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New Ohio Republican Party chair looks back at first year

Published: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 11:59 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 11:59 AM

One of the biggest changes in Jane Timken’s life the past year is the 37,000 additional miles on her car.

The media often seek interviews. She chats occasionally with President Donald Trump. Someone created an entry about her on Wikipedia. With her children grown or nearly grown and away at school, she spends most nights away from her Jackson Township home near Canton, often only able to spend time here on weekends. And she has been to more than 70 of Ohio’s 88 counties this year.

That’s what happens when you become the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party in a key swing state.

“It’s been an incredible year for me,” Timken said.

While Timken was well known within Ohio Republican circles, she served as vice chairman of the Stark County Republican Party and as a Republican National Convention, the former attorney and Stark County Common Pleas magistrate was far from a public figure. However, since taking over the state’s Republican chairman duties and hosting, along with her husband and TimkenSteel CEO Tim Timken, a fundraising for Trump, Jane Timken’s star has been rising.

Trump’s support

Robert Paduchik, who had overseen Trump’s Ohio campaign, asked her to seek the Ohio Republican chairmanship. Trump supporters weren’t happy with then-chairman Matt Borges, who backed Gov. John Kasich’s run at the presidency.

The Timkens threw their support behind Trump and hosted a fundraiser that Trump attended at Brookside Country Club.

RELATED: Trump defeates Kasich in fight for Ohio Republican Party leadership

Trump personally called more than a dozen Ohio Republican Central Committee members to lobby for Timken as chairman over Borges. In the first ballot in early January, Timken and Borges tied in a committee vote. Finally, Borges agreed to step down, conceded to Timken and became chairman emeritus.

Timken made it clear she wasn’t going to run the state party like the traditional bosses of the past. She issued a message to Ohio GOP Central Committee members her first priority was to re-invigorate party finances, drained by the 2016 contest.

“I said we’re going to turn the page. We’re going to try to unify and bring everybody together. … I’m not going to seek retribution against people who didn’t support me,” she recalled last week. “My leadership style is really try to rise above the pettiness. I really find it unproductive as chairman. It’s not me. It’s about the candidates. … I’m not into the drama.”

Timken said the state party has raised about $2.9 million this year as it seeks to position itself to support its candidates at the national, state and even the local level.

Staying visible

Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton, one of Timken’s supporters, said she likes that Timken has hired regional representatives to regularly meet with county GOP officials around the state when she can’t do so herself. And she issues a weekly bulletin on Facebook to keep them in the loop about what she’s working on and showcasing all the Republican statewide candidates.

“I think she did fantastic. She hit the ground running (in January),” Creighton said, adding that her Republican friends around the state often report seeing or meeting her. “She’s probably the most visible chairman we’ve had in a really long time. … My friends have told me, ‘By golly, she came to our dinner. She’s really making her presence known and we love it that we see her and she talks to us.’”

RELATED: Trump pick ousts chairman of Ohio GOP

Timken, consistent with her low-key manner, hasn’t sought the limelight despite her position. A Google search of her name shows while she’s frequently mentioned in articles, since January, they’ve rarely been about her, but often about Republican candidates.

“I like to say my job is pretty simple. I have to build the roads. My candidates can drive down the roads to win,” Timken said.

Timken said logistical support is not only for Republicans running for Congress or governor, but also for those running to be township trustee, mayor and city council.

As part of her initiative to expend resources and attention at the local level, she says the state party has helped local Republican candidates in 45 municipal contests across the state.

Jordan: Clinton, not Trump, sought Russia help to influence election

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM
Updated: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM

Jim Jordan on WHIO

Rep. Jim Jordan has emerged as a top defender of President Donald Trump as the Justice Department’s Russia investigation continues, leading some to wonder if the GOP insurgent known for causing heartburn to the party establishment has become a surrogate for the president.

For Jordan, it’s very straightforward: He says it was the Hillary Clinton campaign — not the Trump campaign — that worked with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, namely by paying for the compilation of a dossier meant to embarrass Trump. Former FBI director James Comey testified in June that some of the information in that dossier was “salacious and unverified,” but Jordan argues that the FBI nonetheless used it to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign officials.

RELATED: Jordan, Davidson at odds with GOP over spy bill

He began questioning the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month, spurring headlines when he told Fox News that “everything points to the fact that there was an orchestrated plan to try to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the next president of the United States.”

He amplified those comments in January, publishing a piece with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in the Washington Examiner that urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down because of Justice Department leaks regarding the case.

