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Dayton employee accused of metal theft wins job back

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 11:02 AM


            David Shaver testifies at his dimissal hearing. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
David Shaver testifies at his dimissal hearing. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A city of Dayton employee who was fired for allegedly selling city-owned scrap metal without authorization and other alleged misconduct has regained his job.

Dayton’s Civil Service Board has ordered the city to reduce David Shaver’s firing to a 10-day suspension after ruling that the electrician did not directly take part in selling scrap metal and the city failed to prove that he violated sick leave and other personnel policies.

The board concluded that the city had a “long-standing culture and practice” of maintaining scrap metal cash funds, which multiple city officials previously denied.

RELATED: Conflicting evidence: Did Dayton workers have off-book cash funds?

Dayton employees at many levels of authority, with many years of service, took part in the sale of excess materials at recycling centers for cash, and the city failed to end the practice despite it being a problem in the past, the board ruled.

Closing arguments in Shaver’s dismissal hearing took place last month after multiple days of testimony.

Shaver was fired last year after a police investigation into an October incident in which city employee William Landis allegedly sold scrap metal at First Street Recycling.

Landis was investigated and faced criminal charges for theft in office, but he was placed in a diversion program and retired as part of a separation agreement with the city.

Shaver was present at the time of the sale but denied receiving any of the cash and said he just accompanied his supervisor to the recycling center.

RELATED: Two city employees out after scrap-metal sales probe

Shaver’s attorney, David Duwel, argued that multiple city departments and supervisors had de facto petty cash funds from scrap metal sales that they used to pay for work-related purchases.

“Why the heck would (my client) think that this was something that was wrong — that he needed to turn his boss in on — even when his division manager is allowing it to go on?” Duwel said.

Duwel’s argument was bolstered by the testimony of a former city of Dayton contractor who said he attended an employee barbecue that he was told was paid for with cash from scrap metal sales.

Former city employee Romona Carver also testified at Shaver’s dismissal hearing that she heard about a small cash fund kept in the plumber’s shop when she moved over to the facilities division.

Shaver testified that Landis, who at one point was his supervisor, and other supervisors kept small cash funds from the sale of city-owned scrap metal that were used to pay for items including a new microwave, refrigerator, tools, equipment and other work-related items.

The Civil Service Board said the evidence that city employees routinely sold leftover scrap material for cash was convincing.

Testimony indicated that the city tried to eliminate the practice in 2008, but it continued on afterward and the city was aware or should have been aware of it, according to the board’s order.

Though the city initiated investigations and criminal charges against some employees who sold scrap materials without authorization, the city did not formulate precise rules with precise examples to effectively end the practice, the board said.

RELATED: Conflicting testimony: Did Dayton workers have off-the-books cash funds?

During the dismissal hearing, some city of Dayton officials — including a department director, a supervisor and the assistant city manager — rejected the idea that departments were permitted to keep off-the-books cash funds and condemned the idea that employees would not report the inappropriate activity.

During rebuttal testimony, the city’s director of central services Pete Hager said Carver’s testimony was stunning and she would face discipline if she were not already retired.

RELATED: Contractor: Dayton used scrap-metal money for barbecues, equipment

“My reaction to that news is that I’d like to see her somewhere as well regarding this issue, in terms of discipline, in terms of accountability,” Hager said.

City policy is clear on how scrap metal should be recycled and what should be done with the money, and past employees were fired and faced other consequences for inappropriately taking city-owned materials, said Norma Dickens, senior attorney with the city of Dayton.

Warren County lodging tax to finance $15M sports complex

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 11:34 AM


            New England Way is across Greentree Road and near the proposed Warren County Sports Park at Union Village. STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD
New England Way is across Greentree Road and near the proposed Warren County Sports Park at Union Village. STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD

The lodging tax that funds the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau will be pledged to pay off debt on a $15 million sports complex to be built west of Lebanon.

This morning, the county commissioners agreed to pledge the 3 percent lodgings tax, as well as 1 percent recently added, to fund the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village.

RELATED: First sign of 4,500-home, 1,400 acre planned community expected next summer

A portion of the 3 percent is expected to be needed to satisfy holders of the bonds funding the project.

“Whatever is left over they get for their operations,” Deputy County Administrator Martin Russell said.

RELATED: Warren County ups lodgings tax to pay for sports complex

Also, the commissioners voted to transfer the property for the sports complex to the Warren County Port Authority.

The state law enabling the additional 1 percent in lodgings tax was amended to allow the port authority, rather than the county itself, to own the sports complex.

“We had that law changed,” Russell said during a work session with the commissioners.

RELATED: 12,000 residents, $1.5B in investment expected at Union Village

Next Monday, the port authority, an independent board created by the commissioners, is expected to vote to issue more than $15 million in debt to pay for the facility, off Ohio 741 and Greentree Road in Turtlecreek Twp.

“Warren County taxpayers have zero liability,” Commissioner Dave Young said.

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The port authority would turn over operation of the sports complex to the CVB.

