Welcome to Auburn Township in Beautiful Geauga County Ohio

News Stories and Events for 2023 January thru March

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2024 Jan-March,      


Friday, March 31, 2023
By Paris Wolfe | cleveland.com

CHARDON SQUARE, Ohio -- The Proud Boys are circulating notices encouraging people to protest a drag brunch, Saturday, April 1, at Element 41 restaurant on Chardon Square. The brunch is a fundraiser, sponsored by the Community Church of Chesterland, to raise money for the church’s safe space program. It sold out in less than 48 hours.

At 4 p.m., the same afternoon and separate from the brunch, the Church is hosting a drag story hour at its Chesterland facility, 11984 Caves Road. Tickets are free on EventBrite and limited.

The Proud Boys are an all-male, neo-fascist organization that supports violence as a means of societal manipulation and change. Their targets include the LGBTQ+ community. The church is an inclusive organization that provides experiences and safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

It is unclear whether the Proud Boys will protest at the restaurant on the square or at the church, or both. But local law enforcement and private security organizers are taking the potential for conflict at these events seriously. Multi-agency cooperation is part of the plan to make the events safe, said Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehaus.

“The goal,” he said, “is that people are able to assemble and exercise their rights on whatever side of the issue they may be and do it safely,” he said. “We are certainly aware of protests that have occurred in other places, and we’ll be prepared for any protest that may occur. We’ll be ready.”

Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said local law enforcement departments have been working daily on the security plans. “The challenge for us is that events are in two different locations,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot of personnel.

“We are committed to maintaining a peaceful protest and allowing them to put on their show without disruption, and ensure the safety of everyone,” he said.

Security organizers for the events are telling drag show supporters to stay home unless they have a ticket. They want to avoid conflict between the protesters and LGBTQ+ supporters while keeping the focus on the fundraiser.

“I’m helping the church keep everyone safe. We DO NOT need people on the ground to help us. What we need is money to pay for physical barriers and security guards,” Mallory McMaster posted on her Facebook page with a request to spread the message. McMaster is president of The Fairmount Group, an event production and communications company that recently moved from Cleveland to Chardon.

In a recent interview, she said it’s impossible to argue with and change the minds of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Proud Boys. That futility is why drag show supporters -- unless they have tickets -- should stay home.

“They are coming to get attention. They want conflict. They want to say both sides are instigating this,” she said of the Proud Boys. “They don’t deserve it.”

“We are not involved in planning what’s happening outside. We didn’t invite the Proud Boys. They’re coming on their own. They don’t represent our community. If these protests do happen it won’t be my neighbors and my community,” said McMaster, who moved to the small community last year. “It will be people who don’t live here.”

Her warning follows a March 11 anti-drag protest in Wadsworth Memorial Park in Medina County. On that day, drag queens at the “Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour” read stories to attendees. Meanwhile, nearby protesters clashed with LGBTQ+ supporters. Two protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Despite threats of violence, the Community Church of Chesterland will not cancel the Element 41 brunch or subsequent story hour on its property. “We feel that the event is needed and wanted in the community and that’s been reinforced by the support we have seen online and in phone calls to the church, said Megan Carver, social justice co-chair with the Community Church of Chesterland. “Part of doing the work of the church is doing the hard work in the face of adversity. "

McMaster agreed. “These attacks on the LGBTQ community are meant to push us into hiding, to silence us. That’s the fight we’ve had from the beginning. We’re not scared, we’re not going to be silenced. We’re going to focus on creating the type of community we want to live in.”


Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Anna Staver | The Columbus Dispatch

Cutting income taxes is one of the big goals for Ohio House Republicans this year, but the way they've written their bill to do so could end up raising the overall tax burden of most Ohioans.

House Bill 1 would flatten Ohio's income tax down to a single rate. Everyone would pay nothing on the first $26,050 they earn and 2.75% on everything above that amount.

"For the average homeowner in Ohio, who has the average income, it would be very fair to say that if the bill is passed as written, the income tax cut will be eclipsed by the property tax increase," said Paul Imhoff, the director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Superintendent Association.

The bill would lower state revenues by about $1.7 billion per year, and local officials say the corresponding offset (or cut to state spending) would actually raise local property taxes.

"The intent of the bill is to keep property taxes the same and provide an income tax cut for everyone," the sponsor of the bill Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, said. "Until that is the reality, we’re going to keep working on it."

But as it stands now, that might not be the case for the majority of Ohioans.

The math for figuring out whether your overall tax burden would increase is complicated, and it depends on where you live. But here are steps that can help you figure it out.


This is the easiest thing to calculate. To figure out how much you would save by flattening the tax rates, you need your total taxable nonbusiness income.

That's the amount on Ohio IT40 line 7 of your tax form. It's basically your total income minus any credits or nontaxable earnings like 401K contributions, healthcare savings accounts or college plans for your children. It also exempts the first $25,000 you earn because Ohio doesn't assess income taxes until you surpass that amount.

Here are some incomes and their annual reductions under HB 1:

● $75,000 in taxable income = $140 in savings.
● $100,000 in taxable income = $296 in savings.
● $150,000 in taxable income = $870 in savings.
● $200,000 in taxable income = $1,490 in savings.
● $300,000 in taxable income = $2,730 in savings.


This is where HB 1 gets complicated. The bill proposes eliminating two different subsidies that Ohio pays toward your local property taxes, which cost about $1.3 billion annually, to cover the cost of the income tax cuts.

Imagine your property tax bill is $100. Currently, Ohio covers $10 through a nonbusiness property rollback and another $2.50 in a homestead rollback for living in the house you own. You pay the other $87.50.

HB 1 would eliminate the 10% rollback and convert the 2.5% rollback to a flat fee of $125. For homes valued around $300,000 or higher, the homestead change would result in a modest tax increase.

But eliminating that 10% rollback could be a significant increase in your property taxes.

To counter that, Mathews dropped the maximum taxable value of a home by 10%.

"I think the bill’s author thought, OK, fine. We’re going not going to make the local homeowner pay more," Olentangy School District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said. "And most people are going to say sounds fair."

That aligns with what Mathews told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau when the bill dropped.

He said there would be some "transitional dollars" to help local schools, firefighters and libraries adjust to the cuts. But if they want to keep those funding levels long-term, these entities would need to pass new levies.

"Putting those dollars into a more accountable form of government for our taxpayers and our communities," Mathews said. "I think that's a win for everyone.

Jenkins saw three potential issues with that. The first was that districts, especially suburban ones, would become "far more reliant on property taxes," − something the state has tried to move away from since 1997 when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled an overreliance on local dollars to be unconstitutional.

The second issue was the equalization factor, which will determine whether HB 1 increases or decreases your overall tax burden.

The equalization factor was passed in the 1970s and protects homeowners from paying more just because their property values increased. Basically, levy millage drops when values rise, so the taxing entity (your school district) receives a consistent amount of money each year.

They don't make more when times are good, but they also don't lose a bunch when times are bad. And this is where HB 1 comes into play.

Jenkins, Imhoff and others believe the equalization factor would apply here, and local levies throughout Ohio would automatically increase to keep their total collections equal to previous years.

For Olentangy parents, that automatic increase could easily eclipse what they save from the income tax cut, Jenkins said.

If a family has $100,000 in taxable income and an assessed home value of $400,000 (the median for the district), they would save $295 in income taxes but pay $512 more in school property taxes.

They could also see additional automatic increases for their parks, police, fire or library levies.

Homeowners with a home value of $300,000 would see an increase of $366, and those with values of $500,000 would see an increase of $660, according to data provided by Olentangy, a suburban district near Columbus.

The third potential pitfall was how much harder it might be to pass future levies if voters thought their local schools got some kind of windfall from this property tax increase.

"Olentangy would not be increasing anyone's property taxes, nor would they be receiving more money," Imhoff said. "But I think explaining that to the taxpayers is going to be incredibly difficult ... Property tax owners, even if they understand that, have a limit to how much they can afford."

And people on fixed incomes might not be able to afford their homes.

"I think it’s pretty clear from the last two weeks of testimony that HB 1 and its implications were not really thought through before it was introduced ...," Rep. Dani Isaacsohn, D-Cincinnati, said. "I would be surprised if Republicans were willing to pass a bill that was a dramatic increase in property taxes for all property owners."

Mathews plans to keep working on ways to keep people's property taxes from rising. He suggested using some of the dollars left over from the last budget or tweaking other parts of the tax code. He said he's not giving up on HB 1.

But Rep. Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria, said, "There need to be some major changes before I support it."


Tuesday, March 22, 2023


Auburn Trustee, PJ Cavanagh, held up for display the 28 page Cross Jurisdictional Cooperative Agreement between the Geauga County and Lake County Departments of Health. Other than the Geauga employee maintaining the Office storing Vital Statistics ( i.e.,Official Birth and Death Certificates), there will be a total layoff or Reduction in Force (RIF) of all Gauge-based Health Department employees as of March 31, 2023, in an action purportedly taken to save $300-$500,000.

Cavanagh revealed his total frustration with an “Agreement” which gave all townships not more than 24 hours to become familiar with the contract legal details.

The township screening committee of six individuals, purportedly ready to endorse incumbent Rich Piraino at 4 pm on March 9 for its presiding officer found themselves so bewildered by interviews that they could not endorse any candidate.

The new appointed board member is Dr. Mark Hendrickson.

When the regular meeting of the Health Department began at 7 pm, the new Agreement between the two Counties was the subject of much confusion about whether the Geauga County Department of Health will remain a Geauga County entity.

Perhaps the most important question that remains is how Geauga Commissioners will make best use of the new unused space in an already cavernously monstrous and user-unfriendly Administration Building if and when they manage to “save” the thousands of CARES/ARPA handouts which appear to have been roped in.


March 21, 2023

In the regular March 20, 2023, trustee meeting, Auburn trustees were very open about a gnawing problem.


Trustee Gene McCune noted that in November 2022, within a week of being sworn-in to serve out the unexpired term of his predecessor, he had been contacted by a state official regarding Auburn Township’s failure to remit funds to the U.S. Treasury for employee withholding. Apparently, his colleagues, longtime trustees, Troyan and Cavanagh, had no knowledge of these long-standing liabilities, extending over a period of five fiscal quarters.

With the official resignation of former F.O. Fred May on February 7, 2023, after failure to appear on a routine probation hearing, Mr. May found himself forced to serve an incarceration as a result of a misdemeanor incurred in late 2020. Geauga Municipal Court records note that the original misdemeanor stemmed from charges of driving under the influence.

By February 9, as noted in an earlier story this website presented, an IRS agent with a “shiny badge” paid an unannounced visit to the Auburn Township administration office at 11010 Washington Street. Mr. Matsko received notification of an outstanding payment of about $20K, but when interest and penalties on principal due and late fees were added, the total amount due was $25,945.81. Had the original principal been timely paid, Auburn taxpayers would escaped the penalties of nearly 25%.

After having consulted the Geauga Prosecutors Office and a tax attorney, Mr. Matsko, along with trustees, decided that it was better to pay the liability and make a clean start.

In the meantime, Trustee McCune noted that the township has been keeping track of all penalties and extra expenses incurred as a result of Mr. May’s negligence so that Geauga Township Association, Ohio Township Association, and Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority (OTARMA) can collect all such expenses from Mr. May.


Sunday, March 19, 2023
By Hannah Poling | The Ohio Star

After more than two years, Attorney General Dave Yost‘s civil lawsuit against FirstEnergy, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and others connected to the House Bill (HB) 6 scandal is once more being permitted to move forward.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Brown has granted Yost’s motion to lift the stay on proceedings in the case.

In February 2021, Brown agreed to halt the case until the conclusion of criminal proceedings against Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair and lobbyist Matt Borges for taking part in a $61 million bribery and racketeering plot surrounding HB 6, the state’s $1 billion bailout of the FirstEnergy nuclear power plant.

Following the guilty verdicts declared against Householder (pictured above, left) and Borges in federal court on March 9th, Brown lifted the stay, saying that it is “no longer necessary.”

Brown ordered the counsel to contact the court’s state attorney to schedule a zoom scheduling conference.

“Now, we dig—with backhoes, not shovels,” Yost said in a tweet following Brown’s order.

The attorney general’s office filed the lawsuit in September 2020, only a few weeks after federal prosecutors charged Householder, Borges and three other people with using FirstEnergy bribe money to enact HB6. The cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, which had filed a similar lawsuit, later joined Yost’s suit.

