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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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Warren County’s Massie Twp. meeting tonight over fire department future

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 11:43 AM


            The Massie Twp. Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the future of the township fire department.
The Massie Twp. Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the future of the township fire department.

The Massie Twp. Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the future of the township fire department.

Fire Chief Scott Hines, the department’s only paid employee, resigned on Jan. 2 after learning he was under scrutiny for purchasing food for firefighters, and part of the department’s entirely volunteer force resigned too.

“They left us with a skeleton crew,” Trustee David Crisenbery said this morning.

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The township, home to about 1,500 residents, is on the south side of Caesar Creek Lake. The department handles emergency calls from the lake.

Since Hines’ resignation, fire and emergency calls are being handled by the remaining department along with mutual aid from fire departments in Wayne Twp., Warren County, and Chester Twp., Clinton County.

The trustees are also weighing creating a joint fire district with Chester Twp. with new levies supporting the operation.

“That is the goal,” Trustee Daryl McKinney said.

MORE: Coach boating with daughter drowns in Caesar Creek Lake

A larger district qualifies for more grants, McKinney said.

The Massie Twp department operates on a $92,000 budget from two levies.

MORE: Beavercreek Twp. to build $2.5 million fire station

Crisenbery said the township could seek an additional local levy to fund part-time paid firefighters. Also, Hines’ replacement could be picked, Crisenbery added.

“Anything’s possible tonight,” Crisenbery said. “All options, I feel, should be on the table.”

Hines could not be immediately reached.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the township fire station, 10 N. Harveysburg Road.

Mike Gibbons says he will beat Sherrod Brown, puts $5M in Senate race but may first face Renacci

Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 9:33 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 1:32 PM

Gibbons says why he will use millions of his own money

The Republican race for U.S. Senate in Ohio appears to be in flux with the front runner out, the remaining candidate promising a huge cash infusion of his own money, and a conservative author and a candidate for governor both considering runs.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Gibbons is hoping the $5 million cash infusion he will give his campaign delivers a message to any potential rivals in the Republican primary now that Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has dropped out of the race.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Gibbon visited the Cox Media Group newsroom on Tuesday. Jim Otte/STAFF(HANDOUT/Jim Otte)

“I think that was somewhat strategic, because other people may be joining this race. And I want them to know I’m serious,” Gibbons said during an exclusive interview with Cox Media Group reporters in Dayton. “And I’m going to win this.”

RELATED: Josh Mandel drops out of the U.S. Senate race against Sherrod Brown

Gibbons  said he had not done a good job raising money from other sources but “that’s all changing.”

Late Wednesday, sources told the Dayton Daily News that U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, will drop out of the race for governor and run for U.S. Senate.

RELATED: Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci will run for U.S. Senate, GOP sources say

In a Monday interview on the “Wills and Snyder Show” on WTAM radio in Cleveland Renacci said he would consider joining the senate race if President Donald Trump asks him to, according to Renae Eze, campaign press secretary.

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, campaigning for governor in Liberty Twp. in August. . MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF(Michael Pitman/Staff)

The winner of the Republican primary would face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in the Nov. 6 General Election. The primary filing deadline is Feb. 7.

Gibbons, a Cleveland investment banker, may face a GOP challenge from U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who is currently running for governor, and J.D. Vance, the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy.”

Jai Chabria, a former aide to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and close ally of Vance, said Vance is seriously considering running for the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race.

“It has been amazing how many Ohio leaders and people who have an interest in the Senate race want J.D. to run because they know he has the best message against Sherrod Brown in November,” Chabria said.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones on Wednesday announced he will not run for the nomination.

RELATED: Butler County sheriff makes decision on possible U.S. Senate run

Gibbons, whose campaign says his net worth is $90 million to $100 million, has already spent about $1 million of his own money on the Senate race. When Mandel dropped out on Friday due to his wife’s health problems, Gibbons pledged he would spend an additional $5 million “if needed to win,” according to his campaign.

Gibbons said he is unconcerned about reports that top Republicans are trying to recruit someone to replace Mandel in the race.

“I am an unknown. I’ve obviously rubbed some feathers the wrong way,” Gibbons said. “I think they are more concerned, ‘Am I going to be a team player?’ and I am.”

Gibbons said he called Mandel after he withdrew from the race.

“He hasn’t returned my call,” Gibbons said. “I’m sure he has a lot more important calls to return right now than me.”

As a first time candidate for any public office, Gibbons says he is not a part of the “establishment” and he believes his business background gives him the skills needed to be a senator.

