Welcome to Auburn Township in Beautiful Geauga County Ohio

News Stories and Events for 2023 July thru September

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023, updated September 24, 2023

After a lengthy discussion before the public without having first been placed on the September 12, 2012, agenda, representatives of the “Blanchard Valley Port Authority,” presented their case to gain headway for an ongoing project in a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) established on site of the long defunct Geauga Lake/Sea World site. Ms. Patricia Ritzert, as attorney for “Blanchard Valley Port Authority,” was the first speaker.

Representatives for Vision Development followed Attorney Ritzert’s lead, encouraged by her outline of what to cover in their presentations to Geauga Commissioners. Todd Foley, Jeff Martin, and Connie Klema indicated the plan presented by Aurora Apartments I, LLC, to construct a “331 unit apartment complex. . .[to] facilitate approximately $71 million in construction of multiple buildings on approximately 19 acres” to be financed in part by “revenue bonds issued by the [Blanchard Valley] port authority and to be ground leased [back] to the authority in order . . . to construct the buildings and lease them [back] to the Company, which shall create and preserve jobs and employment opportunities within the same area”

After taking up fewer than 15 minutes to approve the ten items on the September 19 Agenda, Commissioners at 9:48 am announced Executive Session with Gerry Morgan and Linda Burhenne, County Administrator and Assistant County Administrator, respectively, “for the purpose of considering the purchase of property for public purposes and the sale of property at competitive bidding, pursuant to O.R.C. 121.22(G)(2).”

Having left for Executive Session ar 9:48 am, all five returned to public chambers at 10:48 am to consider passage of the Resolution, now identified as Resolution No. 23-157, “COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT WITH BLANCHARD VALLEY PORT AUTHORITY.” The roll call resulted in a NO from Spidalieri, a NO from Lennon, and a NO from Dvorak. The meeting adjourned at 11 am.

‘Blanchard Valley Port Authority,” an entity approved by Findlay City Council in North western Ohio, several years ago and subsequently spun off by that entity, has no proximity to any internal body of water, as the title implies .

When this editor asked Gerry Morgan when he had made his first contact with the representatives for Vision Development, registered to a Columbus agent under an anonymous name, he noted that the correspondence had begun about six months ago when the reps might have had better access to being approved.

This particular development regarding high-density rental units within a JEDD shared by Bainbridge Township and the City of Aurora remains a breaking story with potential impacts upon the Kenston School District.


Saturday, September 16, 2023
By Tom Ozimek

The IRS must address critical safeguard weaknesses in order to adequately protect sensitive taxpayer information, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report, while faulting the tax agency for failing to implement 77 of its recommendations, including two that it deems "high priority."

In the latest critique of the IRS's treatment of taxpayer data, the GAO report (pdf) found a range of deficiencies, including insufficient training for IRS contractors and information security weaknesses that pose risks to sensitive taxpayer information.

The watchdog found that, while IRS employees had a 97 percent completion rate across four training courses for protecting taxpayer information, that rate was less than 75 percent for IRS contractors.

For instance, just 66 percent of the 14,000 or so contractors who were assigned to complete the "Insider Threat Awareness" training course actually finished it.

"As a result, IRS contractors are at increased risk of being unprepared to handle taxpayer information," the watchdog said in the report.

Part of the problem is that the IRS doesn't have agency-wide training completion goals for contractors, which was one of the watchdog's 15 recommendations to the tax agency to better protect taxpayer data.

In fact, since 2010, the watchdog made 451 recommendations to the IRS aimed at safeguarding taxpayer information.

While the IRS has adopted most of GAO's recommendations, 77 of them have not been implemented, including two that the watchdog considers high priority: updating a system modernization plan to assess risk more fully and developing rules to better protect taxpayer information while at third-party providers.

"Fully implementing these recommendations could significantly improve the IRS's ability to safeguard taxpayer information," the watchdog said.