Yost (pictured above, right) is suing FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor, Householder, the other defendants in HB6, and individuals who Yost claims were complicit in the bribery scheme for unspecified damages.

He also added Sam Randazzo, a former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and Charles Jones and Michael Dowling, two former FirstEnergy executives, to the list of defendants last year. The Attorney General’s office accused them of engaging in extortion, money laundering, coercion, intimidation, and an attempted cover-up.

FirstEnergy agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation and acknowledged conspiring with other parties and organizations to bribe public officials millions of dollars in exchange for specific official action to assist FirstEnergy.

Householder and Borges have said they will appeal their racketeering conspiracy convictions, which could carry a maximum 20-year jail sentence. The sentencing date has not been determined. Randazzo, Jones, and Dowling have not been charged with any crime thus far.

According to Yost, “Lifting the stay will allow us to continue collecting documents and to depose key witnesses in our ongoing effort to remedy the harm done.”

Yost says that he fully intends to recoup the unjustified earnings in the racketeering lawsuit.

“We are confident in our position, and fully intend to claw back those ill-gotten gains through our racketeering lawsuit. The discovery process may yield additional information that will reveal an expanded number of defendants who participated in the corrupt Householder Enterprise,” Yost said.


Friday, March 17, 2023
By Amy Patterson | Reprint form the Geauga County Maple Leaf

It’s been several weeks of starts and stalls, but Geauga Park District representatives finally appeared before the Geauga County Budget Commission March 13 to field questions.

The special meeting came on the heels of two previously scheduled meetings — one on Feb. 22, at which GPD was a no-show, and the second on March 6, which was rescheduled due to GPD’s legal counsel not being available that day.

GPD Executive Director John Oros emailed the three members of the commission — Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder, County Treasurer Chris Hitchcock and Prosecutor Jim Flaiz — GPD Commissioner Howard Bates and Fiscal Officer Dawn Sweeney the afternoon of March 3 with several questions about the budget process.

“(Oros) quotes some numbers from the (Government Finance Officers Association) best practices documents and asks if we agree, and then he asks for advice regarding appropriating funds over multiple years,” Walder said of the email.

The exchange had taken place as described, Oros confirmed in an email.

“Our intent with providing the commission with our latest round of questions prior to the next meeting (was) to have a starting point for discussion,” he said.

Because the GPD currently has an appeal filed before the tax commission, Walder said he told Oros any conversation should take place in the presence of GPD’s legal counsel.

However, Oros replied over the weekend that GPD legal counsel would not be available on Monday and asked to have their appearance before the commission once again rescheduled.

Flaiz pointed out Oros’ attempt to open a private dialogue via email with the three members of the commission was inappropriate due to laws regarding open meetings.

“We don’t do business on Saturday, anyway,” Hitchcock said.

Walder said this was another point to bring to GPD’s attention. The park district had previously made similar last-minute requests prior to a Monday meeting.

“And then they act like, ‘Oh, (the budget commission) ambushed us,’” Flaiz said.

The commission must meet as a group to make decisions and could not make decisions — including whether to postpone or change a meeting — via email, Walder said.

“Nor can we, legally, because this meeting is public,” Hitchcock said. “How do we publish an email response?”

Walder said he couldn’t get answers to Oros’ questions between Friday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 10 a.m., which is why he responded to the email.

“Well, and any two of us can’t discuss any of their questions unless we’re in a public meeting. I don’t know why that concept is so hard for them — they’re supposedly supposed to be running a public body,” Flaiz said.


During the March 13 meeting, Deputy Auditor Tammy Most said the GPD’s capital projects fund total is now $2,863,852, and the district’s appropriation certificate now totals $13,185,061.

Walder said a series of four amendments to their initial appropriation successfully righted their fiscal ship.

The auditor took the opportunity to give tips and feedback to Sweeney and Oros on the financial management of GPD.

His office issues “do exceed” certificates to entities it finds to have over-appropriated funds, although the law only requires the issuance of a certificate stating an entity’s appropriations do not exceed their funds, Walder said.

“We think it’s important because then we tell you at the bottom which funds did exceed,” he said. “So it kind of tells you — these funds you either need to de-appropriate, or certify revenue you’re anticipating in those funds and that rights the ship.”

During the March 6 meeting, Walder said GPD was on the right path, but did not understand they could meet their budget requirements by certifying funds that are expected but have not yet arrived.

“So, let’s say you’re thinking you’re going to get a grant for $2 million and it’s not going to come ‘til June. You can certify that in January,” he told Sweeney March 13. “It’s anticipated or in the process of being collected. Now, you can’t spend it because you don’t have it, right? But you can certify it and you can appropriate against it. You just can’t write the checks because you don’t have the money physically.

Walder explained how entities can legally transfer money between funds to cover appropriations, telling Sweeney the process is all about cash management.

He said his concern is the GPD has appropriated over 90% of its resources — an amount he called “huge” for an enterprise with a $12 million budget.

“Because you’re going to need — I think in the last budget hearing, I estimated at least $2 million in carryover. That’s what you need just to survive for the first quarter,” he said.

The GPD did not receive any significant funds until the second quarter of the fiscal year, which he said leaves them to survive on what is carried over from the previous year.

So (if) people are out buying cars and you’re paying salaries because you have to, but you’re buying a bunch of stuff, you’re gonna get into a cash crunch because you have to have that money to satisfy those obligations or you’re going to be writing checks you don’t have money for, which is not a good thing,” he said.

Walder said before the GPD split from county oversight in 2021, Deputy Auditor Ron Leyde managed appropriations for the district. However, since GPD separated from county oversight in 2021, that responsibility now falls on Sweeney.

Flaiz said the budget commission staff has a good relationship with Sweeney, who has been with the GPD for 10 years.

“I know the last couple fiscal officers, you know, didn’t have as nice as a disposition. … I think that’s a nice way of putting it,” he said. “So I’m optimistic that (the relationship) will improve.”


Thursday, March 16, 2023
By Marty Schladen | - OHIO CAPITAL JOURNAL

Already under fire for high pay despite big investment losses, the pension system for Ohio’s retired teachers lost between $27 million and $40 million when Silicon Valley Bank failed last weekend. That appears to be by far the biggest investment by a public pension system in the United States.

The losses follow a nearly $10 million loss last year when cryptocurrency platform FTX failed, according to the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, a group that represents pension system members.

The exact losses aren’t immediately known because Anthony Randazzo, executive director of pension watchdog Equable, said they were $39.3 million in a tweet. But pension system spokesman Dan Minnich said in an email, “As of last Wednesday, STRS Ohio held shares of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) worth $27.2 million.”

That was the stock value just before the collapse — and presumably much less than when the system purchased 171,000 shares in the bank. As of the close of business Wednesday, Minnich hadn’t answered what the system’s total losses were on its SVB investment.

Also losing money was the Ohio School Employees Retirement System, which had $7 million invested with the bank, according to Randazzo.

In response to the State Teachers Retirement System losses, the Retired Teachers Association continued its criticism of the management of the $90 billion pension system.

“STRS has lost nearly $40 million of teachers’ hard-earned dollars after Silicon Valley Bank imploded overnight,” Executive Director Robin Rayfield said in a statement.

He added, “Not only is STRS gambling away our hard-earned dollars through active investment management, but they’ve proven to be horrible gamblers. STRS also lost nearly $10 million when its investment in bankrupt cryptocurrency platform FTX cratered after its collapse in December 2022.”

In the case of Silicon Valley Bank, STRS investors had reason to suspect there was elevated risk.

CEO Greg Becker lobbied hard to exempt banks of Silicon Valley’s size from rules under the Dodd-Frank law intended to ensure that banks wouldn’t suddenly fail and create a panic. President Donald Trump signed such an exemption into law in 2018.

Silicon Valley Bank, or SVB, appears to have taken on much more risk as a consequence. While it had $45 billion in assets in 2016, that amount swelled to $200 billion by 2021, the New York Times reported Tuesday on its podcast, The Daily.

In what’s now regarded as poor risk management, SVB invested heavily in long-term bonds — essentially making a bet that interest rates would stay low well into the future. But factors such as the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine helped goose inflation and by last Wednesday SVB was so desperate that it suddenly sold off $21 billion in long-term bonds. That spooked depositors, who started lining up to pull their money out.

The regulations that Becker fought to get out of would have required “stress tests” that might of warned of the coming storm and a “living will” that would have planned to unwind the bank in an orderly fashion if the results of those tests turned bad.

Becker and other SVB executives are under fire for selling off $84 million in the bank’s stock over the past two years in the midst of the greater risk-taking. And, while he claimed a failure of banks his size wouldn’t cause a panic, federal authorities official declared there was a risk of a panic and announced they would guarantee deposits above the $250,000 maximum-insured level to prevent one.

Despite the measure, global markets were still jittery in the wake of the collapses of SVB and Signature Bank, in which STRS said it was not invested. The New York Times reported that stocks were down around the world and especially hard hit were the American regional banks like SVB for which Trump relaxed regulations.

If the figures posted by Radazzo, the pension watchdog, are correct, STRS’s was by far the biggest loss of any public pension system — almost 32% greater than the next highest, the California Public Employees Retirement Fund.

The most recent investment losses come to a retirement system that’s been under fire for lavish pay for what many retirees believe is sub-par performance.

At least 200 of the retirement system’s 500 employees make more than $100,000 a year. And, with bonuses, in the 2021-2022 fiscal year 33 of the system’s employees made more than $300,000. Nine made more than $500,000.

Those employees have invested heavily in high-fee, “alternative” investments that have underperformed the system’s traditional investments. Over the past decade, traditional investments provided a 14.8% return, while the system’s alternative investments have provided 11.84% once fees are subtracted, an STRS spokesman said last year.

Meanwhile, retirees last year got just a 3% cost-of-living increase — their first since 2017. An STRS spokesman has explained that the freeze was due to new rules set down by the legislature in 2012.

Retirees also were infuriated with the way the STRS board handled staff bonuses last year. In August, it awarded $10 million in bonuses even though it estimated that it would lose $3 billion in an environment that was brutal for investors.

Two months later, the actual numbers for alternative investments came in and losses were 77% higher than original estimates — $5.3 billion.

Questions about the management of the pension fund have grown loud enough that last month, Director Bill Neville couldn’t get a majority of the board to cast a vote expressing confidence in him. Instead, it deadlocked 5-5.

News of the latest losses has intensified criticism of Neville’s management.

“STRS fund mismanagement has resulted in years of no cost-of-living increases for Ohio retired teachers and current teachers are being forced to pay more and work longer for less benefits,” the Ohio Retired Teachers Association said in its statement. “Retired teachers were furious after STRS staff were awarded a record-breaking $10 million in performance bonuses last year despite losing $5.3 billion.”

For its part, STRS praised federal regulators for taking steps to protect depositors — even though those steps don’t affect the system’s investment losses.

“The collective actions taken by the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure and backstop deposits have helped to mitigate the situation facing the banking industry,” Minnich said. “STRS Ohio continues to monitor and assess the impact of these developments.”


Monday, March 13, 2023

By Chase Smith

A class action suit filed in California alleges LG Electronics USA, Inc. sold gas range stoves in the United States without properly notifying customers of toxic emissions prior to their purchases.

The suit comes as the industry faces attacks and efficiency proposals by the Biden administration that would remove up to half the current gas range ovens on the U.S. market.

A California woman who purchased an LG gas stove from Costco in October 2022 claims in the suit that she was unaware of the “risks” associated with the product before purchasing.

Ms. Sherzai relied on the representations on the marketing materials disclosing risks,” read the lawsuit. “The marketing materials did not disclose or warn that the product emitted harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides. Thus, at the time of purchase, Plaintiff was unaware that the product emitted harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxide.”

According to the latest court docket, LG has not yet responded to the claims in the suit.

John Taylor, senior vice president of LG Electronics USA, Inc. said in an email to The Epoch Times, “as a matter of policy, LG Electronics USA doesn’t generally comment on pending legal matters such as this.”


The California woman in the suit (pdf) alleges LG committed several crimes including violating California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, along with breach of implied warranty, violation of state consumer protection statutes, breach of implied warranties on behalf of plaintiff and the nationwide class, fraudulent omission, and unjust enrichment.

She claims the suit on behalf of other customers who purchased qualifying LG ranges while living in the United States during the applicable time frame.

There are tens or hundreds of thousands of class members,” attorneys wrote in the suit. “The precise number of class members is unknown to Plaintiff at this time.” Attorneys say members of the proposed suit “can be identified through public notice.”

