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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. …”

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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.”

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Grill at Wendy’s in Vandalia malfunctions, causes fire

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 7:35 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 7:55 PM


UPDATE @ 7:50 p.m.: A malfunctioning grill is the blame for the fire at the Wendy's in Vandalia that has shut down the business tonight and possibly the next few days. 

A Vandalia fire battalion chief tells us the fire also burned wiring behind the grill and that prompted the fire department to shut off the gas and electric service to the building. 

No one was injured in the fire.


Crews are at the Wendy's on East National Road for a fire in the grill area of the fast food business. 

Crews were dispatched to the restaurant, 383 E. National Road and James Bohanan Drive, just after 7 p.m. 

OTHER LOCAL NEWS: Rare Wright brothers artifact heads to Colorado

There are no reports of any injury and we're checking for details about the extent of damage. 

Fire crews from Butler Twp. and Huber Heights also responded on the call.

We have a crew on the way. We will update this report. Stay with for breaking news. 

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to 

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Dayton school board approves new superintendent, raise

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 5:49 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 6:43 PM

Dayton school board approves new superintendent, raise

The acting superintendent who led Dayton Public Schools in the “challenging” wake after the exit of Rhonda Corr received the job permanently on Tuesday.

The board elevated Elizabeth Lolli to the top position without a national search or interviewing other internal candidates. Her contract runs through July 31, 2021.

The contract will pay Lolli $25,000 a year more than Corr’s base pay.

William Harris Jr., board president, presided over the 7-0 vote for Lolli, who he said proved herself in the interim position.

DPS officially hires new superintendent.

“It’s been challenging for all of us,” Harris said. “She demonstrated competent leadership. She was able to make insightful decisions and continues to do so. She’s demonstrated that she can lead this district with all of its challenges. We think she is the right one and we look forward to working with her.”

Lolli said her first action as permanent superintendent was to get up by 3:30 a.m. Wednesday to determine whether school needed to be called off due to weather. But after that, she said the focus would be on improving the district’s academic performance, by some standards the second worst in the state.

“You cannot change everything overnight, I know how long the change process takes, I just want to make sure we are focused, and that we can change things as quickly as we can change them because we have students we are serving and I want to make sure they get the best education possible,” she said.

Lolli, hired by the district in 2016 as an associate superintendent, was named acting superintendent after Corr was placed on administrative leave in November.

The district parted ways with Corr in January, but will continue paying her salary, which was $150,000 a year, as well as full retirement and health insurance benefits through July as part of a separation agreement. DPS initially hired Corr under a one-year contract and extended it for three years but soon afterward accused Corr of unprofessional behavior, creating a hostile work environment and falsifying documents.

After board members announced their intention to stick with Lolli last week, she said was eager to “work for a longer term.”

Lolli said she wants to continue the work she began in her roles prior to becoming superintendent.

“We started a lot of changes in curricular work, and I’m excited to expand that and I’m excited to build a really strong, firm foundation with the city, and the communities that we serve and a strong foundation with the teachers’ association and the other trade unions we work with,” she said. “I believe that together everybody can make a difference – a positive difference for our students.”

Lolli, a 40-year educator who has twice led other districts as superintendent, will be paid a prorated salary of $150,000 annually through July 31. The remaining years she will be paid a base salary of at least $175,000 annually.

Lolli’s base salary is 16.7 percent higher than Corr’s, but Corr’s contract offered the potential for thousands more in bonuses if individual schools and the district as a whole met certain performance standards.

Like Corr, Lolli will receive an annual $30,000 annuity and pension contribution from the district as well as other fringe benefits.

Lolli will take the helm of a district with one of the weakest report cards in the state with a districtwide, five-year graduation rate of “D,” and an “F” for test performance achievement. But the most recent report card gave the district high marks for year-over-year progress.

Lolli said that before she signed on as superintendent, she asked the board to bolster the curriculum office by filling vacant positions and adding at least two more positions.

“The board has given me the OK to do that because I believe that the academics will only improve if we show the support that we need to have through that curriculum and instruction piece,” she said.

Lolli and her husband, Gene, who is the business manager for Fairborn City Schools, are currently in the process of finding housing in Dayton by Aug. 1.

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DPS school closing plan moves forward

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 7:47 PM

            Dayton Public Schools acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli informed the school board Tuesday the district has proposed closing and demolishing Valerie Elementary School with plans to move the students to Meadowdale Elementary. Some Meadowdale Elementary students would be relocated to other schools to make room. The announcement was part of district-wide plans to close and consolidate next fall. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Dayton Public Schools acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli informed the school board Tuesday the district has proposed closing and demolishing Valerie Elementary School with plans to move the students to Meadowdale Elementary. Some Meadowdale Elementary students would be relocated to other schools to make room. The announcement was part of district-wide plans to close and consolidate next fall. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Dayton Public Schools board voted Tuesday to close two schools next year while more elementary and high schools could close in the future.

Shortly after the board voted 7-0 to make Elizabeth Lolli permanent superintendent, they also voted unanimously to follow through with Lolli’s recommendation to begin a three-year plan that also calls for further consolidating some grades in other schools.

Under the plan, Valerie Elementary and the Innovative Learning Center will close as well as the DPS headquarters building at 115 S. Ludlow.

RELATED: Dayton school board approves new superintendent, raise

More schools at both the elementary and high school levels could be closed in the future, according to the capacity plan.

Lolli also made a recommendation to consolidate the district’s seventh- and eighth-graders from seven into four schools, except those at Stivers School for the Arts. The proposal was later modified so that current seventh graders at Meadowdale High School, Belmont High School, Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy and Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy would stay one more year at those schools and then transition into high school.

RELATED: Dayton plan would close elementary school, study closing high school

The process generated an impassioned response in the community by some, including Dayton resident David Esrati, who filed a lawsuit challenging the district over open meetings laws.

On Monday, a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge denied a preliminary injunction sought by Esrati to halt the school capacity plan process. Esrati alleged an Ohio Open Meetings Act violation because he was denied access to bus tour of DPS facilities by the School Facilities Task Force.

Judge Richard Skelton did write that the 20-member panel formed to help Lolli was a public body — disagreeing with DPS and Dayton city attorneys.

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South Florida man accused of trying to lure child into car, deputies say

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 9:32 AM

South Florida Man Allegedly Tried To Lure Child Into Car, Deputies Say

A 12-year-old child in South Florida ran home yelling “Stranger … Danger!” after a man allegedly tried to lure him into his car, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

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A Lantana-area man now faces multiple charges in the incident, which took place Saturday night.

Authorities said Domingo Domingo-Andres, 24, was driving near Palm Beach Memorial Park at about 9 p.m. Saturday when he allegedly pulled his silver Honda alongside the child and yelled for the child to get in. 

He was arrested Sunday on charges of kidnapping and enticing and luring a child. 

Domingo-Andres remained in custody early Tuesday after Judge Ted Booras on Monday set his bond amount at $150,000.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the child began to walk away as Domingo-Andres continued his pursuit. A neighbor was able to get the vehicle’s tag number before Domingo-Andres could drive away. 

Deputies found the vehicle in front of Domingo-Andres’ home a few blocks away and questioned him about the alleged incident. 

He initially denied speaking to any children, saying he had only spoken to an older man who asked him for a ride to a store, the report said.

However, Domingo-Andrews later told deputies he had just gotten paid and wanted to treat the child either to food or candy.

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