Jordan has been so upfront with his criticism of the Russia investigation that CNN host John Berman, in a recent interview with Jordan, asked him if he was coordinating talking points with the White House.

“Of course not,” Jordan said.

‘Key moment in history’

Whether Jordan is motivated by the dedication of a dogged true believer or whether he’s doing it to get in good graces with the Trump administration has stirred plenty of debate.

A Capitol Hill Republican who declined to be named so he could speak candidly said Jordan’s criticism of the investigation is part of a larger effort aimed at positioning the Freedom Caucus, led by Jordan, for a leadership role in the next Congress.

“This whole mop-up duty for the president is jockeying for the next Congress and leadership,” he said.

REALTED: Ex Speaker Boehner goes off on Jordan

But others say Jordan’s full-throated criticism of the investigation comes from sincerity.

“If I know anything about Jim Jordan, it’s that he sticks to his guns, sticks to his principles,” said former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, who has been a critic of Trump. “I think he says that stuff because he believes it.”

Democrats accuse Jordan of serving as a surrogate for Trump.

“This will be his legacy,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “This is a key moment in history. We know another government interfered with our election and he was one of the congressmen working to stop the American people from knowing what happened…we all should want answers to what happened.”

Jordan: ‘You cannot do that in America’

In an interview, Jordan defending his recent statements, saying the Russia investigation was started under flawed circumstances. He has worked to point out problems with the investigation, including the fact that the FBI began its investigation based on a dossier compiled out of research paid for by the Clinton campaign.

“If the FBI took an opposition research document that was unsubstantiated, that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and dressed it up like legitimate intelligence — you cannot do that in America,” he said.

Jordan said he is also concerned about text messages exchanged by two top FBI officers who were having an extramarital affair. One of the officers, Peter Strzock, ran both the investigation of whether Clinton downloaded classified information on her personal email server as well as the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Strzock last year was removed from the Russia probe over the text messages, one of which called the possibility of a Trump victory “terrifying” and another referring to an “insurance policy” in case he was elected.

Jordan said he thinks the “insurance policy” Strzock referred to was the dossier.

Sounding much like Trump himself, who accused Strzock of treason last week, Jordan said: “To date, we have not one bit of evidence that shows there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election. But we have hard facts that say the Clinton campaign paid Russia to do what? Influence the election — to gather material to influence the election” in Clinton’s favor.

Frequent critic

This is far from the first time Jordan has become entrenched in a controversial congressional investigation, or fired spears at the opposition party. He was a key critic of accusations that the IRS unfairly denied tax-exempt status to tea party organizations, and he was among the most vocal on the 2015 House investigation of 2012 attacks on an embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Warren Davidson, a Troy Republican who is a close ally of Jordan’s, dismisses the notion that Jordan’s investigations are partisan, saying he has been equally hard on GOP Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he was on Obama attorney generals Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder.

“It seems like that this is an investigation about Trump, and in reality, the purpose of this investigation is to understand how Russia tried to influence our elections,” Davidson said.

Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan helped found, said Jordan “believes the government should be there to serve the people but not pick winners and losers…he’s been consistent with trying to make sure he holds the government accountable.”

But Pepper described a different Jordan, one who “is literally buying into the most extreme of the conspiracy theories.”

“It’s one thing just to have that opinion,” he said. “But that’s not just his opinion. He’s actively involved in very concrete ways to being a roadblock to an investigation of something serious.”

Local Republicans Jordan, Davidson at odds with party over spy bill

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM
Updated: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM

Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan
Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan

When the Republican-controlled U.S. House this week approved an extension of a National Security Agency program that permits the agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between foreigners abroad and Americans, local Republicans Warren Davidson of Troy and Jim Jordan of Urbana were among the 164 lawmakers to vote no.

RELATED: House OKs spy program after conflicting Trump tweets

They were also the only two Ohio Republicans to oppose the measure. That put Jordan and Davidson in unusual company, aligned with liberal Democrats.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate where passage is expected..

Opponents say the measure risks the civil liberties of Americans while backers insist the NSA needs the authority to prevent future terrorist attacks. The bill extends a law originally approved in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and suburban Washington.

In a floor speech during the debate, Davidson said “the foreign enemies of our country are not subject to the protections of our Constitution. American citizens, however are.”

He accused the bill’s backers of ignoring the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. “It is your data that is at subject here,” Davidson said. “The Fourth Amendment does not change when communications shift from postal service … to a data base.”