The woman, Ms. Sherzai, alleges gas stoves are linked to respiratory illness and that LG knew of the risk without properly notifying customers of risks.

To make her case, attorneys point to “recent studies,” including one by Consumer Reports that says “gases can worsen asthma and other lung diseases.”

They go on to cite Bloomberg as stating gas stoves “emit air pollutants … at levels the EPA and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other health conditions.”

Bloomberg cites reports from the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society.

Court documents claim about 40 percent of American households use natural gas stoves daily to cook in their homes.

Other claims cited by the plaintiffs in the suit claim nitrogen oxides are emitted which can be “hazardous to human health.”

A Harvard University Health article cited states, “A recent study published by researchers at Stanford calculated that emission of nitrogen dioxide from certain gas burners or ovens rose above the standard set for outdoors by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within a few minutes.”

Other claims by Sherzai are that nitrogen oxide exposure is linked to cardiovascular effects, diabetes, poor birth outcomes, cancer, cognitive issues among children, and asthma.


Since the 1980s, the natural gas industry—of which Defendant is a constituent—has worried that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission would regulate gas stove emissions due to indoor air quality concerns,” the suit stated.

Like other makers of gas stoves, Defendant monitors and keeps track of research on the health effects of its products. This is diligence that large companies like Defendant routinely do when selling a consumer product. Defendant is aware of the fact that its products emit harmful pollutants. It is further aware that use of gas stoves increases the rates of respiratory illness in adults and children.”

Sherzai claims LG could have implemented available technologies to reduce alleged danger to consumers, including jet-powered infrared gas-range burners.

Another design proposed in the 1980s was the use of a flame insert, which cuts the nitrous oxides emissions ‘more than 40 percent’ when the burner is turned on high, and even more at low burner settings,” plaintiffs allege. “Despite this, Defendant failed to use an alternative design to avoid these harms and reduce harmful pollutants from gas stoves.”


Sherzai and attorneys claim LG should have warned its customers of the pollutant risks.

While Defendant is aware of the harmful health effects of gas cooking, everyday consumers are unaware of these risks,” attorneys for Sherzai wrote. “Consumers shopping for a new oven, range, or stove have very little information about the health risks of gas appliances. Consumers remain unaware because nothing on Defendant’s packaging or labels suggest that the gas stoves regularly emit pollutants that are harmful to human health. Further, the labels and warnings do not mention any risk of nitrogen oxides.”

Sherzai also said in the suit that if customers knew of the “defective design” of LG gas ovens the price would drop “dramatically.” She also alleged through attorneys she would have paid “significantly less” for the product “had she known that it emitted harmful pollutants.”

If consumers knew the truth, demand for Defendant’s prices would drop, and Defendant could not sell their products at current prices. In addition, the defective design of gas stoves reduces their value. Consumers pay for a stove that is safe for home cooking, but receive a less valuable stove—one with a defective design that carries significant (and undisclosed) air pollution risks.”

Plaintiffs in the suit seek a jury trial as well as damages, restitution, and other costs or relief as determined by the Court.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) this week advanced a request for information on gas stove hazards after it was filed by a commissioner who has floated banning the appliances.

The agency announced on March 1 that it’s seeking information from the public “on chronic chemical hazards from gas ranges.”

The commission released a draft public notice on the request for information but hasn’t released the final notice, which should be published in the Federal Register this month, a commission spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Chairman Ralph Spidalieri was scheduled to start the Tuesday, March 7 Commissioners’ Meeting amidst a well-attended crowd of onlookers, but before the appointed 9:30 am meeting, Commissioner Lennon engaged in an entertaining private conversation, and Commissioner Jim Dvorak headed for the spectators’ section. Spidalieri sauntered in confidently beaming, assumed his Chairman’s seat and gavelled the other two to attention. The crowd picked up the jovial spirit and the March 7 meeting appeared to be off to a great start.

The agenda appeared routine. The Safety team, Hildebrand and Rowan; as well as the ADP entourage of Walder and/or Antenucci were somewhere else behind the scenes. With no Executive Sessions to tie anyone up, this meeting should just leave everyone with that “good feeling” just recently returning to Commissioners’ Meetings. Many in attendance are aware that former Auditor Frank Gliha, seeking an appointed position on the Geauga County Board of Public Health, is about to complete his mandatory year withdrawal from participation from County appointments and Partisan activities In connection with a misdemeanor judgment may 2018.

In the meantime, Planning Commission’s Item Number 5: “To Suspend Enforcement of the For Evaluation Requirement for Large Lots 5-19.999 acres,” breezed through unanimously. Additionally, Laketran, under Lake County Commissioners, received unanimous approval to administer transit for Geauga County residents” fully effective July 1, 2023. Both approvals signal the loss of local Geauga government and the quiet shift to regionalism.

Then all bets were suddenly off. The third floor Commissioners’ area, known for its poor acoustics, suddenly was a maze of loud alarms that drowned out all other sound. The three Commissioners looked at each other but seemed incapable of rising to their feet. As they each sat there, Gerry Morgan sprang for the third-floor public hallway; he returned minutes-later, apparently with his head still together. None of the Commissioners appeared to question his absence.


When the meeting was routinely adjourned, Morgan responded that the noisy alarm dysfunction was the result only of contractor error on the “overhead sound system.” The new Safety Liaison on the first floor directly below was totally oblivious to any confusion or any explanation from the fast-moving Morgan.

Serendipity this time? Had this confusion been a real-time crisis instead of an electrical short-circuit, might the end-results for local Geauga public meetings resulted less favorably? How many dress rehearsals like this do we want?


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

We are following a developing story in Auburn Township. Today we were informed the Auburn Township offices were raided by the IRS. The Township is alleged to have failed to file tax documents for the last 5 quarters. Presumably, this would include withholding for township employees.

As more information becomes available, we will report.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023
By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

A Texas judge fined two men a combined $244 million for violating state and federal do not call registries and telemarketing rules.

John Caldwell Spiller II and his business partner Jakob Mears, the owners of Texas-based Rising Eagle Capital Group LLC, JSquared Telecom LLC, and Rising Eagle Capital Group – Cayman, are accused of making millions of illegal robocalls and spoofed calls to people who signed up for the DO NOT CALL REGISTRY, according to a news release from North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

Wrigley and Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas attorneys general filed suit against the company in 2020. The company's robocalls included scams on car warranties and health care plans, according to Wrigley.

"These calls hammer our landlines and cell phones, invading our peace and enjoyment, and constantly interrupt and annoy us at the most inconvenient times," Wrigley said. "While these legal enforcement actions won't stop all robocalls, they will significantly change the landscape by shutting down these defendants who made billions of calls nationwide."

The judge mostly suspended the fine since Mears and Spiller did not have the ability to pay and were permanently banned from the industry, according to the news release.

Wrigley said an ongoing case is tied to the men.

"The attorneys general are continuing their cases in this same litigation against Florida-based Scott Shapiro, Michael Theron Smith, Jr., and Health Advisors of America, Inc.," Wrigley said. "These defendants allegedly worked with Mears and Spiller to make illegal robocalls targeting North Dakota consumers who never gave permission to be contacted by Health Advisors."


Saturday, March 3, 2023
By Zachary Stieber

A U.S. agency has advanced a request for information on gas stove hazards after it was filed by a commissioner who has floated banning the stoves.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced on March 1 it is seeking information from the public “on chronic chemical hazards from gas ranges.”

The commission released a draft public notice on the request for information, but has not released the final notice. The final one should be published in the Federal Register next week.

Members of the public are being told they’re welcome to submit comments on how many U.S. homes have gas ranges, how the commission should evaluate risks related to gas stove usage, and what information should be part of labels with warnings about hazards on stoves, among other aspects of the issue.

The commission is also requesting “proposed solutions to those hazards.”

The vote to approve publication of the notice was 3–1. Commissioners Mary Boyle, Richard Trumka Jr., and Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric voted in favor, while Commissioner Peter Feldman voted against.

Trumka, a Biden appointee, floated a ban on gas stoves in January.

“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he told Bloomberg at the time.

Trumka also wrote in an internal memorandum that “the need for gas stove regulation has reached a boiling point” and that the commission “has the responsibility to ban consumer products that emit hazardous substances, particularly, when those emissions harm children, under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.”

“There is sufficient information available for CPSC to issue an NPR in FY 2023 proposing to ban gas stoves in homes,” Trumka also wrote. NPR stands for notice of proposed rulemaking.

The White House and Hoehn-Saric later said they weren’t in favor of banning gas stoves. Some lawmakers have introduced bills that would block the CPSC from banning gas stoves.

The approved request for information (RFI) “does not constitute or propose any regulatory action or ban,” Hoehn-Saric said in a statement this week. “The chronic hazards that can arise from toxic emissions should be studied and that is what we are doing with this RFI. I welcome the public’s input and data during the comment period.”

The RFI was initiated by Trumka during an October 2022 meeting.


Trumka was prepared to introduce a rule that would direct staff to prepare and submit to the commission a notice of proposed rulemaking for gas stoves. However, acknowledging a lack of support for the rule, Trumka offered a substitute amendment instead, that would direct staff to prepare an RFI. The prepared RFI was later approved.

Trumka said in a new statement after the approval that “step one in confronting a potential hazard is understanding its scope and the options for addressing it.”

He said he was looking forward to “learning more about the chronic health effects of nitrogen dioxide emissions and particulate matter emissions from gas stoves.”

He added later, “Are there technologies that can eliminate any unreasonable hazards? If technologies to improve the performance of gas stoves are not commercially viable or not demonstrated to be safe, what options remain?”

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that the administration “is once again taking steps toward possibly regulating gas stoves.”

She added, “Make no mistake—this is NOT about product safety, it’s about government control.”

Trumka and other gas stove critics have pointed to research including a study from the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental group, to support their efforts to restrict or ban the stoves. That group, though, later said the study did not assume a causal relationship between the stoves and asthma.

Proposed Rules

The RFI comes after the Department of Energy proposed new rules for gas stoves and other cooking appliances.

“As required by Congress, the Department of Energy is proposing efficiency standards for gas and electric cooktops—we are not proposing bans on either,” a spokesperson for the department said in February.

The proposal would block approximately half of the gas cooking appliances currently on the market, the DOE said in a recent analysis.

Jill Notini, industry spokesperson for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, noted the proposed rules were “stringent” and that the department appears to be intending to “eliminate gas products from the market.”


Saturday, March 4, 2023
By Jack Phillips

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this week issued a notice to “gig economy” service workers and those who receive a foreign source of income that they have to report potential tax obligations on income.

An IRS release issued Mar. 1 says that taxpayers have to report income from the gig economy on their tax returns, “even if the income is from part-time, temporary, or side work; paid in any form, including cash, property, goods or digital assets; not reported on an information return form like a Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2, or other income statement.”

The gig economy is defined as activity where people earn income from providing on-demand goods, services, or work—and it’s often via an online platform such as an app or a website like Instacart, Lyft, DoorDash, or Uber.

On Dec. 23, 2022, the IRS announced a one-year moratorium on implementing a controversial new reporting rule for online businesses for transactions exceeding $600. In the past, the threshold for 1099-K tax form reporting was 200 transactions with a total value of $20,000. Earnings that did not meet that standard may have not been noticed by the IRS, although tax laws require people to pay that amount.

The new tax-reporting rule goes into effect with tax year 2023, the IRS said. That rule was implemented under the American Rescue Plan that was ultimately signed into law in early 2021.

“If you’re one of the millions of gig economy workers, such as a freelancer or contractor, you may have received payments totaling $600 or more from any one of your side jobs during the tax year,” says tax-filing service TurboTax in a recent article. “If so, the individual or company that paid you generally must supply you with Form 1099-NEC for non employee compensation. If you receive payments through online payment services such as PayPal, you might also receive a form 1099-K. Payers will also send these forms to the IRS to report your income.”

For those workers, the IRS advises them to access the agency’s “Gig Economy Tax Center” for more information.

Work for Tips

Individuals who also work in restaurants, hotels, salons, and similar industries and who regularly receive tips also have to report those payments, according to the news release on Mar. 1.

“Cash tips include those received directly from customers, electronically paid tips distributed to the employee by their employer and tips received from other employees under any tip-sharing arrangement,” the IRS said. “All cash tips must be reported to the employer, who must include them on the employee’s Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.”

It added that “non cash tips”—defined as items of value like passes, tickets, or goods and commodities given to the employee—don’t have to be reported to the employer. They, however, “must be reported on a tax return,” the notice said.