Logan County auditor: Hire more deputies to make jail safer

Published: Sunday, September 17, 2017 @ 12:00 PM
Updated: Friday, September 15, 2017 @ 5:41 PM

Logan County Auditor says county can afford to hire more deputies

The Logan County Jail is overwhelmed with inmates, according to the sheriff, but has had trouble with staffing since its budget was cut several years ago.

Now the county auditor says money is available to hire more deputies, but budgets haven’t changed.

Around 2008, county budgets, like many budgets across Ohio, were cut as a response to the Great Recession, Logan County Auditor Michael Yoder said.

RELATED: Clark County inmates charged with riot amid overcrowding complaints

That meant layoffs for the sheriff’s office, Logan County Sheriff Randy Dodds said.

“We’ve never recovered from that,” Dodds said.

The jail has a capacity of about 140 inmates, he said, but after the cuts it held about 70 to 80 inmates with three corrections officers.

But lately, with the heroin epidemic, the jail has been holding many more inmates, he said. At one time it reached nearly 130 inmates, which requires about 5 or 6 corrections officers.

“I’ve had to increase my staffing levels because of safety issues, which causes overtime,” he said. “And a lot of overtime.”

It’s changed how deputies operate, Dodds said.

“We went from a proactive department to a reactive department simply because we just don’t have the staffing,” he said.

The county has since recovered from the recession, Yoder said.

READ MORE: Pods under Clark County Jail closed over security concerns

“The sales tax has gone up dramatically in the last few years, which is great … Overall the economy has just improved in the past few years and we’ve been recipients of that improvement,” he said.

It’s Yoder’s opinion that the county can now afford to hire more deputies.

“It’s a matter of safety as it relates to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

But Yoder said county commissioners have kept budgets flat.

“I believe that many of the counties have increased their budgets since that time, where we’ve pretty much remained flat,” he said.

Logan County commissioners declined to talk to the Springfield News-Sun about the budgets.

DETAILS: Springfield fire, police chiefs to retire, 6 seek to replace them

The reason commissioners have kept budgets flat might be because more cash reserves give the county a better bond rating, Yoder said, making it cheaper for the county needs to borrow money.

“I’m not certain that there’s an awful lot of borrowing that needs to be done at this time,” he said.

Commissioners should spend money responsibly, Logan County Resident Kimberly Kerns said, but she’d support a budget increase for the sheriff’s office.

“They’re our No. 1 priority for our community to keep us safe,” she said of deputies.

If the sheriff’s office had more resources, she said it could help to combat the heroin epidemic.

“That’s our safety and we’ve got to get a hold on this heroin thing,” she said.

Dodds believes the staffing situation will get better. He plans to hire a few more corrections officers soon.

“Budgets are tight and money is tight and I think things will get better in time,” he said.

Decisions on the county budget for next year will be made in the coming months.

Residents join those questioning First Amendment on Facebook

Published: Sunday, September 17, 2017 @ 10:24 AM


            Lisa Wilson and Katy Wuest, two of the residents suing Hamilton Twp. Trustee David Wallace Jr., use an anti-Wallace sign as their Facebook profile photo.
Lisa Wilson and Katy Wuest, two of the residents suing Hamilton Twp. Trustee David Wallace Jr., use an anti-Wallace sign as their Facebook profile photo.

A group of Warren County residents is testing the legal boundaries of the First Amendment on Facebook.

A lawyer has filed a federal lawsuit against one of their local elected officials, Hamilton Twp. Trustee David Wallace Jr., claiming he violated their First Amendment rights by preventing them from commenting on his Hamilton Twp. Trustee Facebook site.

The lawsuit cites one other similar case, on appeal in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia.

Legal experts indicate the legal questions are fresh and undecided.

“There have been only a handful of cases,” Bennet G. Kelley of the California-based Internet Law Center said.

Jack Greiner, a Cincinnati-based media lawyer, added, “The law is settled that a person cannot be denied the right to speak in a public forum based on the person’s viewpoint. It is a little unsettled as to whether and under what circumstances a social media page constitutes a ‘public forum.”’

The lawsuit is related to management of a Facebook site where Wallace interacts with residents about village issues, but which also features re-election materials. He also has another web page devoted to his campaign.

RELATED: Federal lawsuit filed against township trustee over Facebook page

Since the filing of the lawsuit, some of those who were unable to have regained the ability to comment on the Facebook page in question.

Two of the residents in the lawsuit, Katy Wuest and Lisa Wilson, said they had been “unblocked” since the lawsuit was filed. However Wilson said others are still unable to comment on the site.

Wallace did not respond to requests for comment and has not responded to the lawsuit, filed on Sept. 5 in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

He is one of seven candidates running for two seats on the three-seat board of trustees in Hamilton Twp., a thriving, politically active township, south of Lebanon.

MORE: Intergenerational community gets $9 million in state tax credits

Also running are Darryl Cordrey, Cadi Kelly, Nathan Myers, Joe Rozzi, Roxan Tarnowski and Kim Lukens.

RELATED: Warren County GOP divided heading toward leadership vote

Wuerst and Wilson are critics of the trustee and display anti-Wallace signs on their Facebook profiles.

