AKRONPeace WalkAKRON: The City of Akron PeaceMakers, a youth civic/anti-crime program, will hold its third annual Youth Peace Walk at 10 a.m. Monday at Lock 3 downtown. The public is invited to participate.The cost is $5 per person and participants can register at 9:30 a.m., prior to the start of the walk, which will be from 10 a.m. to noon. Proceeds will benefit local veterans and the PeaceMakers’ anti-violence initiatives.For more information, call 330-375-2660 or visit www.akronpeacemakers.org.Trash delayAKRON: The city will have no trash service on Monday because of the Memorial Day holiday.There will be a one-day delay of curb service next week, with pickups running from Tuesday through Saturday.Most private haulers also will not pick up trash Monday.HUDSON SCHOOLSAdministrator hiredHUDSON: Doreen Osmun was unanimously approved as the new assistant superintendent for the Hudson school district during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education.She will receive a three-year contract, effective Aug. 1, at a salary of $119,700 annually.Osmun will continue with her duties as director of curriculum and instruction as well as her new responsibilities.Board members Gary Mushock and Patricia Engelman congratulated Osmun, but expressed concern she was taking on a great deal of responsibility.Osmun said her team is very supportive and would assist.Newly appointed Superintendent Phillip Herman said there might be changes and shifts in responsibilities as his administration transitions into their new roles.Osmun has been in the educational field for 24 years, 17 of those in administrative positions. She is married and has three children: a senior in high school, a fifth-grader and a second-grader.NORTHEAST OHIOPark plansMore than seven miles of mountain bike trails would be added to the Hardy Road area under a proposal by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.The Board of Park Commissioners voted Wednesday to apply for a Summit County Community Grant to pay for the new trails.A public meeting on the proposal will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. June 4 at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, 1828 Smith Road.The proposal for the Hardy Road area, which is part of the Hampton Hills Metro Park in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, includes mountain bike trails, two new parking lots and a connection between the Hardy Road area and the Towpath Trail via a link to Botzum Trailhead on Riverview Road.For more information about the proposal, call 330-867-5511 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.STARK COUNTYWater price hikeCANTON: Stark County commissioners on Wednesday approved water rate increases proposed by Aqua Ohio Inc.The series of four annual increases of 3.5 percent each, retroactive to May 9, applies to water the Stark County Metropolitan Sewer District buys from Aqua Ohio.The sewer district distributes the water to customers, who are likely to see a rate increase in their bills in the future, county Administrator Brant Luther said. Separate action would be needed to change consumers’ rates.In other action, commissioners scheduled an auction of surplus equipment for 10 a.m. Sept. 14 at 1701 Mahoning Road NE.Federal prison termCLEVELAND: A 35-year-old Stark County man was sentenced to more than six years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of claiming false income tax refunds of nearly $5.5 million.Brandon Ray Mace, whose residence was on Kirby Avenue Northeast in Canton, filed the false claims while he was incarcerated in an unrelated case, authorities said Wednesday.Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said Mace was charged with preparing and filing the false returns in 2008 and 2009, claiming refund amounts of $207,000 and $5.29 million, respectively.Mace asked to be spared from prison during court hearings, claiming he knew he would never receive any of the requested funds, Dettelbach said.The government, however, mailed the $207,000 refund check to Mace at a post office box, but the post office returned the check, Dettelbach said, before Mace could get there to pick it up.The $5.29 million refund check was not issued, but Mace nevertheless made an attempt to get it in a handwritten letter to the IRS containing more false information, Dettelbach said.Lawsuit filedLAKE TWP.: Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed a lawsuit against Durabilt Inc., Allwood Structures Inc., and their owner Timothy Swallen with multiple violations of Ohio’s consumer laws.The companies, at 9854 Cleveland Ave. NW, design and build houses, garages, storage buildings, pole barns and other structures.The state alleges that the business represents itself as a contractor, but when consumers receive a contract, they learn they are expected to obtain all permits and to act as the “general contractor,” doing work normally performed by a professional.DeWine said consumers also have been told their deposits are nonrefundable, and once the materials are delivered, none of their money is refundable.There have been 11 complaints against the company involving refund issues or shoddy work, and DeWine said the company was given an opportunity to resolve the issues.“When businesses fail to deliver promised service and refuse to provide refunds, we will take action,” he said.SUMMIT COUNTYAppeal deniedCOLUMBUS: The Ohio Supreme Court denied a post-conviction appeal of an Akron man who was sentenced to death in 2008 for the rape and strangulation of a woman in Akron’s Mount Peace Cemetery, court officials announced Wednesday.Phillip L. Jones, who was convicted in a Summit County jury trial for the 2007 slaying of 33-year-old Susan Marie-Christian Yates, was asking the high court to review a previous decision denying him discovery and funding for an expert witness in neuropsychology during the sentencing phase of his trial.Last December, the high court upheld Jones’ death sentence by rejecting an appeal that his fair-trial rights had been violated.Jones, now 43, is in prison in Chillicothe. More...