Tips that the worker did not report to the employer have to report them separately on Form 4137, Social Security and Medicare Tax on Unreported Tip Income, to include as additional wages along with their tax return, the notice said. The employee has to pay their share of the Social Security and Medicare tax owed on the tips, it added.

“Employees don’t have to report tip amounts of less than $20 per month per employer. For larger amounts, employees must report tips to the employer by the 10th of the month following the month the tips were received,” said the IRS.

Foreign Source Income

The latest IRS notice also stipulated that taxpayers have to report their foreign source income, “regardless of where they live.” Both American citizens and resident aliens, or those who hold green cards, “must report unearned income, such as interest, dividends, and pensions from sources outside the United States unless exempt by law or a tax treaty.” They also must reported earnings from sources outside the United States.

“They’re also subject to the same income tax filing requirements that apply to U.S. citizens or resident aliens living in the United States,” the IRS said.

And it noted that federal law requires Americans to report their worldwide income such as earnings from foreign trusts and foreign bank accounts. Those taxpayers may need to to complete and add Schedule B (Form 1040), Interest, and Ordinary Dividends, to their tax returns.


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Having announced a February 14 “plan” hire a Sheriff Deputy at a central first floor location in the new County Administration Building, Commissioners Dvorak and Lennon authorized an Executive Session for the second time since Thursday, February 24. Responding to a public question about the whereabouts of Commissioner Spidalieri, Commissioners’ Clerk, Christine Blair, noted Mr. Spidalieri’s participation in an ongoing Las Vegas convention.

Upon the return to open session at about 10:40 am this morning, Deputy Brian Sebor, a 27-year veteran of the Geauga County Sheriff Department, emerged as the very first staff member to man the central kiosk on the first floor. Just prior to 10:45 am adjournment, the two member majority reported officially that they had taken No Action on item 15 involving Union Negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office.


Saturday, February 26, 2023
Hannah Poling | The Ohio Star

According to a county official in Texas, toxic wastewater used to put out a fire after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio was carried to a suburb of Houston for disposal. According to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, most of the contaminated soil is going to Michigan.

The wastewater is being delivered to Texas Molecular, a company that disposes of hazardous material by injecting it into the ground.

According to Harris County, Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo the county first learned about the wastewater transfer on Wednesday from the flaming derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3rd that forced evacuations as dangerous chemicals were discharged from five wrecked tanker rail cars carrying vinyl chloride that were in risk of exploding.

I and my office heard today that ‘firefighting water’ from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment is slated to be disposed of in our county,” Harris said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed to The Ohio Star that Texas Molecular “is receiving liquid waste from the Ohio train derailment for storage and ultimate disposal. TM Deer Park is authorized to accept and manage a variety of waste streams, including vinyl chloride, as part of their RCRA hazardous waste permit and underground injection control permit.”

According to Texas Molecular they have experience handling this kind of disposal.

Our technology safely removes hazardous constituents from the biosphere. We are part of the solution to reduce risk and protect the environment, whether in our local area or other places that need the capabilities we offer to protect the environment,” the company said.

According to Hidalgo, Texas Molecular told county officials on Thursday that it had received 500,000 gallons of firefighting water and that 30 trucks per day will bring another 1.5 million gallons to the site.

Additionally, the delivery raises concerns about the modes of transportation, including trains, as well as the potential health effects on the individuals involved in the transfers and the communities in between the Ohio crash site and the disposal location in Deer Park.

Harris County, Texas is one of a small number of existing locations for the disposal of hazardous commercial waste. According to Hidalgo, the county has about 10 injection wells that can accept the waste. However, there are comparable facilities in Vickery, Ohio, and Romulus, Michigan, both of which are closer to the crash site and could manage the wastewater.

There may be logistical reasons for all of this. There may be economic reasons. Perhaps Texas Molecular outbid the Michigan facility. It doesn’t mean there’s something nefarious going on, but we do need to know the answer to this question,” Hidalgo said.

According to Dr. George Guillen, the executive director of the Environmental Institute of Houston, the risk to the public is minimal but “It’s … very, very toxic.”

This injection, in some cases, is usually 4,000 or 5,000 feet down below any kind of drinking water aquifer,” said Guillen, a University of Houston-Clear Lake professor of biology and environmental science.

Moreover, Ohio Emergency Management said that work to remove the contaminated soil from the derailment site started on Thursday.

Norfolk Southern brought in large dump trucks at the request of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to transport contaminated soil to the Michigan-based U.S. Ecology Wayne Disposal, a licensed site for the disposal of hazardous waste. According to Ohio Emergency Management, Norfolk Southern will safely manage and dispose of the waste in a continual effort.

Norfolk Southern has already removed 4,832 cubic yards of soil from the ground, and as cleanup work continues, further soil removal may be necessary. When digging up the tracks and removing the soil underneath, the dump trucks will immediately haul that soil away and take it to a proper disposal facility.

Also, the immediate area of the derailment has seen the removal of 1,715,433 gallons of contaminated liquid. Texas Molecular received the majority of the 1,133,933 gallons transported away from the site. Vickery Environmental in Vickery, Ohio, has received a smaller quantity of waste.


Friday, February 24, 2023

February 3, 2023, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a town near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. In total, 38 rail cars derailed, and a massive fire that broke out damaged an additional 12 cars.

While no immediate fatalities or injuries were reported, the hazardous materials released from the cars — and concerns over a potential explosion — prompted evacuations from the area. Now residents are wondering if it's really safe to return to their homes, or whether their long-term health, as well as their air, water and soil, has been permanently affected.

Derailed Cars Carried Vinyl Chloride and Other Toxins

The train, operated by Norfolk Southern, included 20 cars carrying hazardous materials. Eleven of them derailed. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a list of the contents of the 11 cars, which included vinyl chloride.

A flammable gas carried on five of the cars, vinyl chloride is used to make hard plastic resin and is found in many consumer products, from credit cards and furniture to plastic PVC piping. Inhaling vinyl chloride could lead to life-threatening respiratory issues. When it breaks down in the air or burns, it can lead to the creation of hydrogen chloride, a respiratory irritant, and phosgene, which was used as a deadly poison gas in World War I.

It's also carcinogenic. According to the National Cancer Institute, "Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia."

In addition to outdoor air contamination, if vinyl chloride contaminates a water supply, it can enter household air if that water is used for showering, cooking or laundry.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman tweeted:

"Nearly 1 million pounds of vinyl chloride were on this train. Now, the EPA has confirmed it's entered the Ohio River basin which is home to 25 million people. This is one of the deadliest environmental emergencies in decades and no one is talking about it."

Other toxic chemicals on the derailed train cars include:

Butyl acrylate — This flammable liquid is dangerous if swallowed and can irritate the respiratory system, skin and eyes. It poses a "serious" health hazard and can cause breathing difficulties.

Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (2-butoxy ethanol) — This chemical, used in paint strippers and household cleaners, can cause "serious or irreversible" chronic health effects, including liver toxicity and damage to the eyes, skin, kidneys and blood.

Ethylhexyl acrylate — This potential carcinogen is used to make plastics and protective coatings. Inhalation can lead to convulsions, shortness of breath and a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Isobutylene — This gas is used to make rubber for tires and inner tubes. It can cause dizziness and unconsciousness if inhaled, along with skin and eye irritation.

Benzene — This carcinogen also causes genetic mutations. Exposure can lead to coma, irregular heartbeat and damage to blood cells. While the train wasn't carrying benzene when it derailed, residues existed because two empty cars had previously carried the toxic chemical.


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Following initial plans and ideas by Geauga County Commissioners and Sheriff Hildebrand first openly discussed at the February 14 Commissioners’ Meeting to create more visibility for Geauga County Sheriff Deputies and more security for citizens already in the County Administration Building. Commissioners unanimously approved the first hiring of a centrally-located Sheriff’s Deputy to provide directions, answer questions, and in general provide a heightened sense of safety and security to county residents while utilizing their new county administration building. The first such 7am-5pm safety shift will be instituted on Monday, February 27, 2023.

Commissioner Lennon asked for electronic calendars to keep accurate records of important daily events to be observed by individuals and groups on a day-by-day basis. Phones previously ordered to provide easier back-up as well as awareness of those meetings within the building that will start at or by 5 pm, when the building is officially closed until 7 am the following morning will help maintain a healthy air of safety and security, according to the Geauga Sheriff’s Office.


Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Geauga County Engineer’s Office today noted that spring 2023 is officially here again. Woodford Excavating, LLC takes on the official replacement of the Washington Street Bridge for $312,416. Auburn Township residents heard about a year ago that the bridge was due to be replaced. Another season of one-way traffic patterns for Auburn Township locals.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

By Jef Feeley | Bloomberg News

Dozens of lawsuits are challenging the long-standing belief that pregnant women can safely take acetaminophen, an over-the-counter drug used in Tylenol and generic pain medications.

Women have filed 87 complaints in seven states against sellers of store-branded pain relievers, including Walmart Inc., CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. Citing new studies linking the drug to increased risk of developmental issues in babies, the plaintiffs blame their children’s autism, attention-deficit problems or hyperactivity on significant doses of acetaminophen taken during pregnancy.

While the women say they should have been warned of the risks, the companies dispute the claim acetaminophen may harm fetal development. And some doctor groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, insist the medication is safe to take during pregnancy, saying the research is inconclusive and found no direct relationship to neurodevelopmental disorders.

Makers and sellers of acetaminophen “should have paid greater attention to the growing research linking it to developmental issues,” said Melissa McEvoy, a 42-year-old plaintiff in California who says she took acetaminophen to treat headaches when she was pregnant with her son. The boy is now 11 and on the autism spectrum. “There should always be the information presented, the potential risks, so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.”

In an emailed statement, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company “does not manufacture these products. We expect suppliers to provide safe and quality products that comply with all applicable laws, including labeling requirements.” Representatives of CVS and Walgreens declined to comment on the suits.

Combining Claims

So far, the legal fight represents a small fraction of the millions of pregnant women who have taken the medication. But lawyers for the plaintiffs on Thursday asked a panel of federal judges in St. Louis to consolidate the suits in the multi-district litigation (MDL) case so they can share information and schedule test trials. The panel will rule later on the request, which is opposed by the companies.

“It’s too early to say whether the claims expose the named companies to any significant risk,” said Holly Froum, a litigation analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “I think proving these claims could be challenging.”

But one member of the panel in St. Louis, US District Judge Matthew Kennelly from Chicago, said during the hearing Thursday there was the potential for many more claims given how many pregnant women rely on acetaminophen to deal with pain. “This could get really gigantic,” he said.

Rise in Autism

For years, doctors recommended acetaminophen as the safest way for women to deal with aches and pains in pregnancy. The most common alternative, ibuprofen, isn’t usually recommended for use during pregnancy. Obstetricians estimate as many as 65% of US women take acetaminophen at some point during pregnancy -- there were 3.6 million births in 2020 -- along with 50% of women world-wide.

That means there may be hundreds of thousands of potential plaintiffs over acetaminophen, said Mikal Watts, a lawyer for some plaintiffs who wants the suits consolidated in federal court in northern California. “This will be one of the largest multi-district litigations” in US history, he said in court filings. “It’s a monumental undertaking.”

Autism is one of the fastest-growing US childhood ailments, affecting 1-in-44 8-year-olds, though researchers aren’t sure why. Attention disorders, including hyperactivity, also are on the rise, showing up in more than 9% of kids ages two to 17. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention found the rate of development disabilities in kids between three and 17 jumped more than 17% over a two-year period beginning in 2015.

Watts and other lawyers are bringing the suits now because they say the science behind the link between acetaminophen and autism-spectrum ailments has firmed up over the last decade. There are more than 20 peer-reviewed studies affirming the link between significant use of the drug and development problems, they said. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology identified a 20% jump in the risk of autism when mothers use high rates of acetaminophen during pregnancy, plaintiffs said.

“And despite what the defense may say, this isn’t junk science,” said Ashley Keller, a lawyer representing women in the case. “It’s taken some years for the science to catch up, but we are there now.”

‘Safe Pain Relievers’

The research isn’t conclusive, however. According to a statement last year by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, acetaminophen remains “one of the only safe pain relievers” for pregnant women.

Studies so far “show no clear evidence that proves a direct relationship between the prudent use of acetaminophen during any trimester and fetal developmental issues,” the ACOG said. “Neuro-developmental disorders, in particular, are multi-factorial and very difficult to associate with a singular cause. The brain does not stop developing until at least 15 months of age, which leaves room for children to be exposed to a number of factors that could potentially lead to these issues.”

