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Clayton mayor-elect turns focus to development after ousting incumbent

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 1:17 PM


            Mike Stevens, Clayton councilman and mayor-elect
Mike Stevens, Clayton councilman and mayor-elect

Clayton will have a new mayor in January after Councilman Mike Stevens defeated incumbent Mayor Joyce Deitering in Tuesday’s election.

“I attribute my win to getting a message out there: to increase our development in Clayton, economic and residential. And I think that message resonated with our residents,” said Stevens, a Coldwell Banker Heritage real estate agent and retired circulation director for Cox Media Group, which owns this newspaper.

He said he wants to “jump start development” of Villages at North Clayton, a project that is currently tied up in in estate issues after principals of the two development companies died.

RELATED: New pizza, donuts carry-out planned for Clayton

Deitering, a Republican attorney who has been mayor since 2006, said she’s not sure why she lost.

“Of course the narrow loss has been disappointing but I have received a number of very touching phone calls, messages and emails relating support and stories about how grateful the citizens are for my many years of service and how my work and the city have positively affected their lives,” said Deitering. “This response and outreach was unexpected and very comforting.”

Deitering is a former councilwoman and Randolph Twp. trustee who ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio legislature against then State Rep. Roland Winburn, a Harrison Twp. Democrat who is now a Harrison Twp. trustee. Deitering is Clayton’s second mayor since the city incorporated in 1998.

RELATED: Accusations flying in local state House race

Thirty-one votes separated the two candidates on election night - with Stevens getting 1,697 and Deitering receiving 1,666 votes. Those tallies may change slightly as the Montgomery County Board of Elections counts late arriving absentee ballots and provisional ballots that were cast when there were questions about a voter’s eligibility.

The Election Day vote was not close enough to trigger an automatic recount and historically the post-election counting of those final votes generally doesn’t change the outcome of races, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board.

The Clayton Council will choose someone to fill the council seat vacated by Stevens, a Democrat who has been on council for two years, said City Manager Rick Rose. That decision will be made within 30 days of Stevens taking office in January.

RELATED: Who are the candidates for Clayton mayor

Stevens said he and Deitering ran good races. He said the two went to high school together and had a conversation early in the campaign.

“We both kind of on a handshake decided we want to keep our campaigns out of the weeds and we both did that,” Stevens said. “We tried to run on our merits and I think part of that is the reason it was so close. We both had strong merits to run on.”

RELATED: Redrawn district makes for expensive state House race

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Cheetahs nixed in zoo plans for Warren County, official says

Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 10:07 AM


            Cincinnati Zoo cheetah running during a photo shoot for Natiional Geographic Magazine. FILE
Cincinnati Zoo cheetah running during a photo shoot for Natiional Geographic Magazine. FILE

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has set aside plans to move its cheetah recovery center to Warren County, but is moving forward with improvements to a farm and wetlands area already operating here, according to the county’s chief zoning official.

“They’re not going to build the cheetah breeding facility. That’s off the table,” Mike Yetter, zoning supervisor in Warren County said Tuesday.

RELATED: Zoo studying different location for cheetahs in Warren County

Yetter, who reviews plans for developments in unincorporated areas of Warren County, made these comments while sharing details of plans by the zoo to add and improve barns and make other improvements to the EcoFarm on Mason-Montgomery Road.

RELATED: Zoo, others developing between Cincinnati, Dayton

Zoo officials did not immediately respond to questions about the change of plans regarding the cheetah recovery center move from a facility east of Cincinnati in in Clermont County or improvements to the former Bowyer Farm property in Turtlecreek Twp., Warren County.

RELATED: Cheetah center in Warren County to offer close encounters

Plans for a new barn, a wall, a solar-powered pit toilet and other improvements are detailed in documents filed with zoning and building officials in Warren County.

In January, the zoo put on hold plans to move its cheetah facility from the Mast Farm in Clermont County to another farm at the corner of Nickel and Hamilton roads, while considering a different site.

The zoo questioned steps sought for safety by the county.

