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.

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“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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9 members of one family among 17 killed in duck boat accident on lake in Branson, Missouri 

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 5:02 PM
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 5:02 PM

Multiple Dead In Duck Boat Accident On Missouri's Table Rock Lake

A duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, Thursday night killed 17 people, including the boat’s driver and nine members of an Indiana family, and injured 14, according to authorities.

>> Read more trending news 

Update 11:00 p.m. EDT July 20: A summer vacation ended in tragedy for nine members of an Indiana family, along with eight other tourists, killed when a duck boat capsized Thursday evening on a lake in Branson, Missouri.

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The Coleman family had traveled to Branson for their annual road trip, according to The New York Times, which interviewed Carolyn Coleman.

Coleman said she lost two of her brothers-in-law and that three generations of the family died in the accident, including four young children, the Times reported.

“We just lost some wonderful people,” she said.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the four children killed in the accident were all under the age of 10.

"They were very loved," Ingrid Coleman Douglas said in a telephone interview with the Star.

Coleman Douglas said the victims included two of her uncles, cousins and their children.

"It’s a huge family on all sides. It’s unimaginable. I would never have thought I would have lost this number of people this way," she said.

Members of the Coleman family.(Gary Coleman)

Coleman Douglas identified the victims as her uncles Horace "Butch" Coleman and Irving Raymond Coleman; Horace Coleman's wife, Belinda Coleman; her cousins, Angela Coleman and Glenn Coleman; Angela's 2-year-old son Maxwell; Glenn's two sons Evan and Reece; and his 1-year-old daughter, Arya.

Glenn's wife, Tia Coleman, and Angela's older son, whose name has not been released, survived the accident, the Star reported.

Update 5:15 p.m. EDT July 20: Stone County authorities now say all 17 of the victims in the duck boat accident have been accounted for and that nine of the victims were from the same family, according to Gov. Mike Parson’s office. Two members of the family, identified by local news outlets as the Coleman family, survived. Officials said the victims range in age from 1 to 70 years old.

Meantime, mourners are putting flowers on the victims’ cars in the Ride the Ducks parking lot, and the community of Branson, Missouri, is holding several candlelight vigils Friday night in memory of those killed.

One of the vigils is scheduled at Table Rock Lake where the accident happened, according to KY3-TV.

Update 4:30 p.m. EDT July 20: As the search for the bodies of the final four victims in the tragic duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri, continues, family and friends are mourning the staggering loss of life on Table Rock Lake Thursday evening.

One woman lost nine members of her family, USA Today reported, citing Gov. Mike Parson’s office.

Update 2:20 p.m. EDT July 20: Branson Mayor Karen Best told The Associated Press that Bob Williams, the man who was driving the Ride the Ducks boat that sunk Thursday in a southwest Missouri lake, was a “great ambassador for Branson” who “was at every event.”

Seventeen people died, including Williams, and 14 others were injured Thursday when the duck boat capsized in Table Rock Lake, according to authorities.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said earlier Friday that the boat’s captain survived.

In a statement posted on Facebook, employees of Ride the Ducks Branson said the business would be closed “while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community.”

“This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking,” the statement said. “Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.”

Update 11:40 a.m. EDT July 20: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said Friday morning that authorities recovered four more bodies after a duck boat capsized in southwest Missouri, KSMU reported, bringing the death toll from Thursday’s incident to 17.

 

Rader said 14 people were taken to hospitals after the incident. He said the driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died. The captain survived.

Update 11:20 a.m. EDT July 20: Nearly two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a warning about boats with overhead canopies like the one that sank Thursday on Table Rock Lake after a deadly accident claimed 13 lives in Arkansas, according to the Kansas City Star.

 

The Miss Majestic duck boat was carrying 21 passengers when it sank in 1999 in Lake Hamilton, the Star reported. Authorities found seven dead passengers trapped inside the boat when they recovered it, four of which were pinned to the underside of the canopy, according to the Star.

“Contributing to the high loss of life was a continuous canopy roof that entrapped passengers within the sinking vehicle,” NTSB officials said in an accident report.

Authorities continued searching Friday for four people who are presumed dead after Thursday’s accident in southwest Missouri. Officials said 13 other people have been confirmed dead in the incident.

Update 10:25 a.m. EDT July 20: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said divers are going back in the water Friday in search of four people who remain missing and are presumed dead after Thursday’s duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake.

Rader said the search had shifted to “recovery mode for the bodies that are still missing,” at a news conference Friday morning.

"It's been a long night,” Rader said. “It's been a very trying night.”

 

Rader said the driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died but that the captain survived.

Update 10:05 a.m. EDT July 20: Authorities are expected to provide an update on the investigation into Thursday's deadly duck boat accident in Missouri at a news conference Friday.

Update 9:55 a.m. EDT July 20: President Donald Trump shared sympathies Friday to the families and friends of the people involved in Thursday’s deadly duck boat accident in southwest Missouri.

“Such a tragedy, such a great loss,” the president wrote Friday in a tweet. “May God be with you all!”

 

Update 8:15 a.m. EDT July 20: Officials with the State Highway Patrol said Friday that two more bodies have been found after Thursday’s duck boat accident in southwest Missouri, bringing the death toll to 13.

 >> On AJC.com: Bahamas boating tragedy brings vacation safety to the forefront

State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace said four other people remained missing.

 

Original report: Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said 14 people were taken to hospitals after the incident. Seven were being treated early Friday, he said.

The boat capsized after a strong line of thunderstorms moved through the area around 7 p.m. Thursday. Rader said weather “was a factor” in the incident.

Authorities said the boat had 31 people on board, including children, when it capsized. 