Emily Oster, a Brown University economist who has written books about data and parenting decisions, said that while there are legitimate questions being raised by new research, the studies are a long way from proving acetaminophen causes developmental ailments.

Until there are randomized, controlled studies comparing groups of pregnant women who take the medication and those who don’t, “it really doesn’t help us decide that question either way,” Oster said.

For now, the lawsuits are targeting sellers of store-brand medications rather than Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest maker of health-care products.

Jim Murdica, a lawyer for the drug retailers, told the judicial panel on Thursday “it would be manifestly unfair” to consolidate the lawsuits against them when none of the more than 600 manufacturers of acetaminophen have yet been sued.

Expanding Claims

But Watts, the plaintiffs lawyer, told the panel that will change once the claims against the retailers are organized, which will clear the way for lawsuits against manufacturers including J&J.

“The health and safety of the people who use our products is our top priority and we always recommend consumers carefully read and follow the label when using any over-the-counter medication,” Melissa Witt, a J&J spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. She added Tylenol’s label warns woman “if pregnant or breastfeeding, ask a health professional before use.”

Tylenol -- along with Band-Aid bandages and Listerine mouthwash -- falls under J&J’s consumer-products division, which is being spun off into a separate company, which also would serve as a potential funding source for J&J’s separate litigation over cancer claims tied to its now-withdrawn baby powder.

“The plaintiffs may want to see how that bankruptcy and the spin off shake out before they sue J&J,” said Elizabeth Burch, a University of Georgia law professor who teaches about mass torts and MDLs. “Everybody knows the makers of Tylenol will get sued over this. It’s just a question of when.”

That consumer unit plays a key funding role in a controversial bankruptcy case involving J&J’s liability over the talcum powder cases, Burch said. An appeals court is weighing whether that Chapter 11 case should be thrown out. Should that happen, juries would once again hear talc-cancer claims against J&J, leaving it facing legal and financial uncertainties.

The case is In RE: Acetaminophen-ASD/ADHD Products Liability Litigation, MDL, No. 3043, US Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (St. Louis)


Tuesday, January 30, 2023
By Manuela López Restrepo

One evening in late November, New Jersey attorney Kelly Conlon was chaperoning her daughter's Girl Scout troop to see a Rockettes show at Radio City Music Hall.

Soon after arriving at the historic New York City venue, she was pulled aside by security and asked to confirm her identity. They told her their facial recognition system already knew who she was, and more importantly, where she worked, Conlon told The New York Times.

She was denied entry.

The issue was her law firm was involved in litigation against Radio City Music Hall's parent company, Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE). As a result, Conlon — as well as lawyers at other firms pursuing litigation against MSGE — had been placed on an "exclusion list" at a string of popular venues owned by the group.

The story has become a flashpoint in the debate around facial recognition technology. While proponents say it has the ability to keep people safer, critics counter that there is little to support this idea, and warn that unchecked use of the technology could have untold consequences.

"Experts believe that facial recognition is so uniquely dangerous, and is something more akin to nuclear or biological weapons, where it's so profoundly harmful, it has such an enormous potential for harm to our basic human rights, [and] to people's safety," says Evan Greer, the director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights organization.

How does facial recognition software work?

Facial recognition is a form of biometric surveillance that works basically by comparing two images to each other, says Greer.

"You have a database of targets, and then you can use an algorithm to sift through footage or still images," they said. "Or in [Conlon's] case, they were doing real-time facial recognition, where effectively the surveillance cameras in the venue were constantly being analyzed by software looking for specific people."

It doesn't take much to add a new person into the system, Greer said. Taking a headshot from a company website, a mugshot from an arrest database, or even a screenshot from a social media profile can be enough for the algorithm to target and then attempt to identify a person.

When asked about Conlon's case, MSGE said its policy was to not allow attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation, regardless of whether the individual lawyer was involved in the case.

"While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment," MSGE said in a statement. "All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy. We continue to make clear that impacted attorneys will be welcomed back to our venues upon resolution of the litigation."

Currently, facial recognition technology is legal in New York City. There is no federal law that specifically deals with facial recognition, leaving some places like San Francisco, Boston, Portland and the state of Illinois to pass varying types of regulation or bans on the tech in the last few years.

This slow crawl of patchwork regulation at a state level worries privacy experts.

For one, it's the simplicity of adding targets to a database that makes this technology so potentially dangerous for user privacy, says Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) based in New York. Then there's the fact that biometric data is unique to your features — and permanent.

"You can change your name, you can change your social security number, you can change almost anything, but you can't change your face," Cahn said. "So if your biometric data is compromised once, it's compromised for life."

There are also concerns about who could potentially suffer most from the technology. While there are signs at MSGE venues stating facial recognition is being used for security purposes, critics say that there hasn't been much evidence of the tech upholding that purpose.

If anything, flaws inherent in the software exacerbate existing discrimination towards minority groups, putting them at a higher risk of being falsely accused of crimes, says Hannah Bloch-Wehba, an associate law professor at Texas A&M who specializes in privacy, technology, and democratic governance.

"Facial recognition technology tends to misidentify people of color, and in particular, women of color," she said. "And so I could see a serious concern about the sort of racial and gender bias implications of this kind of tech being used to screen people."

Some versions of the tech have shown to be less adept at differentiating between people with darker complexions in the past. And Greer says that traditional law enforcement surveillance has also historically led to the over-policing of communities of color. They fear combining the two could lead to an amplified effect.

"Because of the legacy of racism within policing in the United States, arrest databases are disproportionately filled with the faces of Black and Brown people, and particularly Black men," she said. "If you get stopped, and they scan your face with facial recognition, you're simply more likely to get a match if you're a Black man than if you're a white man because of that kind of racist legacy that's now being exacerbated using this technology."

Over the past few years, a number of Black men have been falsely identified as suspects in criminal investigations that used facial recognition software, in some cases resulting in wrongful arrests and charges.

In Detroit, a Black teenager was kicked out of a roller rink in 2021 after facial recognition technology mistakenly identified her as someone who had previously gotten into a fight at the property.

"We may hear these high profile stories about attorneys," says Greer, "But in the end, we know that this technology is disproportionately used on marginalized communities, and disproportionately harms marginalized communities."

A question of safety

In a statement to NPR, MSGE said facial recognition technology was widely used throughout the country, including in the sports and entertainment industry, and in shops, casinos and airports "to protect the safety of the people that visit and work at those locations."

"Our venues are worldwide destinations and several sit on major transit hubs in the heart of New York," it said. "We have always made it clear to our guests and to the public that we use facial recognition as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment for our customers and ourselves."

To critics like Bloch-Wehba, the idea of safety requires more nuance.

"We have to ask, who are you trying to keep [patrons] safe from?" she said. "How are you deciding who poses the threat? Is that a decision that the management of the venue is making, or is it a decision that the technological product is making? And who is checking that decision?"

Fox Cahn says that a lack of regulation for facial recognition technology in New York City leaves him unsurprised by the recent headlines that garnered so much attention.

"New York has given businesses free rein to use facial recognition in their properties. And it was only a matter of time before we saw owners using it to retaliate this way," he said.

STOP, and other advocacy groups like Amnesty International and the Immigrant Defense Project, are working towards legislation that will curb the use of this software in public places in New York, and hope for a federal ban down the line as well.

The process hasn't been quick, which Fox Cahn said added to the challenge of keeping up with the ever-evolving technology.

He said many New York City lawmakers were eager for regulation, but that he believed some people at the city council were blocking progress. He attributed the lack of support to concerns some politicians may have about clashing with the New York Police Department and the companies that supply the city with this kind of technology.

Tiffany Cabán, a city council member representing New York City's 22nd district, sees a clear connection between political will and maintaining the status quo.

"Part of it is the age-old tale of money in politics," she said. "If you are pumping money into the system and people see themselves as accountable, or [see that] your contributions are responsible for them holding their office, or being in a position of power, then it's not going to be in their best interests to push forward legislation that inhibits those folks' ability to do the things that they want to do."

A former public defender, Cabán recalls faulty technology being used as evidence in criminal cases, and she would like to see it banned.

"There have been efforts to introduce and pass legislation that increases police accountability. And I think that legislation surrounding facial recognition would be part and parcel to that," she said. "So I am hopeful at least that we will see some of those things coming out and in this next year that we've just started."

The call for law and order is strong

The divide among New York politicians starts at the top, with Mayor Eric Adams advocating the technology in a recent POLITICO interview.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, campaigned on a platform of public safety, and sees facial recognition technology as one tool in his arsenal.

"It blows my mind how much we have not embraced technology, and part of that is because many of our electeds are afraid," Adams said. "Anything technology they think, 'Oh, it's a boogeyman. It's Big Brother watching you.' Big Brother is protecting you."

The NYPD is also no stranger to the technology. An FAQ on its website states it has been using facial recognition since 2011 to identify suspects in various types of crimes.

"[The NYPD] knows of no case in New York City in which a person was falsely arrested on the basis of a facial recognition match," the FAQ reads.

"Safeguards built into the NYPD's protocols for managing facial recognition, which provide an immediate human review of the software findings, prevent misidentification."

Jake Parker is the senior director of government relations for the Security Industry Association, a trade association for security companies, and advocates the use of facial recognition technology.

Amid the criticism of MSGE's use of the tech in the Conlon case, Parker said its enforcement demonstrated some of the potential security benefits, too.

"It makes me think about how many times someone subject to a restraining order showed up without warning at a workplace and committed violence despite the restriction. And unfortunately, this happens all the time, and women are often the victims," Parker said.

He believes the tech can help secure public spaces like schools, airports, music venues, and other places that may require identity verification — as well as make them more efficient.

"With almost any application of facial recognition, it is augmenting and helping a human control process become faster, more accurate," he said.

"The position of the technology leaders in this space, we believe any technology, including facial recognition, should only be used for purposes that are lawful, ethical and non-discriminatory."

Both Parker and the NYPD refute the claims that people of color are more likely to suffer from this software.

The NYPD says people identified by the technology are routinely reviewed, meaning "erroneous software matches can be swiftly corrected by human observers."

Parker, meanwhile, cites studies from the federal government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"You look at the most recent data from the federal government's evaluation program, which most of the leading providers participated in, the top 150 technologies are more than 99% accurate overall, and even across Black, white, male and female demographics," Parker said.

A spokesperson for the NIST's facial recognition team said this interpretation of their data appeared to be correct, but they noted the studies were done in lab settings, with dedicated lighting and cooperative participants.

"Without this cooperation we'd expect, as shown in our testing, the 99% value to decline," they said in a statement. "NIST testing on cooperative subjects has shown improvement in demographic difference performance. Issues with image capture, such as lighting, can still exist and impact performance."

The possibility of widespread regulation for facial recognition technology is a top priority for activist groups, not only because it could curb scenarios like the one at Radio City Music Hall, but because who it applies to could be hugely impactful.

Bloch-Wehba says that there is already more existing regulation around facial recognition technology for government and law enforcement use in the U.S. than there is for private businesses.

"If we just were to regulate police use of facial recognition, but any private agency or business can use it however it sees fit, then that creates a dynamic where we've allowed the private sector to, in some ways, become more powerful than the government itself," Bloch-Wehba said.

This past week, New York lawmakers rallied outside Madison Square Garden in protest of MSGE's policy, saying another person had been ejected at a venue.

Meanwhile, a number of law firms are now suing MSGE over the policy, with the cases working their way through the courts. The outcomes are being closely watched.

"The decisions that we make about technology and the policies that govern it are going to shape not just the next 10 years, but the entire future of human civilization," says Greer. "The stakes really are that high."


Thursday, January 26, 2023
By Jack Phillips

Some 35,000 PayPal user accounts have been hacked by a method known as “credential stuffing,” resulting in exposed names and Social Security numbers, according to a notification posted on a government website.

Through its lawyers, the California-based payment processor sent a notice to Maine’s attorney general. The company also sent a letter, dated Jan. 19, about the data breach to affected users.

The accounts were breached sometime between Dec. 6 and Dec. 8, 2022, the letter said. The company said that it was able to deal with the attack soon after it occurred, according to the letter.

The notification to users said (pdf) that 34,942 users were affected by the incident and that unauthorized third parties gained access to their accounts. Those third parties, which weren’t identified, could view full names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, and tax identification numbers.

“We have no information suggesting that any of your personal information was misused as a result of this incident, or that there are any unauthorized transactions on your account,” PayPal’s letter read.

A “credential stuffing” attack involves automatically injecting login credentials that were found during previous data breaches.