The 15 new recommendations put forward by the watchdog include the IRS establishing training goals for contractors, keeping a comprehensive inventory of systems that store taxpayer data, and monitoring instances of willful unauthorized access (or attempted access) of tax returns or return information by contractors.

The IRS agreed with practically all of the watchdog's recommendations in a letter to GAO, which noted that 83 percent of the recommendations made since 2010 have been implemented.

The tax agency blamed a lack of resources for not meeting more of the recommendations, while insisting it cares about protecting taxpayer data and ensuring its systems are secure enough.

"Despite these challenges, IRS systems are secure and we are committed to improving our security posture going forward," Jeffrey Tribiano, IRS deputy commissioner for operations support, wrote in the letter.


Two watchdogs—GAO and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)—have repeatedly reported deficiencies in how the tax agency safeguards taxpayer information.

In October 2022, TIGTA said that protecting taxpayer data was a top challenge for the IRS.

In November 2022, GAO found that the IRS had ongoing IT system security control deficiencies in areas like encryption and configuration of security settings that raised the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive taxpayer data.

Recent events have raised similar concerns, GAO said in the report, including when in December 2022, the IRS found it had accidentally disclosed on its website some taxpayer information that was meant to be kept confidential.

In its latest report, GAO found a number of IT-related shortcomings.

One of these gaps is inadequately developed security assessment and authorization documents for the system that tracks tax compliance risks for affluent taxpayers.

Another is insufficient procedures to determine when taxpayer information should no longer be stored in two of the tax agency's research systems.

The watchdog also found that the IRS doesn't properly assess the risk of methods it uses to share data with external entities.

"Unless IRS remediates IT control deficiencies, it will continue to have limited information on risks to the security of taxpayer information and how to respond to those risks," GAO said in the report.


Another area flagged by the watchdog is in the area of UNAX, or unauthorized access to tax return information.

GAO found that while multiple IRS offices oversee contractors, there is no agency-wide oversight process related to IRS contractor UNAX.

"As a result, IRS has limited insight into contractor UNAX trends and assumes greater risk of missing opportunities to improve the agency's prevention efforts," the watchdog said in the report.

The tax agency's monitoring of UNAX prevention efforts is hampered by the fact that it lacks complete inventory systems that process or store taxpayer information.

While the watchdog acknowledged IRS steps to develop and maintain such an inventory, this work remains incomplete.

The watchdog also faulted the IRS for not monitoring cases of IRS contractor UNAX cases and for not assessing the risks of the IRS's method for transferring taxpayer information to contractors.

"Until IRS remediates these weaknesses, it will have limited assurance that taxpayer information is protected appropriately," the watchdog said of the IRS's deficiencies.

The IRS did not respond to a request for comment on the GAO's findings.


The latest GAO report follows a TIGTA review of how the IRS stores old tax records, which contains the embarrassing finding that the tax agency has lost track of thousands of microfilm cartridges containing millions of sensitive business and individual tax records of Americans.

The TIGTA report, issued in early August, faulted the IRS for being sloppy in the way it handles sensitive taxpayer information that could be used by criminals to commit identity theft and tax fraud.

"The IRS is not in compliance with records management requirements," TIGTA said in the report.

It points to "significant deficiencies" in the way the IRS safeguards, stores, and accounts for microfilm cartridges that are used to backup and store photographic records of sensitive business and individual tax information.

"Deficiencies result in the inability of the IRS to account for thousands of microfilm cartridges containing millions of sensitive business and individual tax account records," the watchdog report states.

In one shocking example of these "significant deficiencies," the IRS was unable to account for a whopping 9,500 microfilm cartridges containing business tax account information at a Kansas City facility.

With up to 2,000 photographic images per cartridge, that put the potential number of missing images of sensitive business tax account information at 19 million.

In light of the startling findings, the watchdog recommended that the IRS carry out a detailed inventory of all microfilm cartridges on hand, including microfilm disposed of or missing.

IRS management agreed to do so by Oct. 15, 2023, pledging to also include a full reconciliation matching microfilm logs provided by vendors with physical microfilm cartridges.