The boat had life jackets on board, according to CNN. The news network reported that other boats on the water docked before the bad weather hit.

 
Emergency responders work at Table Rock Lake after a deadly boat accident in Branson, Missouri. Officials said a tourist boat has apparently capsized on the lake. At least 8 people are confirmed dead.(Nathan Papes/AP)

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to investigate and are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to come forward.

A dive team and rescue officials worked through the night to find survivors.

They ended the search around 11 p.m., according to KY3.

Rescue crews work at the scene of a deadly boat accident at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., Thursday, July 19, 2018.(Andrew Jansen/AP)

Emergency responders set up a staging area overnight on the lakeshore near the Showboat Branson Belle, local media reported, although the Belle was not involved in the accident.

Branson officials opened an emergency shelter inside city hall for the victims.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg said a top wind speed of 63 mph was measured around 7 p.m. Thursday at Branson Airport. 

“There’s nothing to slow down winds in an open area,” he said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is watching the developments.

 

DUKW, known as duck boats, are six-wheel-drive amphibious vehicles that were used by the U.S. military during World War II and the Korean War. 

Since then, duck boat tours have become popular and are offered on lakes and rivers around the United States, including Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Alabama.

 

Ripley Entertainment acquired the Ride The Ducks in Branson in late 2017 from Ride the Ducks International, a subsidiary of Norcross, Georgia-based Herschend Family Entertainment Corp.

Ride the Ducks International manufactures amphibious vehicles and licenses them for tours at affiliates. It also operates duck tours at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. The company formerly operated tours in several other cities, including Baltimore, San Francisco and Philadelphia. But in recent years it ended operations following deadly accidents. 

In 2015, a Ride the Ducks tour bus collided with a charter bus carrying student on the Aurora bridge in Seattle.

Four students were killed and several others injured.

A charter bus, left, and an amphibious Ride the Ducks tour vehicle collided on the Aurora Bridge in downtown Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015.(Elaine Thompson, AP)

The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

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Showers, storms taper off tonight

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 4:22 AM
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 10:00 PM

Rough weather predicted for the remainder of Friday

>> Strong storms spawn several tornadoes in Iowa

DETAILED FORECAST

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Tonight: Showers and storms, some heavy, will gradually taper down after midnight, Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell said. Temperatures will fall into the middle 60s overnight.

Rough weather predicted for the remainder of Friday

>> LISTEN: Cloudy with a Chance of Podcast: Fire and Weather

Saturday: Expect showers and storms to increase in coverage through the afternoon hours. Temperatures will hold in the upper 70s.

Saturday: Expect showers and storms to increase in coverage through the afternoon hours. Temperatures will hold in the upper 70s.

>> Severe Weather: What is the difference between a slight or enhanced risk?

Sunday: Much of the area will be dry in the morning but more showers and storms will develop during the afternoon hours. Highs will hold in the upper 70s.

Monday: Expect a mix of sun and clouds in the morning with a chance for some showers and storms in the afternoon and early evening. Highs will reach into the lower 80s.

>> Mars visible in the night sky 

Tuesday: Partly sunny skies are in the forecast with a slight chance for a pop-up shower or storm, mainly in the afternoon. Temperatures will rebound back into the middle 80s.

>> WHIO Weather App

Wednesday: Expect a mix of sun and clouds with a slight chance for a pop up storm. It will be warm with highs in the middle 80s.

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Impact of 3-vehicle crash pushes car, SUV into McDonald’s lot in Springfield

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 10:19 PM
Updated: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 11:00 PM



MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF
(MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF)

UPDATE @ 11 p.m.

Alcohol may have been a factor in a three-vehicle crash Friday night that sent four people to area hospitals.

The impact of the crash around 9:10 p.m. in the 2300 block of East Main Street forced a red car and silver SUV off the roadway and into a McDonald’s parking lot.

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According to witnesses, the driver of the red car pulled out of KFC and in front of a white pickup truck, which then struck it. The car then hit the SUV.

The driver of a red car was taken to Miami Valley Hospital in serious condition. Two passengers in the red car and the pickup driver were taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center. Their injuries were not life-threatening.

A woman and her children inside the SUV were not hurt, she said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the Springfield Police Division.

FIRST REPORT

Multiple injuries were reported tonight in a three-vehicle crash on East Main Street.

The crash was reported around 9:10 p.m. in the 2300 block of East Main Street in front of McDonald’s and KFC.

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Main Street is down to one lane going eastbound, with the westbound lanes blocked.

There were crash victims taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center, but their names and the severity of injuries was not immediately available.

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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Mega Millions jackpot reaches $433M for Friday’s drawing

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 11:01 PM

Mega Millions Jackpot Reaches $422 Million

UPDATE: The winning numbers for Friday, July 20 were: 01-14-30-44-62

Mega Ball: 01

Megaplier: 2

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>> Read more trending news 

The Mega Millions jackpot reached $433 million ahead of Friday night’s drawing.

It is the sixth-largest prize in the game’s history, lottery officials said in a news release.

It is also the seventh time the jackpot has exceeded $400 million.

While the top prize is still up for grabs, there were some big winners in Tuesday night’s drawing.

Three $1 million tickets were sold in Florida, New Jersey and Oklahoma, according to lotto officials

2018 seems to be a lucky year for lotto players. Since the last jackpot was won in May, there have been more than 12.4 million winning tickets at all prize levels, according to lotto officials.

A 20-year-old in Florida won a $451 million prize in January, and a food production manager from New Jersey won $533 million in April.

The record for the highest Mega Millions jackpot was set in 2012 when three winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland split a $656 million prize.

Friday night’s drawing will take place at 11 p.m. ET.

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