“If you detect any suspicious activity on an account, change the password and security questions immediately, and promptly notify the company where the account is maintained,” PayPal stated. “You may also add additional security for your PayPal account by enabling ‘2-step verification’ in your Account Settings. When links are present in an email, individuals should hover [their] mouse over the links to view the actual destination URL and should not click on the link if [they] are unsure of the destination URL or website.”

The company also said it has reset passwords on those PayPal accounts. Affected users will also get free identity monitoring services from Equifax, the consumer credit reporting company.

In a statement to PCMag, the company maintained that it was only a “small number of PayPal customer accounts” that were impacted by the breach. The Epoch Times has contacted PayPal for comment. It noted that neither its website nor its systems were hacked.

“PayPal’s payment systems were not impacted, and no financial information was accessed,” the firm said. “We have contacted affected customers directly to provide guidance on this matter to help them further protect their information. The security and privacy of our customers’ account information [remain] a top priority for PayPal, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

More Details

Sam Curry, the chief security officer at Cybereason, told Forbes magazine that what happened was that previous hacks “led to a large population’s passwords in use elsewhere being stolen, and because people often reuse passwords and have done so for a long time.”

“The hackers were able to brute slam PayPal accounts with these until they found 35,000 matches,” he said.

“If a threat actor can access legitimate credentials–even if they’re dumped in a dark-web repository–they are only a few short, and in most cases, automated steps away from a successful intrusion,” Jasson Casey, the chief technology officer at Beyond Identity, told HackRead.

The security breach comes just days after T-Mobile confirmed an unidentified malicious intruder breached its network in late November 2022 and stole data on 37 million customers, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

T-Mobile said that the data breach was found on Jan. 5, adding that data exposed to the theft didn’t include critical information such as PINs, bank account numbers, credit card information, Social Security numbers, or government identification numbers. Instead, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth were accessed, the filing said.

“Our investigation is still ongoing, but the malicious activity appears to be fully contained at this time,” T-Mobile said, adding that the data was first accessed around Nov. 25, 2022, but wasn’t discovered until weeks later.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

At the commissioners meeting today Commissioner Regovich Made an announcement that he was rescinding his vote for the Sales Tax Increase. It was apparent that Commissioner Hammercheck had no knowledge of the announcement as he took a few minutes to collect himself. Then all three Commissioners voted to Rescind the sales tax vote.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023
By Tom Ozimek

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued an alert to taxpayers on Tuesday, reminding them that they must report all digital asset-related income and answer a new digital asset question on their 2022 federal income tax return or face consequences such as delayed refunds or even penalties.

The IRS said in a Jan. 24 release that a key change on 1040 forms this year is that the agency has replaced the term “virtual currency” with “digital assets,” in addition to some other modifications to the wording.

The “Yes” or “No” question, which was expanded and revised this year to update terminology, reads as follows:

“At any time during 2022, did you: (a) receive (as a reward, award or payment for property or services); or (b) sell, exchange, gift or otherwise dispose of a digital asset (or a financial interest in a digital asset)?”

The question appears at the top of tax forms 1040, Individual Income Tax Return; 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors; and 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return.

“All taxpayers must answer the question regardless of whether they engaged in any transactions involving digital assets,” the agency cautioned.

It is a legal requirement to accurately report all income, including income from digital assets, on federal income tax returns. Failure to do so could result in non-compliance with tax laws and possible penalties.

The IRS has provided a detailed explanation of what constitutes a digital asset, which includes such things as stablecoins, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and cryptocurrencies.

Taxpayers need to check the “Yes” box if they:

● Received digital assets as payment for property or services provided;

● Transferred digital assets for free (without receiving any consideration) as a bona fide gift;

● Received digital assets resulting from a reward or award;

● Received new digital assets resulting from mining, staking, and similar activities;

● Received digital assets resulting from a hard fork (a branching of a cryptocurrency’s blockchain that splits a single cryptocurrency into two);

● Disposed of digital assets in exchange for property or services;

● Disposed of a digital asset in exchange or trade for another digital asset;

● Sold a digital asset; or

● Otherwise disposed of any other financial interest in a digital asset.

Those who tick the “Yes” box must also report all income related to their digital asset transactions on relevant forms. For instance, an investor who sold cryptocurrency during 2022 would use Form 8949, Sales and other Dispositions of Capital Assets.

Taxpayers should check the “No” box if they merely owned digital assets but didn’t engage in any transactions involving them in 2022.

They should also tick “No” if they merely transferred digital assets from one wallet or account they own or control to another one that they own or control, and if they bought digital assets using real currency like the U.S. dollar.


The IRS has warned that many taxpayers should expect a smaller refund this tax season because of tax law changes including the expiration of pandemic-related stimulus payments that would otherwise have boosted refund balances.

“Due to tax law changes such as the elimination of the Advance Child Tax Credit and no Recovery Rebate Credit this year to claim pandemic-related stimulus payments, many taxpayers may find their refunds somewhat lower this year,” the IRS said in a press release on Jan. 23, the day the agency began tax returns for 2022 earnings.

Not all tax filers will see lower refunds as individual circumstances vary; many will see smaller checks.

The Recovery Rebate Credit was a way for millions of Americans to receive pandemic support if they did not receive their full amount via stimulus checks.

This credit was available for missing amounts from the first, second, and third round stimulus checks, and could only be claimed on 2020 and 2021 tax returns.

The stimulus checks were discontinued in December 2021 and the missing third-round amounts could only be claimed on a 2021 tax return filed in 2022.

However, people who may have missed the opportunity to claim missing third-round stimulus payments can review their 2021 tax return and consider filing an amended return.

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) for 2022 tax returns has been reduced to $2,000 per child, down from the expanded amount of $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17 in 2021.

Some taxpayers may be eligible for an Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), which would allow them to receive up to $1,500 of the CTC as a refund on their tax return.

Also, a tax credit that working parents can use to help cover child care costs or that people with adult dependents can use for the same purpose is lower in 2022.

For tax year 2021, qualifying expenses were raised from $3,000 to $8,000 for one qualifying person and from $6,000 to $16,000 for two or more. The percentage eligible for the credit was increased from 35 percent to 50 percent.

But for 2022, qualifying expenses have been reduced back down to $3,000 for one person and to $6,000 for two or more. The percentage of qualified expenses that can be claimed now range from 20 percent to 35 percent.

The temporary enhancements also made the child and dependent care credit fully refundable. But for 2022, it has become non-refundable, meaning that at best it can only reduce one’s tax bill to zero.


Monday, January 16, 2023

Editors’ Note:

Regular attendees of Geauga County Commissioner meetings remember the events between fall 2017 and spring 2018. Stephen Decatur and “associates,” including Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and the former legal accounting firm Skoda Minotti, remember the reported $2 million loss to Geauga County.

The League of Women voters report on the ADP Annual Organizational Meeting called to order at 2:02pm on January 9, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners cut $240,000 from the ADP’s current operating budget “to secure and protect Geauga County’s technology.”

Did the Board of Commissioners learn anything from the last financial embezzlement?

Will county taxpayers pay the ultimate ransom again because everyone on the ADP Board, including every elected Commissioner, as well as County Administrator (former Water Resources Director) Gerard Morgan, understands that “the ADP is ten years behind” dealing with outdated Cybersecurity?

ADP Board – Jan 9, 2023

Courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Geauga

Meeting Details: The Automatic Data Processing Board (ADP) held its annual organizational meeting on January 9, 2023 at 2:00 pm in the Appraisal Office at 231 Main Street, Suite 1A, Chardon, OH., followed immediately by a Special Session. Virtual access was available via MS Teams and the agendas were provided in advance. This observer attended in-person.

Board Attendance - all 10 members present
   ● Auditor/Chief Admin - Chuck Walder
   ● Board of Elections - Michelle Lane (Director), and Nora McGinnis (Deputy Director)
   ● Clerk of Courts - Sheila Bevington
   ● County Commissioner - Tim Lennon
   ● Engineer - Joe Cattell
   ● Prosecutor - Jim Flaiz
   ● Recorder – Celesta Mullins
   ● Sheriff – Scott Hildenbrand
   ● Treasurer - Christopher Hitchcock

ADP Staff Attendance:
   ● Frank Antenucci - Chief Deputy Admin ADP
   ● Allen Keener - Chief Technology Officer ADP

Other Government Representatives:
   ● Pam McMahon - Fiscal Office Manager, Auditor’s Office
   ● Ron Leyde – Chief Deputy Auditor
   ● Katie Taylor - Engineer’s Office

The organization meeting was called to order by Frank Antenucci at 2:00pm. The board unanimously approved Mar 14, Jun 13, Sep 12 and Dec 12 for 2023 meeting dates. A list of ADP Board alternates was completed and approved. Adjourned at 2:02 pm.

The special meeting was immediately called to order by Frank Antenucci at 2:02 pm.

Minutes: Meeting minutes for Dec 6, 2022 were approved without edits, with Mr. Lennon abstaining because he was not present.

Proposed Agreement to Address $240,000 Cut From ADP Salary Budget - Mr. Walder, in his role as Auditor, presented a proposal for the Auditor’s Office to separate from ADP.

Per Mr. Walder, reviews conducted by both private and government cyber experts indicate that significant investments are needed to secure and protect Geauga County’s technology infrastructure and business systems. The recent cuts to the ADP budget by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) impair his ability to safeguard Geauga’s financial, accounting, real estate and GIS/mapping data processing systems. Under R.C. 307.842, he is therefore proposing a 24 month agreement whereby the Geauga County Auditor separates from the ADP Board and operates independently of the ADP Board. Key provisions include:
   ● Auditor systems will be separate from ADP’s computer network and infrastructure
   ● Auditor servers will be separately secured and controlled by the Auditor
   ● Auditor may contract for services and procure equipment as needed, subject to ADP approval
   ● Agreement is subject to annual review/renewal by ADP Board following initial 2 year period
   ● Agreement will be voided if BOCC restores ADP funding.

Mr. Walder stated many steps have been taken recently by our federal and state governments to safeguard servers.

Sheriff Hildenbrand asked how this proposal saves money and Mr. Walder responded that he is able to shift current ADP staff and resources to the Auditor’s office and can also utilize Auditor staff to ensure critical business systems are safeguarded. He also noted that once moved under the Auditor’s umbrella, the ADP staff would no longer be available to provide ADP support to county departments.
Observer Comment: Mr. Walder has administrative authority over both the Auditor’s Office and the Department of Information Technology/Automatic Data Processing. The collective financial implications are unclear but the arrangement seemingly results in duplication of services and infrastructure.

Mr. Flaiz inquired whether ADP could cut services to BOCC and departments it oversees to generate the needed savings. Mr. Walder stated the county’s cybersecurity risks are already higher than expected and they cannot take resources away from those efforts.

Mr. Lennon inquired whether the $240,000 was for additional staff. Mr. Walder replied that the three additions to ADP staff were included in their March 2022 budget proposal, and were based on the recommendations made by cyber experts to address gaps in network, cyber and server staffing. He commented further that the August Tax Budget typically auto-populates the financial system on January 1 and noted that ADP was the only body to have their budget changed.

Mr. Lennon inquired about “the $900,000” that was also included in the budget to address outdated security and infrastructure needs. Mr. Walder stated that some of those costs were one-time expenditures but a portion would continue into future budgets. He did not have the specific figures but would provide them.

Mr. Lennon apologized for needing to ask these questions, noting that it is his first time attending as the ADP representative for BOCC. Mr. Walder stated that the ADP Board has been working on these initiatives for two-and-a-half years and that everyone at the table understands “ADP is ten years behind.”

Mr. Hitchcock stated his hope that BOCC will “correct” what was perhaps an inadvertent change to the ADP salary budget. He later commented that having the Auditor be independent of the ADP Board runs contrary to the collaborative purpose of the ADP Board and the cost savings it produces.

Mr. Lennon again inquired whether any new positions were hired during the year. Per Mr. Antenucci there were zero new hires since July. They have hired five people total, with three being replacements and the others being student interns.

Mr. Walder stated his biggest worry was the New World accounting system. He recommends offloading to the Cloud, with the servers maintained by New World. He acknowledged that making the Auditor’s Office independent of ADP is in some ways counterproductive but felt obligated to take steps to protect the county’s business systems. He stated he would gladly tear up the agreement should the ADP budget be restored.

Mr. Flaiz commented that they cannot be at the mercy of Gerry Morgan and he moved to approve the proposed agreement. Mr. Cattell seconded and it was approved by roll call vote 9-1, with Mr. Lennon abstaining.