Overall, the watchdog made 13 recommendations, including ensuring that microfilm cartridges are properly stored and preserved.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

All three County Commissioners moved into Executive Session “for the purpose of considering the purchase of property for public purposes and the sale of [their] property at competitive bidding pursuant to O.R.C.121.22(G)(2)” at 10:08 a.m . Returning at 10:55 a.m, they announced “NO ACTION” to a small group of attendees, including media and an announced candidate for one of the two Commissioner positions currently held by incumbents Ralph Spidalieri and Timothy Lennon to be decided in 2024. Reelection of two incumbents is yet to be determined by Spidalieri’s bid for a fourth term and Lennon’s bid for a third consecutive term.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

All three Geauga County Commissioners and County Administrator returned from a 13-minute Executive Session at 10:03 am at today’s public meeting “for the purpose of discussing the discipline and/or termination of a public employee in the Department of Water Resources.”

Commissioner’s Clerk Christine Blair read the final outcome in a voice clearly amplified by proper microphones (video clip below) to declare the parting of ways with Michael Kurzinger effective September 12, 2023.


After the County’s disciplinary investigation of Kurzinger, based on the Policy and Procedure Manual, resulted in the resignation of a county employee, Commissioners hired an outside attorney based in Columbus.

Kurzinger’s Defense Attorney, Ian Friedman, in 23C000109 filed July 18, 2023 has completed Discovery with the first Criminal PreTrial Management Conference to be completed November 1 at 1:30 pm and the Jury Trial currently scheduled December 4, 2023, at 8:30 am, when County Prosecutor Investigators, FBI agents, and multiple witnesses from the Auditor’s Office and Department of Water Resources would present their information during a criminal trial.

Although there was no evidence of any prior convictions, Kurzinger allegedly engaged in a “continuing course of criminal conduct” over a nearly fourteen year period from May 1, 2008, until April 12, 2022, resulting in executed federal search warrants on May 3, 2023; Kurzinger’s being placed on paid administrative leave followed by unpaid administrative leave.

Geauga Commissioner Lennon noted that Kurzinger’s actions have been “improper at the minimum,” after current county events require full attention without any further distractions or disruptions (see story here).

Editors’ Note: The time period of 2022-2023 has created a number of relevant questions in relationship to Regionalism. We have witnessed a number of personnel appointments and retirements at the county level as the cost of more financial obligations and legal entanglements agreements loom for the November 7, 2023, Kenston levy, whose payments based on inflationary 2023 residential and agricultural land revaluations threaten to wreak more havoc starting during real-estate tax collection in February and July 2024.

Certainly, the confusion and chaos we have witnessed in Geauga County are just the beginning.

It is imperative that voters stay alert.

The only dumb question is the question that alert taxpayers felt too embarrassed or intimidated to ask of their elected leadership. . . especially when their representatives face reelection.


Sunday, September 10, 2023
By Tom Ozimek

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that, thanks to a new funding boost, it's launching a "sweeping, historic" tax enforcement initiative using artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies to catch tax evaders more effectively.

"There is a sea change taking place at the IRS in every aspect of our operations," IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a Sept. 8 statement, which notes that the tax agency has completed a top-to-bottom review of its enforcement efforts and is girding to catch people "abusing the nation's tax laws," thanks in part to cutting-edge tech.

"The changes will be driven with the help of improved technology as well as Artificial Intelligence that will help IRS compliance teams better detect tax cheating, identify emerging compliance threats and improve case selection tools to avoid burdening taxpayers with needless 'no-change' audits," Mr. Werfel said.

The new enforcement thrust is said to focus on higher-earning Americans and big corporations, with the IRS pledging not to increase audit rates for people earning less than $400,000 per year.

This has been an oft-repeated promise in the face of Republican assertions that working-class taxpayers would be subjected to tougher enforcement thanks to the tens of billions of dollars in additional IRS funding.