RELATED: Cheetah conservationists live in Warren County

The facility was to be built near the home of Cathryn Hilker, a cheetah conservationist who pioneered the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program.

Why Montgomery County water, sewer customers will pay more

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 8:51 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 4:06 PM

Crews work on the Hillcrest sewer replacement project in Montgomery County. PROVIDED
PROVIDED
Crews work on the Hillcrest sewer replacement project in Montgomery County. PROVIDED(PROVIDED)

Water and sewer customers receiving service through Montgomery County will see their combined rate climb an average 14 percent in 2018 and go up 5.6 percent each year after through 2022, the county announced Thursday.

The increase is needed because of deteriorating infrastructure resulting in higher costs for maintenance and needed new construction with little foreseeable state or federal funding, officials said.

The average Montgomery County residential customer, now paying about $170, will see quarterly bills rise about $24 in 2018.

“It may appear to be a relatively large increase,” County Administrator Joe Tuss said. “But when you look at where we’ve been from an historic standpoint, it’s about catching up and generating the revenue we need to invest.”

MORE: Report claims Ohio one of worst states for water quality offenses

While Montgomery County purchases water pumped by the city of Dayton, the county maintains a distribution system of 1,400 miles of water mains as well as 1,200 miles of sewer line and two wastewater plants.

The system provides drinking water and fire prevention for about 250,000 residents. Most customers are in Centerville, Harrison Twp., Kettering, Miami Twp., Riverside, Trotwood and Washington Twp.

“Like many systems across the country, we have an aging system, and this rate increase is necessary to help us replace and maintain our water and sewer system,” said Tuss. “We had low or no rate increases for eight years, and we just can’t put this off any longer.”

Montgomery County rate increases have averaged about 2.5 percent since 2007, which is below the state average of 4 percent, according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency data.

Officials estimate about $750 million will need to be spent over the next 20 years to maintain and replace aging portions of the system.

MORE: Are the drugs we’re taking — and flushing down the toilet — hurting our water?

A larger portion of a customer’s bill will be the fixed charge, going from 20 percent to 40 percent, while consumption charges move from 80 to 60 percent. The increased fixed charge will provide more stable, long-term financing needed to upgrade and maintain the system the county values at $3.1 billion, said Pat Turnbull, the county’s Environmental Services director.

Turnbull said the county is routinely experiencing 300 or more water main breaks a year — spending about $2 million annually to fix — on the system primarily installed 60-70 years ago.

“The water mains are breaking more frequently. The sewer lines are cracking more frequently,” he said. “We are just reaching that point — similar to the roof on your house — when you’re having to patch leaks all the time, you get to a place where it’s time to put a new roof on”

Officials say two large projects are required to ensure that tens of thousands of customers aren’t at risk of losing water or sewer service.

A $65-85 million replacement and upgrade of the main sewer line and pump station to the Western Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is planned. The 40-year-old sewer line and pump station is the only sanitary service for more than 83,000 residential and business customers.

The county also plans an additional water feed that provides drinking water and fire protection for 150,000 customers in Centerville, Jefferson Twp., Kettering, Miami Twp., Moraine and Washington Twp. Cost of the project is estimated to be $76-118 million.

More: Greene County officials respond to water bill complaints

In addition to the loss of revenue because of decreasing water consumption, federal dollars that once paid for up to 90 percent of plant construction have gone away almost entirely, Turnbull said.

“Those grant dollars have gone away over the last couple of decades, and we do not see a replacement funding source on the horizon from the federal or state level,” he said. “So these dollars have to be generated locally primarily, and that would be in the form of rates.”

Montgomery County water rate presentations

Presentations will be made at regular township and city council meetings.