Observer Comment: Mr. Morgan is the County Administrator and reports to the County Commissioners.

Public Comment –

this Observer sought clarification of the three staffing needs identified by private and government cyber experts. Mr. Walder’s stated that needs were identified in network, cyber and server staffing.

Next regular meeting: March 14, 2023

More Information about ADP: https://adp.geauga.oh.gov/

Minutes when posted are available here: https://adp.geauga.oh.gov/meeting-minutes/

Virtual Meeting Information: contact Pamela McMahan at pmcmahan@gcauditor.com

Observer: Shelly Lewis
Editor: Anne Ondrey
Reviewer: Gail Roussey
Submitted: 1/10/2023


Thursday, January 12, 2023
Updated January 12, 2023 8:30 pm

Today the Lake County Commissioners passed a 1/2% sales tax increase to pay for the new Safety Center. A discussion before the vote can be viewed at the Lake County Commissioners website or at this youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSne3_ZjaIw.

Lake County sales tax of 1.25% + state sales tax of 5.75%, a total of 7% will increase to 7.5% to pay for the new Safety Center. Will it come back down at such time as the Safety Center is paied for? We think not. Consider this a permanent tax.

Other counties sale tax rates are as follow; Cuyahoga = 8%, Geauga = 6.75%, Ashtabula = 6.75%, Portage = 7.25%, Summit = 6.75%, Trumbull = 6.75%.

Of all the surrounding counties Lake will have the second highest sales tax.


Thursday, January 12, 2023
By RaeLynn Ricarte | The Center Square

U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-Pennsylvania, led Wednesday’s meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that focused on stopping the flow of deadly fentanyl and other illicit drugs over the nation’s southern border.

“In 2002, the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] seized more than 379 million lethal doses of fentanyl – enough to kill each and every American,” Joyce said in opening remarks on the second day of the committee convening in the 118th Congress.

He chaired the roundtable discussion because Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who took up the gavel Monday, was absent due to a work scheduling conflict.

The committee referenced recent news from the DEA that nationwide seizures last year totaled over 50.6 million fentanyl pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder.

Joyce, a physician, drew broad agreement from GOP leaders at the table that the Schedule I temporary designation of fentanyl-related substances should be made permanent. They felt greater penalties were needed when traffickers were caught to act as a deterrent to criminal activity.

“It should be a priority,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida. “This is poison. It’s a weapon of mass destruction.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Although fentanyl is a prescription drug used to treat patients with severe pain, it becomes dangerous when manufactured illegally for its heroin-like effect.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that illegal fentanyl powder is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes it dangerous.

Much of the illegal fentanyl is sourced from China and then transported through many different means into the U.S., noted committee members.

It only takes two milligrams of fentanyl, the size of 10 to 15 grains of salt, to kill, said Deb Cullen, who lost her 22-year-old son Zachary to illegal fentanyl.

“One packet of Sweet ‘N Low filled with fentanyl is enough to kill 500 people,” she said.

Deb and her husband, Paul Cullen, had been invited to Capitol Hill to put the human face on what Joyce and others called a “war” on youth. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for people 18-45 years old in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“Our son did not die of an accidental overdose, he was poisoned – actually he was murdered,” said Deb. “It is a very real life game of Russian Roulette and most of the time, they don’t even know they are taking it.”

The highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded by the CDC was for a 12-month period ending in March 2022: Provisional data estimated over 110,000 deaths, primarily from fentanyl, during that time period.

Although new numbers from the CDC show a 2.27% decrease in overdose deaths, the fatality rate is still far too high, said Joyce, drawing agreement from other committee members.

The Cullens said there was an urgent need for Congress to act quickly to secure the nation’s borders to reduce the availability of fentanyl.

“I struggle to understand why our government is not making it a priority to stop the loss of so many lives,” said Deb. “We need you to take over so we can take the time to grieve our horrible loss.”

She and Paul felt that young people needed more education about the dangers of fentanyl and asked the committee to undertake a public awareness campaign.

Zachary, they said, died after using cocaine laced with fentanyl while at a birthday party with friends. They said their son was not an addict, but they had learned that he used drugs recreationally from time to time.

“That was a poor decision but it should not have been fatal,” said Deb.

Paul asked the committee to address the role that social media plays in drug trafficking. He said there were plenty of online sites where teens and young adults could arrange to buy illegal substances.

“Social media companies are not doing enough to self-regulate,” he said. “There needs to be greater transparency and accountability.”

Committee members agreed to investigate that issue further.

Rep. Mike Burgess, R-Texas, said Democrats in control of the federal government for the last two years had blocked GOP efforts to make Schedule I status permanent. He said Democrats appeared more concerned about creating more potential penalties for offenders than protecting youth and other vulnerable populations.

“I don’t know why they step away from this instead of moving forward,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky.

Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, said it was virtually impossible to stop the movement of fentanyl without securing the southern border, something the Biden administration refused to do.

“Our border patrol agents are now social workers,” he said.

In addition to the Cullens, the committee heard reports from Paul Knierim, former assistant administrator and chief of intelligence for the DEA, and Dr. Timothy Westlake, an emergency medical physician from Wisconsin.

Knierim said two drug cartels in Mexico were responsible for the majority of trafficking into the U.S. and the DEA was “laser focused” on defeating them.

Westlake had advocated for the Schedule I classification of fentanyl and was now behind the push to make that designation permanent.

“As you can imagine, telling parents that their children will never come home is the worst part of my job,” he said.

After listening to testimony and questioning guests for 90 minutes, Joyce said the committee would start working on new policies to battle fentanyl trafficking.


Thursday, Jan 12, 2023
By Casey Harper | The Center Square

Federal debt soared by $1.4 trillion in 2022 as President Joe Biden and Congress approved multiple new spending packages.

The Congressional Budget Office released the final details of federal spending in 2022 showing the federal government had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year, borrowing roughly $82 billion in December alone.

“This is not a pretty picture no matter how you look at it,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “There are times to borrow – like during a pandemic or major recession – and there are times where we should ratchet down the borrowing, like now when the economy is strong and inflation is hot.”

MacGuineas pointed out last year's borrowing totals more than $10,000 per household and $4 billion per day.

The federal debt surpassed $31 trillion in the fall.

The higher debt was fueled in part by a rash of several trillion dollars in additional spending bills since Biden took office. Initially, that spending received broad support as a response to the pandemic, but later bills received more opposition from Republicans.

Biden has touted a reduction in the deficit last year from $2.8 trillion to $1.4 trillion. While that is true, the $1.4 trillion figure is still much higher than when he took office. In 2019, the budget deficit was less than one trillion dollars.

"We need a fresh start in 2023 for how we budget, spend, and borrow,” MacGuineas said. "Members of Congress who are serious about the fiscal health of the nation should commit to passing a budget, not engaging in new borrowing, and coming up with a reasonable package of savings to help bring our debt down.”

Without changes, the debt and deficit future looks bleak. The Congressional Budget Office released its economic outlook for the next decade last summer and projected record high debt levels compared to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

“CBO projects that the federal budget deficit will shrink to $1.0 trillion in 2022 (it was $2.8 trillion last year) and that the annual shortfall would average $1.6 trillion from 2023 to 2032,” CBO said. “The deficit continues to decrease as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) next year as spending related to the coronavirus pandemic wanes, but then deficits increase, reaching 6.1 percent of GDP in 2032. The deficit has been greater than that only six times since 1946.”


Thursday, January 12, 2023
By RaeLynn Ricarte | The Center Square

Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, joined other GOP leaders in passing the first bill of the 118th Congress that blocks the Biden administration from hiring 87,000 new IRS agents.

McMorris Rodgers said House Resolution 23, titled the Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act, seeks to stop the IRS from “going after” families across the nation.

“At a time when the price of everything from gas to groceries is sky high, the last thing Eastern Washington families need is to be squeezed by the IRS for every last penny, but that’s what President Biden and Democrats planned when they passed an $80 billion, 600% increase to the IRS budget last year,” she said in a written statement.

McMorris Rodgers, who represents the Fifth Congressional District, said the passage of HR 23 marks the first promise kept in the Republicans’ Committee to America plan.

“We are just getting started,” she said. “It’s the end of one-party rule in our nation’s capital, and a new day for hardworking families,” she said.

McMorris Rodgers pointed to a Congressional Budget Office report that Democrats’ “supercharged” IRS will cause audit rates to rise for all taxpayers. She said a conservative analysis shows that returning audit rates to 2010 levels would mean 1.2 million more audits with more than 700,000 of affected taxpayers making $75,000 per year or less.

HR 23 not only rescinds all new IRS funding but enhances the services Americans expect to receive from their government, she said.

According to McMorris Rodgers, Republicans in Congress led major reforms at the IRS with the bipartisan Taxpayer First Act and signed it into law in 2019. She and other GOP leaders contend Democrats have abandoned those reforms, opting to supercharge the IRS with the infusion of billions on top of a $12 billion annual budget.

“Republicans want an IRS that works for taxpayers; Democrats want an IRS that works against them,” states a summary of HR 23 released by the House Ways & Means Committee.

“Republicans fought for guardrails to protect middle and lower-income taxpayers from increased audit scrutiny – Democrats rejected these protections.”

House GOP leaders contend that Democrats have long used the IRS and the tax code as a political weapon, so hiring more agents will return abuses of the past. Specifically mentioned in summary is the targeting of Tea Party activists and conservative groups during the Obama Administration.

“Americans deserve a government that’s accountable and one that works FOR them, not AGAINST them,” concludes the Ways & Means summary.


Tuesday, January 10, 2023
By J.D. Davidson | The Center Square

Ohio’s new law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls is already being challenged in court.

Gov. Mike DeWine, when signing the bill into law, said the General Assembly did not include more restrictive measures and he does not expect more voting changes in the next four years.

"Elections integrity is a significant concern to Americans on both sides of the aisle across the country,” DeWine said. “At the same time, I have long believed that Ohio does a good job of administering elections, as we have provided ample opportunities to cast votes while avoiding the problems we have seen in recent federal elections in other states.”

Democrats and other groups, though, said the changes make voting harder for Ohioans. Challenging the new provisions, the Washington, D.C.-based Elias Law Group filed suit on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Union Veterans Council.

“HB458 is a sweeping attack on Ohioans’ fundamental right to vote,” Elias Law Group Partner Abha Khanna said. “This bill makes it substantially harder for Ohioans to vote in person and by mail and makes it harder to correct simple mistakes that prevent ballots from being counted. By their own admission, Secretary LaRose and Governor DeWine have no justification for this harsh crackdown on voting rights. While election fraud is virtually nonexistent in Ohio, voter suppression is, unfortunately, alive and well.”

LaRose said the changes allow county boards of elections more time to prepare for election days and photo ID requirements are popular, according to polls, among all voting demographics.

“Ohioans are clearly supportive of strict photo ID for voting and we have found a common-sense way to make it happen that ensures voters are not disenfranchised,” LaRose said. “No piece of legislation is a silver-bullet solution, but we are once again showing Ohioans that we take their concerns seriously and are dedicated to continuously improving our elections.”

House Minority Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said the new law establishes needless barriers. She said the bill was rushed through committee and testimony was limited.

“I’m extremely disappointed that countless pleas to veto the anti-voter bill were ignored. One of Ohioans most sacred rights has now carelessly been trampled on and the will of the voters has been brushed aside. A democracy that works for us must include all of us,” Russo said. “Ohio voters want a system where we pick our leaders, not one where the leaders pick their voters through gerrymandered maps and deliberate barriers to voting. We will continue to fight any anti-voting legislation and defend the freedoms of all Ohioans.”

The stricter voter ID requirements define an ID as an unexpired Ohio driver’s license, state ID card, interim identification form, U.S. passport or passport card or a military ID that includes the person’s name and photograph. The only exception is if someone has a religious objection to being photographed.

The same ID requirement exists for early in-person voting or voting on the day of an election.

The new law also eliminates early in-person voting on the Monday before elections and allows the secretary of state to spread those six hours to other days during the preceding week.

It also stops August special elections, which LaRose called costly and unnecessary, unless those elections involve a political subdivision or school district that is in a state of emergency.

The deadline to apply to cast an absentee ballot by mail is also shortened from noon on the third day before Election Day to the close of business on the seventh day before Election Day.


Tuesday, January 10, 2023
By Bethany Blankley| The Center Square contributor

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said her office received “bombshell new evidence” that the Biden administration “wrongfully withheld” from her office until just days before they went to trial on Monday.