As part of the new enforcement crackdown, the tax agency said that it would prioritize cases involving taxpayers earning over $1 million but with recognized tax debt of more than $250,000.

The IRS said that, as it expands its effort to target higher-earning Americans, it has already identified 1,600 or so millionaires who owe hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes—in part thanks to the deployment of cutting-edge technology.

The IRS' AI Facelift

The IRS said it expects AI tools to help boost tax enforcement of large partnerships, in particular.

To that end, complex computer algorithms have already been used by the agency to assist with identifying targets for tax enforcement.

The IRS said that "cutting-edge machine learning technology" has already played a role in helping the agency flag and open investigations into 75 of the largest partnerships in the United States, each with over $10 billion in assets on average.

"With the help of AI, the selection of these returns is the result of groundbreaking collaboration among experts in data science and tax enforcement, who have been working side-by-side to apply cutting-edge machine learning technology to identify potential compliance risk in the areas of partnership tax, general income tax and accounting, and international tax in a taxpayer segment that historically has been subject to limited examination coverage," the IRS said in the announcement.

The Inflation Reduction Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022 initially included around $80 billion to expand the IRS' budget over ten years, drawing Republican ire that some of that money would go to hiring an "army" of tax enforcers who would reach for low-hanging fruit and target ordinary Americans rather than wealthier, more financially sophisticated taxpayers who are trickier to audit.

That $80 billion in additional IRS funding has since been pared down to around $60 billion due to the debt-ceiling deal struck between President Biden and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which clawed back $10 billion in each of calendar years 2024 and 2025 from the tax agency's appropriations.

Part of the money being pumped into the IRS is to give it a technological facelift, as outlined in a 150-page strategic operating plan (pdf) released in April that promises to use some of the funds to deliver "cutting-edge technology, data, and analytics to operate more effectively."

Mr. Werfel said in a memo to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that part of what is now a $60 billion cash infusion would buy artificial intelligence tools and that “technology and data advances will allow us to focus enforcement on taxpayers trying to avoid taxes, rather than taxpayers trying to pay what they owe.”

In the plan, the IRS focused mostly on the customer service aspects of the technology boost, pledging to improve the taxpayer experience by introducing chatbots, online portals, and electronic notice responses.

However, the agency also said in the plan that it expects its technology-driven enforcement to boost tax collections and revenue for government programs.

That plan is now fast becoming a reality, according to Mr. Werfel's latest remarks on Sept. 8.

"The nation relies on the IRS to collect funding for every critical government mission—from keeping our skies safe, our food safe and our homeland safe," Mr. Werfel said.

"It's critical that the agency addresses fundamental gaps in tax compliance that have grown during the last decade," he added.

According to IRS estimates, taxpayers in America pay around 85 percent of the total taxes they owe, with the difference between what is owed and what is paid known as the tax gap. Between the years 2014 and 2016, the IRS estimated that the annual tax gap was around $496 billion.

Treasury said in a note (pdf) on the IRS' strategic operating plan that a lack of modern digital tools had negatively impacted various aspects of the IRS' operations and that the agency would see its technology continue to be improved in the years to come in part to help enforce tax laws.

More Details of New Enforcement Thrust

Besides expanding high-income and large partnership compliance, other key elements of the IRS' new enforcement initiative include prioritizing digital assets, FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) violations, and labor brokers.

As part of the enforcement push, the IRS is expanding its Digital Assets Compliance Campaign, targeting taxpayers involved in digital currency transactions. The move comes in the wake of last month's release of proposed regulations regarding broker reporting for digital assets.

“We need to make sure digital assets are not used to hide taxable income, and the proposed regulations are designed to provide a clearer line of sight into activities by high-income people as well as others using them,” Mr. Werfel said in an Aug. 25 press release.

The IRS said Friday that initial reviews of taxpayer compliance in the digital currency sector have raised concerns, with a potential non-compliance rate as high as 75 percent among taxpayers identified through record production from digital currency exchanges.

Accordingly, the agency is looking to increase the number of digital asset cases it develops for compliance work going forward.