Akron’s campaign to remove traffic signals at some intersections is taking a step backward at Cedar and Bowery streets after multiple “right-angle” crashes.The lights there are back and in flashing mode. They soon will signal green-yellow-red.Andrew Davis, the city’s traffic engineer, has said the plan was to study traffic at as many as 100 intersections and to remove signals to improve traffic flow and safety.Some residents objected, saying removing the signals makes the crossings more dangerous for pedestrians.“The removal process involves an engineering study, which includes a review of crash history, traffic volumes and public comment,” said Stephanie York, city spokeswoman. “Monitoring of the signal occurs during a time when the signal is put into flash mode, and then for at least the year after.”She said no accidents were reported when the Cedar-Bowery lights were turned to flashing. Five accidents came after the lights were removed and before the city decided to put the signals back up. A sixth accident occurred between that decision and when the signals could be restored.The signals will continue flashing for a few days before they are placed back in full service.There were 12 accidents at the intersection in the year before the changes.“Thirty-four signals have been studied for removal since 2011,” York said. “Of these, two were reinstated due to traffic volumes and one is being reinstated due to increase in right-angle crashes. The remaining 31 intersections are still being monitored and are currently within normal limits, experiencing few or no crashes.”Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro. More...
The American Red Cross is accepting donations to assist those impacted by severe weather this week.Donations are being accepted for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief.You can donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The Red Cross said the donations would be used to provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by the storms. More...
COLUMBUS: Storefront sweepstakes parlors appear on their way out in Ohio, after state lawmakers delivered a one-two punch Wednesday effectively banning the businesses statewide and blocking new startups until the ban takes hold.Both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate played a part with passage of two bills, defying opponents who successfully had blocked earlier attempts at a crackdown.The Ohio Senate voted 27-6 on the crackdown after hearing hours of testimony this spring from employees and owners of the so-called Internet cafes who said it would unnecessarily cost the state jobs.Meanwhile, the Ohio House voted 76-14 on a bill extending an existing moratorium on any new parlors and requiring those currently in operation to submit new affidavits to the state.Republican Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign both bills.More than 620 Internet cafes are in operation across the state, representing growing competition to legalized casinos and games held for charity. About 100 are located in the Akron-Canton area, with 47 in Stark County and 25 in Summit, according to estimates from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.At the storefronts, patrons buy cards for phone and Internet time with chances to play computer games that operate like slot machines with cash prizes.Proponents have strenuously disagreed that Internet cafes operate illegally. While acknowledging the existence of “a few bad actors,” they describe most of the cafes as harmless mom-and-pop businesses that are doing nothing wrong.State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, delivered what he said was a eulogy for the industry, and he estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people would be put out of work because of the legislation.An opponent of the bill, Seitz said many cafes could be regulated through proper licensing and taxation.“The single biggest flaw in this bill is that it takes the approach, shoot them all and let God sort it out,” he said.He questioned whether the measure was a nonissue, saying he hasn’t received any complaints from constituents.State Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, cautioned that no single law enforcement agency had jurisdiction or authority to investigate or pursue criminal charges statewide for any illegal activity at the cafes.“There’s no safeguards that apply to Internet cafes, which leaves this industry open for a multitude of unregulated activity, such as money laundering and other crimes,” Hughes told his colleagues as he urged support for the bill.Attorney General Mike DeWine has taken the position that the cafes are illegal gambling operations and recently stepped up his own crackdown out of frustration at a lack of legislative action.He has sued three facilities that failed to file affidavits after the 2012 moratorium took effect and staged raids of facilities in Cuyahoga and Richland counties.DeWine joined other top state law enforcers at a pivotal caucus meeting in April with Senate Republicans that helped reverse members’ earlier opposition.Afterward, GOP Senate President Keith Faber introduced the moratorium bill and said his caucus also was ready to move forward on the ban. More...
