Middletown judge accused of campaigning in city newsletter

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 7:00 AM
Updated: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 12:12 PM

Judge used city insert to introduce herself

Middletown may no longer allow the city court system to share information through city newsletters and inserts after some say a candidate for Municipal Court Judge used those resources to campaign for the November election.

The discussion came after some complained that Middletown Municipal Court Judge Melynda Cook Howard used city-paid collateral to campaign for the upcoming election, according to an email sent by the city manager to city council.

“One option we are discussing is in the future removing the courts from our web page and any other city functions,” City Manager Doug Adkins wrote in the email obtained by the Journal-News. “They are a different branch of government that the city does not control. There may be some benefit in letting them develop their communications independent of other city functions and then linking the city web page to the court records search section. …”

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The city affords the municipal court space in a water bill insert to relay information to Middletown residents. Cook Howard, who was appointed in May, recently used the space to introduce herself to the community.

The biography for Cook Howard states she will run “to retain this judicial seat in the November 7, 2017 election.” It makes no mention if she’s opposed or of her opponents, local attorneys James Sherron and Beth Yauch. The biography also states, “The late judge Mark W. Wall … entrusted her with his court before his passing.”

Gov. John Kasich’s office appointed the former defense attorney to the judgeship some 3½ months after Wall’s death. In that time, the Ohio Supreme Court had assigned three retired judges to hear cases until an appointment was made.

“I would certainly categorize Judge Cook Howard’s remarks as approaching campaigning,” Adkins told city council.

Cook Howard insists the remarks are “not a form of campaigning” and said the print was “okayed” by the city and any complaints are part of a political opponent’s campaign.

RELATED: More Butler County voters request absentee ballots

“They apparently did not like the answer given by the law department and the city manager,” Cook Howard told the Journal-News.

While the city did approve the newsletter to go out to its some-20,000 water customers, Adkins said it did not get the regular scrutiny it normally receives.

“As happens sometimes, we were in between communications staff when this went to print … so this didn’t get the scrutiny that past and future inserts would normally receive for content,” Adkins told this news outlet. “Other than grammar and formatting, I’m not aware that any further review took place on this insert.”

“Four to five” people complained about Cook Howard’s statements in the insert — though none in writing, Adkins wrote in an email to city council.

“The language was reviewed and while I’m not overjoyed with it, I don’t see any false information in her statements. As the sitting judge, she does have access to certain city functions such as our web page and water bill insert, that other candidates would not have at their disposal,” Adkins wrote in the email.

The Middletown City Law Department does not review the newsletter, according to Law Director Les Landen.

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The information in the biography “doesn’t pass the smell test for ethical behavior,” said Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro, who called it “a terrible disservice to Judge (Mark) Wall’s memory and his court.”

“It stinks and taxpayers are fed up with seeing their hard-earned money used for political gains,” she said. “Whether it’s Cabinet secretaries flying around on private jets or a sitting judge using public funds to campaign, we deserve better.”

Both of Cook Howard’s opponents called the reference to the election, and the inference that Wall endorsed her, as “inappropriate” and that it came across as a city-paid political advertisement.

“Perhaps the city should invoice her for that,” Sherron said.

“She goes too far in those statements,” Yauch said.

Butler County GOP Executive Director Todd Hall said political opponents are making this a political issue, as the mailers were “approved and standard procedure,” adding that the public “has a right to know who their city servants are, and the municipal judge is no exception.”

“Democrats and Mr. Sherron are crying foul, but they are the ones making this political,” Hall said. “Judge Cook Howard is the incumbent judge, was appointed to the position and is entitled to the same treatment as has been the norm. The fact that Judge Wall had appointed her to the bench as his Acting Judge just verifies the faith he had in her. It seems the complaints here stem more from bitter political jealousy than true concern for the process.”

Taco Bell is testing Kit Kat quesadillas at some locations

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 8:18 PM

Some Taco Bell restaurants in Wisconsin are testing quesadillas with Kit Kats instead of savory cheese and chicken.
Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell/Getty Images for Taco Bell
Some Taco Bell restaurants in Wisconsin are testing quesadillas with Kit Kats instead of savory cheese and chicken.(Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Taco Bell/Getty Images for Taco Bell)

Taco Bell is no stranger to unique food mashups, and the latest menu item the fast-food restaurant is testing is no different.

According to Mashable, the chain is testing the Kit Kat Chocoladilla. As its name may imply, the product is a flour tortilla with broken bits of melted Kit Kats inside. Brand Eating was among the first to report the new item.

>> Read more trending news

A representative for Taco Bell confirmed the item to Mashable. It’s being sold for $1.

Before heading out to the nearest Taco Bell to sample the treat, it’s worth noting that it is only being tested at some locations in Wisconsin, where it’s been tested since Oct. 5. Testing will continue through mid-November. Other locations in the state have a Twix version, according to Brand Eating.