“I think when people hear my message I’m going to have a very good chance of beating Sherrod Brown,” Gibbons said.

“Mike Gibbons is a longtime supporter of policies that cater to out-of-touch corporate executives, like himself,” said Jake Strassberger, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. “He’s the last person who should be talking about hardworking Ohioans and their struggles to get ahead.”

Gibbons said the government is too involved in health care and that has distorted prices. He said he would not end Medicare but thinks it needs to be changed to have a stronger “free enterprise component.” Gibbons called for rewarding people for choosing “equal quality, lower cost” medical procedures and treatments. He said there is not competition in the health insurance industry.

“One of the problems we have is it’s become employer-provided health care. If we do it right we can change that,” said Gibbons, “I might create a competition with, for lack of a better term, a voucher system.”

He also wants to expand the massive tax cut that was passed in December to make it permanent to individuals and more generous to small businesses.

RELATED: Trump’s year: President gets tax victory as investigations continue

“I had to lay people off and not hire people because I was paying so much to the government in taxes,” said Gibbons, who aside from being an investment banker is also in the real estate business.

Gibbons believes the tax cut will fuel the economy, creating more government revenue he would spend on the military, and also lead to higher wages. He said he doesn’t know any employer “that doesn’t want to pay their people more wages.”

One the one hand Gibbons touted the country’s economic growth, but he also said the government is thwarting job creation.

“We’ve thrown up a barrier every step of the way through tax laws, onerous tax provisions, through regulations that many times are unnecessary, through bureaucrats making law instead of legislatures making law,” Gibbons said. “We need to clear a path for the entrepreneur. We need to clear the path for somebody to create a business.”

Staff writer Laura A. Bischoff contributed to this report

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Lebanon city council split in joining lawsuit against drug companies

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 9:50 PM


            Doug Shope was one of two Lebanon council members who voted against joining multi-district litigation opioid makers and distributors.
Doug Shope was one of two Lebanon council members who voted against joining multi-district litigation opioid makers and distributors.

The Lebanon City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to join other local governments, including Dayton, and seven states in a “multi-district litigation” claiming drug manufacturers and distributors have contributed to the deadly national opioid epidemic.

RELATED: Lebanon to vote on joining local governments suing drug companies

Lebanon and Dayton are among local governments in Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington and West Virginia bringing public nuisance lawsuits against drug companies, all of which are to be handled by Judge Dan Polster of U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio.

MORE: Warren County autopsy spike blamed on opioid epidemic

Lebanon Councilman Doug Shope joined Councilwoman Wendy Monroe in voting against the resolution authorizing the city to contract with Columbus lawyer to David J. Butler to bring Lebanon’s lawsuit designed to win a settlement helping the city pay for the costs of delaying with overdoses and other aspects of the epidemic.

“I don’t think this is the right tool to fix it,” Shope said.

Mayor Amy Brewer and council members Krista Wyatt, Jeff Aylor and Jim Dearie voted to join the legal action.

“What really galls me is they are making tons of money off of it,” Dearie said.

Councilman Mark Messer was absent.

Springboro council OKs new housing, meets neighbor concern

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 10:35 AM

Heatherwoode residents protest proposed 7-lot residential rezoning

The Springboro City Council tonight approved, with conditions, rezoning and the general plan for 2.3 acres at 1360 S. Main Street in Springboro.

The housing development, to be known as Streamside at Heatherwoode, had been opposed by residents of the 212-home Heatherwoode community.

RELATED: Heatherwoode residents oppose neighboring residential development

The land for the proposed development is just north of the entrance to Heatherwoode, which features the city-owned golf course.

The proposed development’s property owners, the Daniel Family Trust, want to develop a 7-lot subdivision.

MORE: Latest Springboro area news

Staff and the planning commission have recommended approval.

On Thursday, the council - except Mayor John Agenbroad, who recused himself because he lives across Main Street, Ohio 741 in Springboro, from the development area - discussed the issue before the formal meeting to consider issues that included the association formed to represent the residents of the development and liability for its maintenance.

Heatherwoode residents have expressed concern about the new homeowners being represented by a separate homeowners association.

As a condition of approval, the council required the developer to work out questions about the homeowners association before breaking ground.

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City Manager Chris Pozzuto also emphasized that the developer would need to meet other guidelines before winning permission to begin construction.

The conditional approval was passed by council after a work session but before arrival of the developer’s representatives and all but one of the Heatherwoode residents attending the meeting.

Shawn Hunter, president of the Heatherwoode association, thanked the council and said he looked forward to continued cooperation as the development moved forward.