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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. …”

RELATED: Get your personalized ballot in our online Voters Guide

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.

RELATED: 3 things to know about voting in November’s election

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.”

'Potentially hazardous' monster asteroid will fly close to Earth

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 2:08 AM

Asteroid rendering (NASA)
NASA/For the AJC
Asteroid rendering (NASA)(NASA/For the AJC)

monster space rock classified by NASA as "potentially hazardous" is headed toward Earth.

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 – which at 0.7 miles is wider than the tallest building in the U.S. (New York's One World Trade Center) stacked on top of itself – is predicted to miss our planet, according to Metro. However, it will pass relatively close in terms of outer space.

>> On AJC.com: NASA: Asteroid could destroy Earth in 22nd century

NASA classifies any space object surpassing 459 feet wide and passing within 4,660,000 miles of Earth as "hazardous," according to a 2013 report on the space agency's website. There are about 1,000 such known space objects monitored by NASA.

This asteroid is more than eight times wider than the minimum (3,696 feet) and will pass within just over half the minimum distance (2,615,128 miles) to our planet.

>> Read more trending news 

For a reference point, the moon orbits Earth at a distance of about 238,855 miles.

The giant asteroid is expected to "narrowly" miss our planet on Feb. 4, whizzing past us at a whopping 67,000 miles per hour. It will be the biggest and fastest space object to fly near Earth this year, according to The Daily Star.

Related

Another meteor? Reports come in of bright flash across Ohio, Ind. night sky

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:21 AM

Photo by Pexels
Photo by Pexels

Another meteor may have lit up the sky late Wednesday night.

Several reports have come into our newsroom of a bright flash that shot across the sky just before midnight. People from Englewood, Marysville and Randolph County, Ind. have said they saw the bright flash, with some saying it was bright blue or blue/green.

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

The American Meteor Society received several reports of a meteor in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky.

A meteor was spotted in Ohio, Michigan and Canada late Tuesday. 

>> VIDEOS: Meteor spotted in Ohio, Michigan, Canada

Georgia sheriff: I don't care if you're from Wisconsin or need beer, stay home

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 1:13 AM

Safety Tips for Driving on Icy Roads

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office was back at it again with the jokes (and insults) as Georgia woke up to a messy wintry mix Wednesday, prompting schools, businesses and nearly three-fourths of the state’s roadways to close.

>> Is it safe to eat snow? Here's why you really shouldn't

Stay home. Just STAY HOME

Posted by Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, January 17, 2018
 

State government offices are remaining closed for non-essential personnel Thursday across the 83 counties affected by winter weather, Gov. Nathan Deal said.

>> Tips, warning signs for frostbite, hypothermia

Although the weather’s no joke, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office brought some humor to its Facebook page on what many found to be a frustrating snow day.

>> 5 things you won’t want to leave in a freezing car

“I know you need cigarettes, beer and wine to get you through having your kids at home. Can you just do without for a day? Stay home,” one post read.

In another post, the office noted the multiple morning crashes due to the inclement weather. “Body shops and wrecker companies just love y’all.”

More from the Sheriff’s Office:

There is an incoming ballistic missile...er, wait. That was the wrong button. Ok. Got it now. Oconee County Government is closed today due to weather.

Posted by Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

If a Deputy is directing you to not travel down a roadway, he or she probably has a good reason for doing so. The fact that you are from Wisconsin and “this ain’t sh..” is really not pertinent.

Posted by Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I know what y'all are doing. You looked out the window and saw your driveway and the 87 feet of road you can see looks...

Posted by Oconee County Georgia Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

>> On AJC.com: How to prepare your family, home and car for hazardous weather

While most readers lauded the sheriff’s office for its jokes, some found the announcements to be disrespectful.

“Government entity at its finest. Oconee, be respectful! We all feel what you are saying, however, some of the things you are saying are offense considering you are a government office and serving the public (those stupid beer and cigarette runners). Thank you!” commenter Wendi Turpen Hood wrote.

>> Read more trending news 

Another commenter, Nikki Giamarino, noted some serious implications of bad weather.

“My employer called off work. But what about people who’s employer didn’t? What about single parents who cannot afford to lose their jobs due to absence? I wish the world was a kinder place,” she wrote.

>> On AJC.com: Atlanta snow 2018: Twitter erupts in memes, jokes and snowy scenes

This isn’t the first time the Oconee Sheriff’s Office has garnered attention for its humor.

Following Georgia’s win against Auburn last month, the office wrote, “Show proof you graduated from Auburn and we will discount your speeding tickets by 5 miles per hour,” the post said. “Y'all have had enough of a beating today.”

In August, before the total solar eclipse, Oconee Sheriff Scott Berry warned residents to prepare for the end of the world. “It’s very likely this is the end of life on this planet as we know it,” he wrote.

Dayton traffic from the WHIO traffic center

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:47 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:47 AM

Staff photo
Staff photo

Traffic issues can be reported by calling our newsroom at 937-259-2237 or tweeting @WHIOTraffic .

Traffic conditions are updated every six minutes on AM 1290 and News 95.7 FM.

Major Highway Incidents

  • No incidents to report

Surface Street Incidents

  • No incidents to report

>> RELATED: WHIO App-Winter

>> RELATED: Check for delays or cancellations before heading to the airport

>> RELATED: Track the latest conditions in your neighborhood on our live WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

Ongoing Construction & Other Closures 

Live look at highways on our traffic cameras here.

Latest traffic conditions are also available on our traffic map. 

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

  • Keowee Street north of Stanley Avenue, bridge closed until 2019. The official detour is: Keowee Street to Stanley Avenue to I-75 to Wagner Ford Road and back to Dixie. More information is available here.
  • Stewart Street Ramp to US 35 East, RAMP CLOSURE March 28 - Sept 30, 2018. The official detour is: Stewart Street to Edwin C. Moses Boulevard to I-75 north to US 35 west to James H. McGee Blvd. to US 35 east.
  • I-75 north Ramp to US 35 west and east, Lane width restriction until Apr. 1, 2018. One lane will remain open on the ramp with a width of 11 feet.