Also, the IRS is turning its attention towards FBAR violations, especially among high-income taxpayers.

Under current regulations, U.S. individuals with a financial interest in foreign financial accounts exceeding $10,000 must file an FBAR to disclose their holdings and related taxes.

Recent IRS analysis of multi-year filing patterns has identified hundreds of potential FBAR non-filers, many of whom maintain account balances averaging over $1.4 million.

The IRS said it has also identified a concerning trend in the construction industry, where some contractors make payments to apparent subcontractors through "shell" companies that lack legitimate business relationships.

To tackle this issue, the IRS plans to expand its scrutiny in this area with a combination of civil audits and criminal investigations.

While the IRS' new enforcement plan makes no mention of additional staffing, the $60 billion in extra funding has already bolstered the IRS' ranks substantially, with hiring up around 13 percent over the past year, hitting a decade-high of nearly 90,000 employees.

The IRS has said earlier it plans to hire 20,000 people over the next two years, with around one-third of them earmarked for tax enforcement.


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Always acknowledging his staff for “making the budgeting process more transparent and accountable to [Geauga] taxpayers,” Auditor Charles Walder also conceded that one or more Commissioner appointees not subject to the will of Geauga voters that “his hope for progress” has been delayed and even subverted by a paid appointee. As an appointee and not an elected official, the County Administrator will never be subject to the will of the voters.

In fact. several actions taken by the County Administrator since March 2022 have demonstrated his negative impact on the Geauga County budget and morale. “He didn’t sit silent when his staff assured me that our 2023 cyber initiatives would be funded by the Commissioners. He didn’t sit silent when he accused my staff of attempting to perform a hostile takeover of water resources and he didn’t sit silent when accusing my staff of being the cause of the McFarland shutdown. “ He didn’t sit silent when he promised to fund the Dragos investigation of that incident. . .” followed by his signed complaint “suing me and two of my staff members, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars” while removing $242,000 already approved for ADP needs in the 2023 budget.

The 2024 Geauga County Budget, however, requested “$36 million of projects lacking detail, timeline, or accurate status” while failing to identify $7.36 million in county income/revenue.

Because the 2024 Geauga County budget fails to demonstrate a $36 million “need,” Auditor Walder explained his negative vote as the only way to identify lack of transparency to Geauga taxpayers. Ultimately, Jim Flaiz and Chris Hitchcock voted to approve an apparently faulty budget that will require careful monitoring and/or “return of moneys to the taxpayers.”

Geauga taxpayers have the privilege/obligation to monitor county spending and unregulated delegation of power to appointees, who are NEVER answerable to Geauga voters.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

On Tuesday, September 5th, Auburn Township Trustees voted to remove a 1 mill road levy from the upcoming ballot on November 7th. As explained to Mr. Cavanagh by the Prosecutor’s Office, the levy had expired in 2019. However, taxes were still collected for the last five years without a valid levy.

Is there a penalty for collecting tax monies without a valid tax levy?

Sometime in 2024, there will be a new Auburn road levy, with the potential of collecting more monies than the original now defunct levy.

See the presentation below for the Auburn Trustees’ explanation.



Wednesday, September 6, 2023
By Morgan Trau | Ohio Capital Journal

A Mastercard being mailed out to FirstEnergy customers raised red flags for consumers. OCJ/WEWS dove in to see if it was real or a scam.

This is the second fact-checking story OCJ/WEWS has done on FirstEnergy payments.

About the settlement

Many Northern Ohioans were included in a nearly $50 million settlement from FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor, FirstEnergy’s former spin-off. This also included FirstEnergy-owned companies like Cleveland Electric, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison. Consumers sued the companies because FirstEnergy bribed lawmakers to pass a law benefiting them, which increased the price of their services.

This June, former House Speaker Larry Householder got 20 years in prison for his role in the state’s largest bribery scheme. He accepted a $61 million bribe from FirstEnergy and other utilities in exchange for a $1.3 billion bailout to help their struggling nuclear power plants.