Akron attorney and former councilman Warner Mendenhall, a frequent critic of city hall, last week emailed his 1,400 followers the Internet link to private taxpayer information that had been hacked from city computers.
That act has infuriated the administration.
This scoundrel is so obsessed with trying to become mayor of Akron that he would risk hurting Akrons citizens in his unending, devious, political pursuits, Deputy Mayor Rick Merolla said in an email to a Beacon Journal reporter.
Shortly after the hacking was revealed publicly last week, Mendenhall emailed his followers saying state auditors warned years earlier that the citys computers were vulnerable.
Now thousands of Akron residents SSNs are on a website for world-wide download, Mendenhall said in the email Friday. Please notify your friends about this. Demand the Mayor and City Council provide identity protection services for Akrons citizens whose social security numbers were released.
He included the link to the hacked information. The records appear to include names of thousands of taxpayers, and in some cases their addresses, Social Security and bank account numbers.
Taking credit for the theft is Turkish Ajan, which is part of the Anonymous OpUSA Campaign targeting governments in the United States.
In an interview with a reporter, Mendenhall said he never opened the files, even to see if his own name was in it.
I didnt spend much time looking at the files, he said in an interview Wednesday.
Nevertheless, he was confident he was providing a link to data the city said could be used for identity theft. He said he found the link by going through the website eSecurity Planet, which addresses Internet security issues.
It was pretty clear, the security website had said that the data was right here at these links, he said.
Mendenhall said he sent the links out so his followers could check whether they were in the files, but also included a warning about potential viruses and other hazards.
I think the lesson is that we need to be careful and we need to be aware of whats going on with our own credit cards and our Social Security numbers, he said.
Asked if he increased the risk to private taxpayers by disseminating the link, he said, I think thats an interesting question, but it was already published in news organizations that already published the data.
He was referring to the eSecurity Planet story on May 16.
The Internet page from which the records could be downloaded no longer works.
After talking to Mendenhall, a Beacon Journal reporter asked for an interview with Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, but Merollas email said of Mendenhall, We are not going to comment any further on someone who may have assisted the terrorists.
Other news media including the Beacon Journal found the data on the Internet last week but declined to share the links with the public. The Beacon Journal said it made that decision to protect possible victims.
Meanwhile, the city continues to struggle with telling 35,000 people their names, Social Security numbers and possibly bank account numbers have been compromised.
The city has mailed 30,000 letters to affected individuals and continues to receive calls at its 311 service. Meetings also are being held at community centers.
Plusquellic has labeled the hacking a terrorist attack. Federal authorities are investigating.
Mendenhall thinks that is not enough.
The city needs to get out in front of it and provide protection no matter what the cost, he said.
He sent out another email late Wednesday saying, 1. The City should not have credit card and/or social security numbers available on a network connected to the web. 2. Social Security Numbers and Credit Card Information should be encrypted, so that, even if someone got the file, they could not read it due to the encryption. 3. The City computer system should be set to alert someone when the internet traffic is suspicious.
City officials are working with credit bureaus to have the $5 fee for freezing credit either waived and/or reimbursed. According to state law, victims of identity theft can have their credit frozen for free.
Expert criticizes act
Eva Casey Velasquez, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that helps ID theft victims, said Mendenhalls act of sharing links to the data was not helpful.
While we need watchdogs to ensure that our government is acting appropriate, to continue to disseminate the information and put out there in even more ways is not really in the best interest of those consumers who were already harmed, she said.
Mendenhall said the public needs to remember that Social Security numbers used to be public record at the courthouse and other locations.
No one has indicated that they have been victimized by the hacking and Mendenhall said the issue might be overblown.
I think the risk of a problem is less than we imagine, he said, remembering that the state once released millions of voter records with Social Security records years ago.
He said the state was not sued over that, but he is not so sure about the city.
One of the things I was asked is if there is a potential lawsuit against the city, he said. Well, I havent decided what the answer is.
Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this report. Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.