The two Ohio Republicans supported an amendment that would have forced the federal government to seek a warrant before searching data for information on Americans. Fifty-six other Republicans joined Jordan and Davidson, but a coalition of 178 Republicans and 55 Democrats defeated the amendment.

The House then voted 256-to-164 to pass the overall bill.

More public officials dinged for ethics violations

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 12:00 AM


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The Greene County developmental disabilities superintendent, a Harveysburg village council member and two state government administrators were among 26 public officials the Ohio Ethics Commission entered into settlement agreements with last year to resolve alleged ethics violations.

This is an increase from 2016, when the state agency reprimanded 14 public officials.

RELATED: 14 public officials reprimanded by the Ohio Ethics Commission

Settlement agreements are public record but are not publicized, though many of them include a “public reprimand.” The I-Team obtained all of the agreements from last year using Ohio public records law.

Most of the settlements and reprimands were issued in lieu of the matter being referred to a local prosecuting attorney.

This was the case with John LaRock, superintendent of Greene County Developmental Disabilities.

LaRock’s wife Jill worked as a department director for the agency he runs. Before she retired in October 2016, the two frequently both ranked among Greene County’s highest paid employees, pulling in a combined $258,959 last year, according to the I-Team Payroll Project.

Payroll Project: Greene County’s highest paid employees

The LaRocks met on the job and got married. They have worked under a county prosecutor’s opinion that says she can report to him as long as the developmental disabilities board evaluates her performance and approves her salary and leave time.

But ethics commission investigators found that no one had approved Jill LaRock’s evaluations between 2010 and 2012. This became a problem when the agency sought re-accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation and Rehabilitation, which requires annual performance evaluations for all personnel.

“Rather than bring the issue to the Board, (John) LaRock completed the required performance evaluations,” the settlement agreement says.

A public reprimand was issued in January.

Reached for comment, LaRock admits he made a mistake.

“I completed those documents and I shouldn’t have,” he said. “I supported their findings and we have moved on.”

The ethics commission said the performance evaluations had no impact on his wife’s compensation.

158 cases reviewed

Some cases involved a personal benefit, such as steering work to a company they or a family member owned. In others the mere appearance of a conflict was enough for the board to take action, regardless of whether the act was intentional or not.

Ohio Ethics Commission Director Paul Nick Director Paul Nick said these were among 158 cases they handled last year, some leading to settlements, some to prosecution and others dismissed.

He said his agency has increasingly relied on its settlement authority in cases where it appears a clear violation of the law occurred, but it’s not as clear that the official knew they were doing something wrong; or in cases where the official was removed from his or her ability to abuse authority.

“Sometimes you need to right the wrong, and righting the wrong doesn’t always mean criminal court,” he said.

Harveysburg Council

Charles Camp stepped down from the Harveysburg Village Council after the ethics commission found he voted on payments to an auto-mechanic company owned by his son to repair village vehicles. He accepted a public reprimand in lieu of the issue being referred to a local prosecutor.

Camp said he abstained on discussion when it was clear they were talking about working with his son’s company. But he voted on some repair payments.

“I voted on repairs to the trucks not knowing where he was going to take it and he ended up bringing it to my son,” he said.

Ethics officials wrote that the village was contracting with the company before Camp took office and found no evidence that the company received special treatment.

“We got bids from everybody, (and) we ended up getting better bids from him than other people, so we put the work there,” Village Mayor Richard Verga said. “This was a non-problem that got elevated somehow.”

Agency director aided daughter

Two ethics cases involved high-level state employees.

Investigators found Timothy Gorrell, executive director at the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, contacted an agency vendor and asked an account supervisor to meet with and mentor his daughter.

Officials for the vendor, SBC Advertising, suggested the daughter apply for a job and interviewed her.

Gorrell contacted his agency’s legal counsel when it became apparent that his daughter, who was interested in a career in advertising, was being considered for a job. The company did not hire her.

Gorrell accepted a reprimand and agreed that his daughter can’t be employed by any agency vendor, client or regulated party.

Through an agency spokeswoman, Gorrell’s said his only comment is: “The record of self-reporting is on file and there’s nothing else to say.”

In the other state employee case, a former Ohio Department of Transportation official was reprimanded for violating Ohio’s revolving door laws.

Jeff Wigdahl resigned as head of ODOT’s Aggregate Section of the Office of Materials Management in December 2014 and started work with the company National Lime and Stone in January 2015. National Lime and Stone is an ODOT vendor.

State law prohibits former public officials or employees from representing a private employer on a matter he or she participated in as a public employee for 12 months after leaving office.