FirstEnergy’s bribery scandal settlement payments are mainly coming from a “sketchy” but legitimate email link. At the beginning of August, OCJ/WEWS verified that the digital card was real.

Once OCJ/WEWS aired this story, the official website of the class action settlement updated its site to inform consumers of the payment method.

Then Thursday, OCJ/WEWS shared that customers were having trouble accessing the money.

After that report, FirstEnergy customer Michael Hernandez reached out with another concern.

“There are so many scams out there you don’t know what to believe,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I got a hold of you guys and wondered, is this a scam?”

He didn’t receive the email that OCJ/WEWS previously reported on but was sent a letter. It had a Mastercard with it and explained briefly about the settlement.

“It’s different than the usual one that comes in the mail when I get my credit card or my debit card,” he said.

Case Western Reserve University consumer protection law professor Cathy Lesser Mansfield explained anything that seems “off” should make the consumer pause.

“You have to be very careful,” Lesser Mansfield said. “The scams are so sophisticated these days that you sometimes can’t know what’s a scam and what isn’t.”

The red flags were raised for Hernandez.

“The letter said nothing about any amount of money,” he said.

Not having the settlement amount made the letter seem suspicious and not personalized to him.

So, is it real?


One of the attorneys from the lawsuit confirmed to OCJ/WEWS that it is legit.

If FirstEnergy did not have an email address for a customer’s account, they mailed the card instead.

The vendor was supposed to put the dollar amount on the letter but forgot to, the attorney added. The cards were then mailed before a claims administrator caught the error.

“They definitely should have done this a different way,” Hernandez said. “They should have put it in your bill.”

The attorney in the lawsuit agreed — and actually tried to push for that. However, FirstEnergy fought adamantly against putting the money back through utility bills.

This would require tedious steps through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, according to the attorney.

How much did Hernandez get? Under $8. The average amount is just $15.

“What a crock; $7.80,” Hernandez said. “Government, Edison and Harbor win again.”

Accessing money

OCJ/WEWS reported Thursday that some ratepayers feel they are being victimized twice due to how difficult it is to use the money.

If a customer received a physical card, they are in a much better position to use their money than if they received a digital one.


• Money can only be used for online purchases

• Unable to deposit the money into a bank account or cash apps like Venmo

• Cannot get cash from it

• Can be added to a digital wallet like Apple Pay

• After having the card for one year, the company has a monthly inactivity fee of $3.95.


• Money can be used online or in person, with exceptions

• Exceptions: ATM, gas pumps, cash access and for recurring payments

• After having the card for one year, the company has a monthly inactivity fee of $5.95.

If a customer is getting more than $250.00 from the settlement, they will be mailed a check.

Click here for a thorough PDF on how to access your money.

Mother, Daughter to Receive $100,000 Settlement in Landmark Secret Gender Transition Case

Monday, September 4, 2023

A California school district that was sued over allegations teachers and staff at Buena Vista Middle School in Salinas, Calif., coached an 11-year-old girl to socially transition to a male gender identity settled with the girl and her mother for $100,000.


The lawsuit, filed on June 14 last year, named Spreckels Union School District, the principal at the school, and two teachers as defendants.

Jessica Konen, the child’s mother, came forward after a leaked audio recording revealed the two teachers telling other educators about how they secretly recruited students into the school’s LGBT club at a California Teachers Association weekend conference in Palm Springs in October 2021. The CTA event was billed as the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities.” The two teachers were later suspended and no longer work in the district.

Ms. Konen told The Epoch Times she’s relieved that a settlement has finally been reached.

“It’s a massive victory across America for myself, for my daughter, and for other parents experiencing similar situations,” she said. “Our voices made a difference.”

While she is grateful to the Center for American Liberty for taking on the pro-bono case, she said the battle for parental rights has only begun.

“I just feel social transitioning done in secrecy is the real evil. We need to get rid of it, period. So, the fight must continue,” she said.