Resources for possible hacking victimsPersonal contact: To find out if your information was compromised when the city of Akron’s website was hacked last week, you can talk to an assistant law director from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the following city community centers: Ellet, Firestone Park, Kenmore, Lawton Street, Patterson Park and Reservoir Park.Phone contacts: You also may call the city’s 311 information line, which is 311 from any land line in Akron or 330-375-2311 from other phones. The city has added extra lines and staff to try to help with a heavy call load. Or call the Income Tax Office at 330-375-2290. — Source: City of Akron More...
A wounded Cincinnati-area veteran received a free home Wednesday in an act of kindness that a Stow woman and her company helped initiate.“It is beyond words,” said Ohio Army National Guard veteran Dan Hof, 34, of Norwood, of the gift.Hof was wounded in Iraq in 2005 from an improvised explosive device and received the Purple Heart. He was selected to receive the free home for his fiancee and three children in a program from FAIRWAY Independent Mortgage Corp. The effort is a collaboration with the nonprofit groups the Boot Campaign and the Military Warriors Support Foundation.Hof was given the home Wednesday at a ceremony in Stow at the Acker-Moore Memorial Post on Fishcreek Road and expects to move in on June 4. The ceremony was held during a training meeting of local and national Realtors.Lori Fetter, 49, of Stow, the sales manager for the Stow office of FAIRWAY, said she attended a meeting in Texas about the home giveaway program more than a year ago at which FAIRWAY made the Boot Campaign the company’s national charity.“We started giving away houses in other states and I thought, we should try to give away a home in Ohio,” said Fetter.She estimated the value of the home, which was a foreclosed property that has been renovated in Dayton, to be about $175,000. The home given away Wednesday was the seventh nationwide that FAIRWAY has been involved with in the past year, Fetter said.Hof, who served nine years in the National Guard, is a former auxiliary policeman for the city of Norwood and a former police officer for Xavier University.He is now a student at Indiana Wesleyan University and works in the family contracting business.“It is overwhelming,” he said of the generosity of the organizations that have provided him with a mortgage-free home.“It is going to be life changing,” to own a home free and clear, he said.“We will be able without the burden of having a mortgage payment, to provide for our kids a much more comfortable life style and now we can plan for the future.”He said he was injured when his unit came under attack. “Our job was to do route clearance looking for improvised explosive devices,” he said.A second roadside bomb went off causing him to have a concussion, temporary hearing loss, minor burns and shrapnel wounds.The generosity of FAIRWAY, the Boot Campaign and the Military Warriors Support Foundation, he said, is an example of how America has come to the aid of its military and veterans since 9/11.“There is an enormous amount of generosity all over the country,” he said. “I am so glad that the country has learned its lessons from how the Vietnam veterans were treated ... It has completely swung the other way.”Former Army Capt. Sean Parnell, author of the book Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan, spoke to the group at the Wednesday meeting and encouraged civilians to help veterans.“The only way a warrior can fully return to his homeland is if those he left behind know his story,” said Parnell, an Afghanistan veteran and a former Army Ranger who was wounded in Afghanistan and received the Purple Heart. “We all need that understanding. And it needs to be as close to universal as possible.”Parnell said all civilians have the opportunity to help returning veterans.“You may be the first civilian contact a veteran has when he returns from war,” Parnell said. “Don’t take your role lightly. You guys are on the front lines.”Those in real estate business, like those gathered at the meeting in Stow, Parnell said, also play an important role.“You are going to be helping a warrior establish an anchor here at home,” he said.For more information about the effort, visit www.bootcampaign.com, www.militarywarriors.org or fairwaymc.com.Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com. More...