Investigators found that Wigdahl represented NLS when he attended a meeting at ODOT on behalf of his new employer in May 2015.

Calls to Wigdahl for comment were returned by Thomas Palmer, an attorney for NLS.

Palmer said that Wigdahl attended the conference as a member of a trade association.

Wigdahl accepted a reprimand to resolve the case, Palmer said.

Other cases

Ethics actions were taken against officials at eight school districts, including three where sports coaches had players buy uniforms, materials and services from companies the coaches worked for or owned.

Another settlement agreement involved four officials from Sycamore Twp. in Hamilton County.

Investigators found three Sycamore Twp. trustees were officers of a club that had a beer concession at a festival. The trustees contributed money to their political campaigns that was raised through the beer sales.

The trustees — as well as the township parks and recreation director — resigned their posts with the club, which also agreed to donate to charity any future festival beer proceeds.

Nick said it’s important to investigate cases even when they don’t involve a lot of money.

“It’s helpful and important for people to know that if you don’t act properly there is a consequence,” he said.

Gov candidate Cordray talks shape of Ohio, Mellencamp lyrics in odd tweets

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 5:07 PM
Updated: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 5:07 PM

Richard Cordray speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Akron, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak
Richard Cordray speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Akron, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)(Tony Dejak)

Democrat Richard Cordray was barred by federal law from talking politics while serving as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the past seven years.

Now he is running for Ohio governor and he is unleashed. He’s taken to Twitter and his comments are getting a lot of reacitons.

“Ohio has a unique and pleasing shape, I have always thought. Kind of a pentagon or home plate, with straight sides, a meandering river boundary below, and a partly straight top with a friendly bite mark out of it on the northeast side from Lake Erie,” was his observation posted Jan. 9.

The post garnered more than 700 likes, nearly 200 re-tweets and more than 170 comments – more response than his Dec. 5 announcement that he’s running for governor.

“Dude, put the bong down and slowly back away,” remarked one.

“Very strong first salvo to out-weird Dennis Kucinich. I can’t wait for Dennis’s reply,” said another.

“Rich r u okay,” said another.

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley backs Cordray

Cordray campaign spokesperson Luke Blocher said in a written statement: “Rich writes the tweets himself and they serve as an accurate reflection of who he is: thoughtful, funny, and yes, sometimes a little nerdy. While he would be the first to admit that not everyone appreciates his dad jokes, the response Rich has gotten has been largely positive because his tweets are authentic - not focus-grouped or poll-tested - and showcase his love for our state and appreciation for all it has to offer.”

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who is running against Cordray for the Democratic Party nomination, wasn’t sure what to make of Cordray’s tweets.

“I’m trying to develop legislative plans to give Ohio better opportunities and he’s talking about the shape of Ohio. I guess it’s a cool shape but we have to work about things that impact people,” he said.

Republican Jai Chabria, a long-time ally of Gov. John Kasich, was more blunt: “This is completely bizarre….This is just bad strategy. People are making fun of him now.”

State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican running for attorney general, challenged Ohio’s political journalists to write about Cordray’s tweets.

“Cordray has always been bright and a bit odd. His Twitter feed seems to be himself, unfiltered. I guess voters will get to decide if they’re comfortable with it,” Yost told this newspaper.

Twitter is home to an endless loop of political insider commentary, shared articles and reactions. Love it or hate it, President Donald Trump uses Twitter as a direct line of communication with the world.

RELATED: Cordray launches campaign

Cordray’s first 200 tweets are a mix of newsy tidbits, shout outs to political allies, wonky policy observations and calls for Ohioans to come together. And then there are some head-scratchers like this one posted Jan 7:

“I found myself thinking this morning that our state government should be like a strong and mighty tower that all can see even from a distance and know it is there to protect and support them. Do we feel that today?”

University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven, a former speechwriter for Democrat Ted Strickland, said Cordray tweets like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life and his messages sound like Cordray.

” People want direct access to a candidate, what he’s thinking about, what he cares about. He’s obviously giving people that, because there’s nothing in Cordray’s tweets that sounds like a consultant wrote it up and then sent it to a focus group to see what they thought,” Niven said. “The downside here is it’s all very corny and homey sounding.”

He added, “Every campaign struggles with the balance on social media between making it real versus keeping it safe and on message. If it’s not real enough, then it’s not interesting. But if it’s too real, then it’s going to veer off message. On balance though, Cordray is doing something his rivals desperately need to do, which is get attention.”