- Butler Twp., 7 p.m., Nov. 27

Township Hall, 3780 Little York Rd., Dayton, OH 45414

- Centerville, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 20

Municipal Building, 100 West Spring Valley Rd., Centerville, OH 45458

- Clayton, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 7

Government Center, 6996 Taywood Rd., Englewood, OH 45322

- Harrison Twp., Noon, Nov. 16

Township Offices, 5945 North Dixie Dr., Dayton, OH 45414

- Jefferson Twp., 7 p.m., Dec. 5

Administration Building, One Business Park Dr., Dayton, OH 45417

- Kettering, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 14

Government Center, 3600 Shroyer Rd., Dayton, OH 45429

- Miami Township, 6 p.m., Nov. 28

Township Offices, 2700 Lyons Rd., Miamisburg, OH 45342

- Moraine, 6 p.m., Dec. 14

Municipal Building, 4200 Dryden Rd., Moraine, OH 45439

- Trotwood, 6 p.m., Nov. 20

Trotwood-Madison City Schools Board of Education Meeting Chambers, 3594 N. Snyder Road, Trotwood, OH 45426

- Washington Twp., 7:30 p.m., Dec. 4

Township Offices, 8200 McEwen Road, Dayton, OH 45458

Find your new rate

If you receive water and sewer service from Montgomery County you can get more information as well as estimate your new quarterly bill using an online rate calculator at www.mcohio.org/water.

Ex-village worker sues state, claims malicious prosecution

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:20 PM
Updated: Sunday, November 12, 2017 @ 2:44 PM


            Ohio Auditor Dave Yost
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost

The former fiscal officer for New Madison is suing the Ohio Auditor of State, claiming malicious prosecution after theft-in-office charges against the former village accountant were dismissed.

Wanda Lacey on Oct. 25 filed a lawsuit against the state auditor’s office in which she accused the auditor’s office of seeking felony theft-in-office charges against her despite having insufficient evidence .

The lawsuit, filed in the Ohio Court of Claims, seeks unspecified damages exceeding $100,000.

Lacey was indicted by a grand jury in December 2016 on two counts of theft in office after the auditor’s office concluded that an audit found she stole more than $21,500 from the township. The charges were dropped in September 2017.

RELATED: Village fiscal officer ‘negligent’ but theft in office charges dropped

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost said Friday that the case was dismissed without prejudice because new evidence was discovered.

“The state anticipates the case will be re-filed after the newly discovered evidence has been analyzed,” he said. “The claim of malicious prosecution is without merit and will fail. A grand jury considered the evidence and found probable cause to believe that the crimes had been committed by the person charged.”

Royce Link, Lacey’s attorney, said the auditor’s office investigator mistakenly determined the money as missing without doing due diligence to find it in the village’s books.

“Whether she was just overly zealous, new to the job and wanted to make an impression and get somebody, whether she actually did not like Wanda Lacey, whether somebody else who worked in the village told her some stuff that set her on fire against her, those are the types of reasons why a person would do that,” Link said when asked why the state auditor’s office would falsely accuse his client.

RELATED: Ex-New Madison village worker accused of stealing more than $20K while in office

The charges resulted in Lacey losing her job, suffering physically and mentally and damaging her reputation, he said.

“You get charged with theft in office as an accountant, that’s pretty much going to make it hard to get a job,” he said.

While the theft charges were dropped, a separate audit released Thursday included an administrative finding against Lacey for not paying village taxes on time, incurring $8,166 in fees. Lacey and her bonding company were jointly ordered to repay the money.

Yost issued a statement, along with the audit, saying Lacey’s “negligence” cost village taxpayers money.

Link said Yost’s comments were an attempt to “mitigate the exposure” from Lacey’s lawsuit.

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Local lawmaker says state supreme court justice violating conduct code

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 12:17 PM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 1:14 PM

State Rep. Niraj Antani talks with reporters about Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O’Neill recusing himself from “future matters” on the court following his announcement that he is running as a Democrat for governor but not stepping down from the court. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Ty Greenlees
State Rep. Niraj Antani talks with reporters about Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O’Neill recusing himself from “future matters” on the court following his announcement that he is running as a Democrat for governor but not stepping down from the court. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

State Rep. Niraj Antani wants to haul Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill before a joint session of the General Assembly to answer charges that he’s violating the judicial code of conduct.

Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, said that conduct rules prohibit a sitting judge from running for a partisan, non-judicial office. The resolution he filed Thursday begins the process of removing O’Neill from his seat on Ohio’s high court.

O’Neill, a Democrat, announced earlier that he is running for governor in 2018 and that he would recuse himself from considering future cases, but not step down.

On Thursday, in response to Antani’s action, O’Neill issued a statement reiterating his plan to step down once he has officially filed his petitions declaring his candidacy by the Feb. 7 deadline.

RELATED: Ohio Supreme Court Justice recuses himself after controversy

“I have clearly not violated any rules,” O’Neill said. “I have notified the court of a comprehensive and constitutionally permissible plan for my departure from the court when I become a candidate for governor.”

William O’Neill(Associated Press)

Campaign spokesman Christopher Clevenger said O’Neill has not asked for an opinion from either the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct or the Court of Appeals Judges Association, which has the power to hear and act on any complaints about a justice or supreme court candidate violating the Ohio Judicial Code of Conduct.

The code states that “upon becoming a candidate in a primary or general election for a nonjudicial elective office, a judge shall resign from judicial office.”

O’Neill contends he will not officially become a candidate until he files petitions declaring his candidacy, which must have the signatures of 1,000 valid registered voters.

Clevenger did not know if a complaint has been filed against O’Neill with the appeals court judges association but said O’Neill has not yet been summoned by the House Sergeant-at-Arms to appear before the House, as called for in Antani’s resolution.

Antani’s action threatens the independence of the judiciary, which has a process for removing a justice from the court, said David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

RELATED: Ohio Chief Justice issues warning to Justice O’Neill after he announces run for governor

“This feels like what Donald Trump would do,” Pepper said. “In a normal democracy when you have a separation of powers, you aren’t used to people taking this step.”

Antani said the constitution allows for the legislature to remove a sitting justice.

“I’m a big believer in checks and balances. I’m a big believer that the judiciary must be fair and independent,” Antani said. “Not only has he declared as a candidate for governor but he’s released what he calls the ‘O’Neill Plan for Ohio.’ He has taken positions on 15 or so different partisan issues.”

O’Neill said his “announcement included a meaningful plan to address the opioid epidemic sweeping the state of Ohio, something the Ohio Legislature has failed to do. I can understand why some members of the Ohio General Assembly do not want me to be governor.”

Under the state constitution, a complaint must be filed with the clerks of the House and Senate and then a summoning resolution must be introduced — two steps Antani said he took Thursday.

RELATED: Who is running for governor in Ohio?

“If that summoning resolution is passed, Justice O’Neill will be summoned to a joint session of the House and Senate where he will be asked to answer himself of whether he violated the judicial code of conduct or not. If the General Assembly finds that he has, I will introduce another resolution that is removing him. If we pass that resolution, then he will be removed,” Antani said.

Antani said he was unaware that there is a judicial process for removing Supreme Court justices. Even so, Antani said the legislature has the constitutional ability to do it as well.

Any citizen can file a complaint with the appeals judges association alleging a violation of the judicial code. The judges would appoint a hearing panel made up of trial judges to hear evidence and determine if a violation occurred. That finding can be appealed to a panel of 12 appellate judges.

Punishment can include a reprimand, suspension of the person’s law license or disbarment. Suspension or disbarment would, by definition, lead to suspension or removal of the judge from the court because a law license is required for the job.

The process is rarely used, and the last time it was involved O’Neill during his 2012 run for the Supreme Court. The five-judge hearing panel ruled against O’Neill - then a retired appellate judge - and ordered him to cease calling himself “judge” on campaign literature. That ruling was overturned on appeal.

“While I don’t appreciate GOP legislators using state time to score political points, I’m frustrated that Justice O’Neill did not think through these potential consequences before entering the race,” said state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who is also running in the Democratic primary for governor.

The other Democrats are Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

On the Republican side the announced candidates are Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Staff writer Will Garbe contributed to this report.

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