Her office filed a lawsuit last year against the Biden administration over altering federal immigration deportation policy, including expanding a parole program President Joe Biden announced last week that he planned to expand. Moody is asking the court to halt the administration’s implementation of the policy, arguing it violates federal law and is unconstitutional.

Her team presented the new evidence on Monday as part of Florida’s case heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division that “the federal government wrongfully withheld until just before trial,” she said.

Her office received the information only through a Freedom of Information Act request, she said, when it should have received it during the discovery process. Had her office not filed the FOIA request, she said, “the damning evidence would not come to light or be part of the State’s vital litigation to force the Biden administration to follow the law, secure the border and protect the American people.”

Moody is referring to copies of four pages of emails obtained by her office from the Department of Homeland Security in which officials include talking points for Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz to use when discussing releasing illegal foreign nationals into the U.S. en masse. The emails are dated Jan. 28, 2021, eight days after Biden took office.

The talking points are consistent with testimony given by Ortiz in a deposition last year in which he confirmed there was a border crisis and agents were required to release people en masse into the U.S.

One email explains the situation agents were faced with in response to the Biden administration terminating Trump-era policies designed to curtail illegal immigration. It states, “The pause on processing pathways (MPP, ACA, PACR) and recent policy changes have also impacted USBP’s ability to expeditiously process and remove those encountered … The USBP will be required to promptly process and release family units and single adults due to lack of adjudication pathways.”

This refers to the administration no longer adhering to the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the Remain in Mexico Policy, which a federal court has required the administration continue. Texas sued over MPP and the case is still in litigation.

ACA refers to the Trump-era Asylum Cooperation Agreement, which DHS entered into with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on Dec. 29, 2020. The agreement enabled the federal government to more easily “remove certain eligible migrants seeking humanitarian protection to each of the ACA countries.” PACR refers to a fast-track asylum review process (Prompt Asylum Claim Review), which helped expedite this process.

Biden’s reversal of these policies contributed to unprecedented numbers of people attempting to enter the U.S. from Northern Triangle countries. The majority aren’t believed to have valid asylum claims, Moody and others have argued. After the federal government released and flew them nationwide in the middle of the night, including to Jacksonville, Florida sued.

Since Biden’s been in office, over 5 million foreign nationals have been apprehended or reported evading capture from law enforcement, including over 3.3 million in fiscal 2022 alone. Unless courts rule against the administration in multiple lawsuits brought against it, and their rulings are enforced, these numbers are expected to astronomically increase.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week, while claiming “the border is closed,” announced he planned to increase the processing and release of even more people into the U.S. once the public health authority Title 42 is lifted.

Notably, one of the talking points in an email thread states, “Mexico recently passed a law that precludes Mexican immigrants from detaining children, even if they are accompanied by adults/relatives/parents. This further impacts BP’s ability to expel family units under CDC T42 authority.”

The email implies that Mexican law has been dictating U.S. immigration detention and deportation policies, as critics have told The Center Square, also providing insight into Mayorkas altering Title 42 enforcement policies to rarely expel family units.

The email also states that in January 2021, BP agents were experiencing consecutive days of over 3,000 apprehensions a day and a continued surge of unaccompanied minors and family units would “immediately overwhelm USBP’s short term detention capacity … with an increased risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Instead of detaining or deporting family units who had the coronavirus, agents were instructed to release them, prompting Democratic run cities like Laredo to sue. Texas counties filed disaster declarations in April 2021 over the policy and Texas Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration May 31, 2021.

Moody says the records her office obtained “through our aggressive litigation efforts prove the Biden administration knew – as early as eight days after taking office – its destructive immigration policies were creating a colossal public safety crisis. The evidence that we fought ferociously to obtain is damning for the Biden administration, and we will continue to use his administration’s own actions and words against them in an attempt to force the president to follow the law.”


Saturday, January 7, 2023
By Jack Phillips

A central Florida county on Friday issued a notice of its plans to seek legislation that would allow for dissolving Walt Disney World’s self-governing area to appoint a state-run board to manage the district while a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that “Disney will no longer control its own government” under the proposal.

“Notice is hereby given of intent to seek legislation before the Florida Legislature, during a regular, extended, or special session, of an act relating to the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” said a notice from Osceola County on Friday. Reedy Creek, established in the 1960s, is the name for Disney’s self-governing district and is located in Osceola and Orange counties and allowed Disney to control the land currently occupied by its massive theme park.

Friday’s notice also stated that Florida lawmakers will take up legislation “increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency” of Reedy Creek district. Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Florida legislature, although a bill hasn’t been filed in the Legislature as of Friday

The move to dissolve Reedy Creek is backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been a frequent critic of Disney’s jumping into the political arena to back leftist causes. Disney is one of the largest employers in the state and Walt Disney World is one of the world’s most popular theme park attractions.

“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told Fox News in a statement on Friday. “Under the proposed legislation, Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes.”

The decision to impose “a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents,” she added. That statement was also posted by a Twitter account associated with DeSantis.

Last April, DeSantis signed a bill to dissolve Reedy Creek’s special tax status in the state, weeks after the company’s CEO criticized a recent Florida law that barred teachers from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate. It’s not immediately clear how the bill would impact the latest proposal.

The Florida Legislature voted last year to abolish Reedy Creek on June 1, 2023, but they said there could be a possibility the district is reconfigured. DeSantis said he wanted to have the state control the board and pay taxes needed to maintain its properties and theme park.


There were reports last month that Florida lawmakers were working to reverse the decision that would revoke Disney World’s special status within the state, but a DeSantis spokesperson refuted the claims.

“Governor DeSantis does not make ‘U-turns,’” a spokesperson for the governor told news outlets last month. “The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

The spokesperson said that “we will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company,” adding that “Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”

Florida lawmakers will start their regular session in March. Disney could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Reedy Creek Improvement Act was signed by Gov. Claude Kirk in 1967 after Disney proposed building a development on 25,000 acres of property in Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties comprising mainly of pasture and swamps.

The creation of the district was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it morphed into the EPCOT theme park.

Last year, Democrats criticized the governor’s move as retribution for the company’s stance on the education bill. Some pointed out that Disney has been a major economic driver in the state.

“What world are we living in right now?” asked Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson. “It’s the freedom state of Florida. If they disagree with the governor, he brings out the Gatling gun.”


Saturday January 7, 2023

Below is the first 3 of 39 pages of Mr. Ames latest filing. For those who desire to read the full case I am providing a
link to the pdf file.


Nancy B. McArthur
Nancy C. Schuster

CASE NO.: 22M000323



Offense: Theft by Deception: R.C. 2913.02(A) (3) and (B)(3), a felony of the fourth degree.
State of Ohio        )
County of Portage )

    Now comes Brian M. Ames ("Mr. Ames"), who, having first been duly cautioned and sworn deposes and says as follows:

l. I am, and have been during all time periods relevant to _is affidavit, a citizen and taxpayer residing in Portage County, Ohio.

2. I am of sufficient age and competent to make this Affidavit.

3. I have personal knowledge of the facts stated herein.

4. The facts stated herein are true and accurate to the best of my information, knowledge, and belief.

5. This affidavit is in relation to the acts done by Nancy B. McArthur and Nancy c. Schuster in seeking to gain the award money from Affiant by working a fraud and deception on the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas.

6. Ms. McArthur is a citizen and elector who resides at 117 Cedar Glen, Chardon, OH __02_ as shown in the Ohio Secretary of State's voter rolls for August 20, 2022.

7. Ms. McArthur is a defendant in case 22M000323 in the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas.

8. Ms. Schuster is a citizen and elector who resides at 2195 Valley View Dr, Rocky River, OH 44116 as shown in the Ohio Secretary of State's voter rolls for August 20, 2022.

9. Ms. Schuster purports to be counsel for defendants in case 22M000323.

10. On October 13, 2022, Ms. Schuster filed a motion asked the Court to reimburse Defendant’s reasonable attorney fees and the costs and expenses incurred in defending the lawsuit.

11. A true and accurate copy of said motion is attached hereto as Exhibit 1.

12. On October 31, 2022, Affiant served discovery on Defendants including requests for the production of a copy of any Fee Agreements, invoices for attorney fees, any documents establishing the authority of the signatories to any and all Fee Agreements to execute same, and any documents reflecting motions and votes by the Central Committee to retain Counsel “relating to this case”.

13. A true and accurate copy of Plaintiff's First Discovery: Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission and Interrogatories is attached hereto as Exhibit 2.

14. Ms. Schuster and Ms. McArthur have not produced any of the requested documents to substantiate a claim that attorney fees have been occurred.

15. On November 28, 2022, Ms. Schuster sought a stipulation for “an additional seven (7) days from November 28, 2022, i.e. to December 5, 2022, in which to respond to Plaintiff’s combined First Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission and Interrogatories to Defendant.”

16. A true and accurate copy of said stipulation is attached hereto as Exhibit 3.

17. On December 5, 2022, Ms. Schuster caused an email to be sent to Affiant attaching the responses to Affiant’s requests for admission but no response to the interrogatories or request for production of documents: no copy of any Fee Agreements, invoices for attorney fees, any documents establishing the authority of the signatories to any and all Fee Agreements to execute same, and any documents reflecting motions and votes by the Central Committee to retain Counsel.

18. A true and accurate copy of said email message and attachment is attached hereto as Exhibit 4.

19. On December 8, 2022, Ms. Schuster caused another email to be sent to Affiant attaching a letter and the responses to Affiant’s requests for admission but again no response to the interrogatories or request for production of documents: no copy of any Fee Agreements, invoices for attorney fees, any documents establishing the authority of the signatories to any and all Fee Agreements to execute same, and any documents reflecting motions and votes by the Central Committee to retain Counsel.

20. A true and accurate copy of said email message and attachment is attached hereto as Exhibit 5.

21. On December 23, 2022, in a good faith effort to resolve the discovery issue without court action, Affiant sent an email message to Ms. Schuster reminding her that she had stipulated to providing responses to all discovery by December 5, 2022, and warning her of the appearance of an attempt to perpetrate a fraud against the court and theft by deception against Affiant.

22. A true and accurate copy of said email message is attached hereto as Exhibit 6.

23. On December 28, 2022, Ms. Schuster caused another email to be sent to Affiant attaching

purported responses to bat again no response to the request for production of documents: no copy of any Fee Agreements, invoices for attorney fees, any documents establishing the authority of the signatories to any and all Fee Agreements to execute same, and any documents reflecting motions and votes by the Central Committee to retain Counsel.

24. A true and accurate copy of said email message and attachment is attached hereto as Exhibit 7.

25. Ms. Schuster and Ms. McArthur have committed deceptive acts in seeking to obtain an award of money without producing evidence that any attorney fees where in fact incurred.

26. It is reasonable to a court to infer that a party who refuses to produce evidence to support a claim for money seeks to gain an unjust award by working a deception on the court.

27. Said acts, if successful, would constitute theft by deception from a member a protected class as defined by R.C. 2913.02(A)(3) and (B)(3), a felony of the fourth degree.

28. Said acts, if unsuccessful, would constitute attempted theft by deception from a member a protected class as defined by R.C, 2923.02(A) and R.C. 2913.02(A)(3) and (B)(3), a felony of the fifth degree.

Further, Affiant sayeth naught.

  Brian M. Ames

    Before me, a Notary Public in and for said county and state, personally appeared Brian M. Ames who swore to the truth of the foregoing Affidavit of Verification and subscribed same in my presence at Rootstown, Ohio on this 6th day of January, 2023.

  Notary Public


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Only two commissioners were in attendance for the December 29 meeting. On the slate of items before the commissioners were:

6.    The Planning Commission is requesting the Board approve the re-appointment of Caterina Cocca-Fulton to the Planning Commission Board for a three-year term, January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2025.

7.    The Planning Commission is requesting the Board approve the re-appointment of James McCaskey to the Planning Commission Board for a three-year term, January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2025.

8.    The Planning Commission is requesting the Board approve the re-appointment of Gary Neola, Jr to the Planning Commission Board for a three-year term, January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2025.

Re-appointment of both James McCaskey and Gary Neola sailed through effortlessly. However, when it came to the re-appointment of Caterina Cocca-Fulton a different story emerges. The two commissioners being in disagreement tabled the appointment until Mr. Lennon returns to brake what would be a tied vote.

Caterina Cocca-Fulton has been chairing the planning commission board since Charlie Stevens withdrew himself from the board.

It will be interesting to see who is for and against the re-appointment as they vote in open session Thursday, January 6th.