 Dayton Daily News story raised new questions about Husted's residency.

Husted, who could not be reached for comment, says his home is at 148 Sherbrooke Ave. in Kettering. However, he said he sometimes stays with his wife, Tina, in an Upper Arlington house she owns because the demands of his job as House Speaker frequently keep him in Columbus. Jon and Tina have one son and Jon has a son from his first marriage.

Husted took an apartment in Columbus shortly after becoming 37th District representative in 2001 and bought a Columbus condominium in 2003. He became speaker and married Tina in 2005. They co-owned a Columbus condominium they sold in 2007. Husted's wife is registered to vote at the Upper Arlington home.

Husted rarely had official business scheduled on his calendar after mid-August, when the House was not in session this year, according to a daily calendar provided by his office. It also shows few trips to his district. A travel expense report Husted signed for a 2005 trip to a conference in Las Vegas listed his home address as 911 Manor Lane, Columbus, which was the first condo he owned. A 2005 traffic citation handled in Upper Arlington Mayor's court also lists that as his home address.

In January Husted will take office as a sixth district senator. Ohio law requires that legislators live in their district.

In October the Daily News reported that Jon and Tina Husted had simultaneously claimed homes in Upper Arlington and Kettering as "principal" residences and taken property tax breaks for owner-occupied homes on them. They also claimed the condo they co-owned as a principal residence, while claiming the same tax break on homes in Kettering and Upper Arlington.

Tina was ordered by Franklin County Auditor Joe Testa to repay the tax break for the condominium. Testa said he considers the matter closed. Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith said he believes Husted qualifies for the tax break in Kettering, and he said state payroll records list it as Husted's home.

"If the board of elections determines that his voter registration is invalid at that address then I will have to take another look," Keith said.

(Article courtesy of www.daytondailynews.com)

Snake in bathroom saves woman from bedroom attacker

Published: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 @ 7:06 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 @ 7:06 PM

A Florida woman is crediting a snake in her home with saving her from a sexual assault last week.

Police said the Lee County woman called deputies when she found the reptile in her bathroom, minutes before a man broke into her house, grabbed her and demanded sex, according to media reports

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Malcolm Porter, 28, allegedly sneaked up on the victim, choked her, then demanded she get condoms from another room. Once free, the woman fled from her home where deputies, who responded to the snake call, were waiting outside. 

Porter was arrested and is jailed without bond on charges of battery by strangulation.

The victim told police she knew the man and that he “may have been high" on drugs, local media reported. 

One of the victim's neighbors called the snake encounter "a blessing in disguise."

"The snake played a role in saving her," the neighbor said.

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