The item itself isn’t new to the chain. Taco Bell UK had the item last year.

The rep for Taco Bell told Mashable that “customer response” to the testing will determine if there will be Chocoladillas for all.

Brother could face death penalty in Warren County woman’s killing

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 12:55 PM
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 3:10 PM


            Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.
Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

The adoptive brother of a South Lebanon woman beaten to death on Sept. 15 at her home has been indicted on nine charges, including her murder, and could face the death penalty.

Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

Deborah Power, 63, of South Lebanon, was pronounced dead from head injuries Sept. 15 at her home in South Lebanon. Newcomer Funeral Home in Dayton is handling the arrangements.

Her husband, Ronnie Power, was also badly beaten in the attack and remained in serious condition, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

“It’s still to early to determine what type of recovery, if any, he’s going to have,” Fornshell said.

If convicted, Christopher Kirby could face the death penalty in connection with his sister’s beating death.

The grand jury “found probable cause that two capital specifications were satisfied, specifically (1) Kirby committed the aggravated murder of Debra Power as part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful attempt to kill two persons, and (2) Kirby was the principal offender in the aggravated murder of Debra Power while committing the offense of aggravated robbery. Therefore, Kirby could face the death penalty if he is convicted on the aggravated murder count, and either of the two capital specifications,” according to Fornshell.

RELATED: Warren County couple held on murder charges in relative’s beating

Kirby’s wife, Jacqueline Kirby, 30, is charged with tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property and misuse of credit cards, but not with the more serious murder, attempted muder and felonious assault charges.

“There was insufficient evidence as to her involvement,” Fornshell said Monday.

Both Deborah and Ronnie Power were beaten with a baseball bat that has been taken into evidence, the prosecutor added Monday.

MORE: 2 arrested in South Lebanon; Woman killed, man in critical condition

The Kirbys were living with the Powers and other people in the house at 59 W. Broadway in South Lebanon. Christopher Kirby was Deborah Power’s adoptive brother, according to Fornshell.

Christopher Kirby is accused of beating the Powers during a robbery undertaken to steal a purse and a cellphone, according to Fornshell.

Deborah Power had changed the pin numbers, suspecting the Kirbys were using them, Fornshell said Monday. The tampering with evidence charge alleges they threw away her purse and cellphone.

MORE: Indictment issued in Franklin stabbing

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Deborah Power was found under a blanket on Sept. 15 and “cold to the touch with blood underneath” by sheriff’s deputies called to a home just before midnight, according to a search warrant.

The Kirbys remained in the Warren County Jail, awaiting their arraignment at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

One flown to hospital from scene of Champaign Co. multi-car crash

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 7:29 PM

Jim Pancoast, President and CEO of Premier Health, speaks during a christening of the new Careflight medical helicopter was held on the helipad of Miami Valley Hospital Wednesday, Sept. 3 in Dayton.  Michael Franz / Staff
HANDOUT
Jim Pancoast, President and CEO of Premier Health, speaks during a christening of the new Careflight medical helicopter was held on the helipad of Miami Valley Hospital Wednesday, Sept. 3 in Dayton. Michael Franz / Staff(HANDOUT)

A medical helicopter is responding to the scene of a three-car crash in Champaign County Monday evening.

Champaign County dispatchers said a crews were sent to the 4000 block of U.S. 68 in Urbana Twp. around 6:30 p.m. 

A semi is involved in the crash and at least one person is being flown from the scene. 

Dispatchers said it is unknown what led to the crash or how many victims are reported at the scene. 

A portion of U.S. 68 has reopened after briefly closing as crews responded. 

We will update this story with new details when available.

GOT A TIP? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

12-year-old girl accused of setting 10-year-old brother on fire

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 5:06 PM

10-Year-Old Boy Allegedly Set On Fire By 12-Year-Old Sister

Police arrested a 12-year-old Alabama girl over the weekend after authorities said she set her younger brother on fire, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Dothan police told WTVY that family members took the girl’s 10-year-old brother to the Southeast Alabama Medical Center on Friday night with serious burns on his body.

Police investigator James Harvey told the news station that investigators believe both siblings were at their family’s house when the 12-year-old girl “sprayed or poured hair spritz on her brother’s back and ignited the substance.”

Harvey told AL.com that another person was home when the incident occurred, but he could not elaborate.

“The girl was arrested and charged with first-degree assault,” Harvey told the Dothan Eagle. “At this time, due to her age, she has been released into her parents’ custody ... with mandatory guidelines and rules that must be followed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. At a later date she will go before the Houston County Juvenile Courts.”

Because of the ages of the children, police declined to identify them.

Harvey declined to speculate on a motive behind the attack, although he told WTVY that it involved “foul play.”

The boy is expected to recover, AL.com reported.