The Akron school board has fired Melissa Cairns, a former math teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center who had posted photos of her students’ duct-taped mouths on her Facebook page in October.Cairns, 33, had taught in Akron for five years at Garfield, Firestone and then Buchtel CLC. Before that, she had resigned a part-time position at Kent City Schools because of provocative comments and photos on her MySpace page later discovered by her students. Akron placed Cairns on paid leave in October when school administrators noticed the Facebook photos of her duct-taped middle school students captioned, “Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”Cairns later said it was a “stupid” thing to do. She was placed on unpaid leave in January pending an investigation by a referee appointed by the teachers union and school administrators.According to Cairns’ testimony, a student had requested the duct tape from Cairn to repair a binder and then placed the duct tape on her own face after Cairns had previously mentioned that the class was too talkative.Cairns took the photo “because she thought it was funny,” the referee’s report stated. “At least one student said he didn’t want to be in the picture because he did not find it funny.”The school board voted Monday to fire Cairns. ‘‘At this point she should be receiving a certified copy of that resolution,” said Rhonda Porter, general counsel for Akron schools. “And she’s entitled to appeal in court.”Several cases involving teacher misconduct and other litigation have also been postponed or resolved.In the case of Scott Bennett, Superintendent David James and other district employees have been subpoenaed to appear May 31 before Judge Thomas A. Teodosio in Summit County Common Pleas Court.Bennett, a former non-licensed employee in the grounds and maintenance department, won a series of court cases and appeals after the school district asserted that he had lied on an application and was unemployable by state law. That last part hasn’t changed, Porter argues.Bennett, fired in 2008, is entitled to as much as $150,000 in back pay and reinstatement. But when he is reinstated, Porter said he will have to answer for a 20-year-old assault charge that deems him unemployable by Ohio Revised Code.That puts the board, which has been ordered by a court to issue a resolution of back pay and rehire Bennett, in a quandary.“The board looks at me and says, ‘so we’re supposed to violate the law.’ I can’t tell them to violate the law. I just can’t,” said Porter.Porter hopes that the court issues Treasurer Jack Pierson amnesty in issuing Bennett his back pay. Porter said Pierson could be personably liable should he “misappropriate” taxpayer funds.Hearing postponedIn another personnel issue, a conduct hearing has been postponed until June 24 by the Ohio Department of Education regarding Michelle Blain, a special education teacher at Ellet High School.A classroom aide accused Blain of mishandling special education students. Those claims included forcibly holding a student’s head down, force-feeding another student and using derogatory terms to refer to special education students.Blain was exonerated of all charges through a joint investigation by Akron schools and Summit County Children Services. But superintendent James has said that his recommendation would be based on the outcome of the state’s investigation.The hearing had been originally delayed at the request of the teacher’s attorney. Blain, meanwhile, remains on staff and is still teaching at Ellet.A $75,000 lawsuit filed by former Firestone boys basketball coach Joseph Wojcik and the Akron Teachers Association has been remanded from federal district court and is scheduled for pretrial before Common Pleas Judge Judy L. Hunter on June 20.Wojcik filed the lawsuit after an impartial investigator found the former coach had not embezzled booster funds. The board rejected that opinion and voted not to reinstate his coaching contract in 2011, aligning with public discontent over the coach.“I truly tried to work out something,” Porter said of attempts to reach an “amicable” solution with Wojcik. “I was not successful in doing that.”“I believe in closure,” she said of the cases involving Wojcik, Bennett, Blain and Cairns.Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More...
Akron City Council members say they are reassured after meeting with University of Akron President Luis Proenza Wednesday about changes the university is making to its programming for minority students.Council members requested the meeting after more than a dozen UA students, staff and community members spoke at a recent council meeting, urging the council to intervene on their behalf regarding the university’s decision to replace the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD) with a Student Success Center and Multicultural Center in the fall. The students and staff were concerned that programs for minority students would be diminished with the changes.“They did say this would enhance the services and bring more resources to the multicultural department,” said Councilman Ken Jones. “It was really good for us to hear that. They assured us they would give more resources — more mentors, more counselors, more things that will help students get acquainted with college life.”Attending the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, were Akron council members Garry Moneypenny, Jeff Fusco, Linda Omobien, Margo Sommerville and Mike Williams, and Summit County Councilwoman Tamela Lee. The university officials were Proenza, Lee Gill, the chief diversity officer, and Candace Campbell Jackson, a vice president and chief of staff.Proenza gave an overview of UA’s plans, which include keeping the Office of Multicultural Development as the name of the academic programs that have been offered through that office, including learning communities and peer mentoring. The Office of Multicultural Development will be under the Student Success Center, while the other programs that formerly were part of OMD will now be handled by the Multicultural Center.“I think everybody realized there was some miscommunication — misunderstanding — about what was really going to happen,” Jones said.Gill agreed about the misunderstanding and the need for better communication between the university and its students and the community. He said future meetings will be held to foster these ties.“We will probably meet in the next 45 days, dealing with a more open discussion so everyone understands what we’re doing overall at the university,” Gill said. “We all walked out of there feeling good about it.”Gill said the meeting helped to reinforce the important relationship between the city and university and the need for the two to work together.“We can’t help our student success in silos,” he said.Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics. More...