MORE: Huber Heights candidates speak out on Facebook fights

Danny Wilson, Kyle Riley and Amanda Johnson are also parties to the lawsuit. Their lawyer is Joshua Engel.

“Recently, a federal court in Virginia found that a local politician had violated the First Amendment when she temporarily banned a constituent from commenting on her Facebook page. This case raises substantially similar issues,” Engel said in comments posted on his law firm’s website.

The Virginia case involves a Facebook page maintained by Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudon County Board of Supervisors. Randall temporarily blocked a resident named Brian Davison after a “contentious exchange” during a town hall debate, Greiner wrote in a recent article on the case published on his firm’s website.

“Mr. Davison is the only person Ms. Randall has ever banned from her Facebook page. And by the next morning, she thought better of it, and unbanned him,” Greiner added in his article.

Randall argued the page was “purely personal,” thus not subject to a First Amendment challenge. The Virginia court disagreed.

“By prohibiting Plaintiff from participating in her online forum because she took offense at his claim that her colleagues in the County government had acted unethically, Defendant committed a cardinal sin under the First Amendment,” the court said in its ruling.

MORE: Dayton police called about woman posting about boyfriend on Facebook

Although some of Wallace’s critics have been unblocked or unbanned, Engel indicated his lawsuit would not be withdrawn.

“We won’t be dropping the suit because we can’t confirm what he has done to unblock people and, more importantly, we need to make sure this is not done in the future,” Engel said via email.

Facebook didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Greiner likened Facebook to a landlord in this case.

“The limits imposed on a public official are a function of the First Amendment. If a congressman leased office space in a private office building and advertised ‘office hours’ open to constituents, but banned certain constituents from visiting during that time solely because of their viewpoints, it wouldn’t be a lease issue, and it wouldn’t be the landlord’s problem. But it would be a First Amendment issue,” he said.

Warren County wants to preserve old jail, sheriff’s quarters

Published: Sunday, September 17, 2017 @ 10:22 AM

The sheriff and his family lived in the old Warren County Jail.

Warren County is trying to preserve its 120-year-old jail, sheriff’s office and living quarters, while moving ahead with plans to build a new $50 million facility.

RELATED: Jail architect picked after near riot

The historic jail, sheriff’s office and living quarters at 312 E. Silver St. in Lebanon is part of the East End Historic District in Lebanon, but has fallen into disrepair since the existing jail opened in 1975 and the building was decommissioned in 2013.

RELATED: County to preserve old jail, demolish newest section

The two-story building, featuring a Richardsonian Romanesque sandstone facade, was built in 1890, with the sheriff’s quarters commissioned in 1893.

Commissioner Dave Young, Archivist and Records Manager Jen Haney Conover and other advocates see the old building as a tourist attraction, another stop on tours of downtown Lebanon’s historic structures.

MORE: Golden Lamb Inn celebrates 200 years 

“When I see that, I see history. I see some really cool opportunities,” Young said during an Aug. 29 discussion.” It fits right in.”

Durng the discussion, County Administrator Tiffany Zindel pointed out getting the building ready for tours or special events could be costly.

“It’s a business decision. Do you want to be in that business?” Zindel asked.

By approving $160,00 for demolition and repairs, the commissioners took the first step toward reopening the old building to the public.

“Community Ties & Alibis” is an exhibit currently on display in the central lobby of the Warren County Administrative Center, 406 Justice Dr. in Lebanon.

The exhibit explains how the old jail - the third built on land at Silver and East streets donated for this purpose - was constructed “in response to regular complaints from the Grand Jury that the previous jail was unsafe and inadequate for the purposes of Warren County.”

While dusty and dark, the two-story Silver Street structure is basically sound, with cells and common areas much as they were when inhabited by inmates. Even some of the graffiti on the walls is a century old, Conover said during her presentation to the commissioners.

Earlier this month, Conover, assistant archivist Jennifer Baker and facilities manager Trevor Hearn toured the building, where the county sheriff and his family also lived until 1960.

While living in a county jail today seems unlikely, in the 19th century it was not unusual, especially in small rural areas, where the sheriff also served as jailer.

“Typically jails were much smaller and with smaller inmate numbers. It may have put someone there 24 hours a day when staffing was extremely low. You will also see that the Sheriff’s wife was often times the cook for the inmates,” Sheriff Larry Sims said in an email.

Standing near a fireplace in the master bedroom, Baker explained a wall was all that separated the sheriff and his wife from the jail, leaving them within earshot of inmates.

“They could still hear things going on in the jail from this bedroom,” she said.

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Last week, the commissioners continued to debate over what they were looking for in a construction manager for the new jail.

What qualifications were important to the project? Should it be built in the county complex or on land outside Lebanon? What accommodations should be made for criminals driven by addictions to heroin or other drugs.

But they have decided to explore preservation of the old Silver Street facilities.

MORE: Lebanon one of 7 small Ohio downtowns profiled

In coming months, Hearn expects to oversee demolition of newer sections of the building, roof repairs and removal of mold and other contamination from the building.

“Once that’s done, we can move forward with conversations about what we are going to do with this wonderful building,” Conover said.