Her daughter, Alicia Konen, who is now 16, echoed her mom’s sentiments, saying she’s ready to put the experience, which she described as “evil” and “horrible,” behind her.

According to the Center for American Liberty and allegations in the lawsuit, Alicia was recruited to join an “Equality Club,” where she was taught about bisexuality, transgender identities, and other LGBT concepts when she was in the sixth grade.

Alicia began to use a male name and pronouns and wore a chest binder under boy’s clothes.

School staff finally called a meeting the last day before winter break during Alicia's seventh grade year and demanded that Ms. Konen refer to her daughter by a male name and male pronouns, she said.

“I was definitely intimidated,” she said.

Ms. Konen recalls feeling awkward and stressed when she was tagging Alicia’s Christmas gifts.

She wanted to be supportive to her daughter but wasn’t ready to call her by a male name and pronouns, so she wrote “Baby” and “Sweetheart” instead.

“I was an emotional wreck trying to process everything. I was scared to mess up or to use the wrong pronouns,” she said. “I never used the male pronouns, and I never used the name.”

Ms. Konen warned parents to “be vigilant,” talk to teachers, and pay attention to what’s happening at local school board meetings.

About 200 parental rights demonstrators marched through downtown Los Angeles to protest secret gender transitions in California public schools on Aug. 22, 2023.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to show your values and your opinions,” she said.

She also urged parents to get more engaged in their children’s lives.

“We need to fight for our kids, because if we don't fight for our kids, they’ll fight for our kids,” she said. “Be close to your child, because somebody wants to get closer.”


Alicia’s social gender transition began when she went to see a school counselor because she was feeling depressed, she told The Epoch Times.

“I was told by the counselor—it was brought up that I was sad because I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, and that’s kind of where it all started,” she said.

Alicia was “pulled away” from her schoolwork, and the counselor who she said was working with the school to “socially transition kids,” put her on a Gender Support Plan, known as a GSP, which required school staff to use a male name and pronouns when referring to her, and to allow her to use the unisex teachers’ restroom instead of the girl’s facilities.

“I was advised by the school not to tell my mom, and I was given articles on how to hide a social transition from my mom,” she said. “I was extremely confused, and honestly very scared. I wanted to tell my mom, and continually said I wanted to tell her, but I was encouraged to keep it a secret. ... The school said that my mother wouldn’t support me.”

But, throughout the ordeal which lasted for more than a year, Alicia believed her mom would support her no matter what.

“She loves me. She went through this whole fight for me, and that just shows really how much she supports me, how much she loves me,” Alicia said. “It was horrible what I went through, and not a lot of people know how it feels to have to hide stuff from your mom, especially when you have as close of a bond as we do.”

Alicia said she has felt better about herself since she left middle school and entered high school where she is “actually able to focus on my academics.”

And she is comfortable with her gender.

“I am 1,000 percent a girl. I am Alicia. That is who I am, and no one can ever change that,” she said. “I feel free finally. I feel like I’m not under control by anybody. I can finally move forward with my life and be happy.”

The Konens hope their high-profile case will draw attention and encourage other families to challenge state and local school board policies that exclude parents from their children’s lives.

“I think that throughout the country there will be a lot more coming forward, realizing that they were never alone,” Ms. Konen said. “There are people out there who are hurt.”

The settlement means they’re both able to talk more freely about their experience and have considered writing a book.

“It is a complete passion of mine to continue to spread awareness,” she said.

Alicia said she feels “extremely bad,” for other children who were socially transitioned at school.

“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to come out and speak about this case, because I want to be a voice for the people who feel like they don’t have a voice.”

Ms. Konen said the school staff took advantage of her daughter’s young mind and vulnerable state, which she called “a form of brainwashing,” and didn’t tell her that Alicia was having suicidal thoughts.

If parents are kept in the dark about their children’s problems, they won’t be able to help support them or get them the therapy they need, she said.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” Ms. Konen said, “What if something happens that is irreversible? ... If a child only has the support of schools, what happens when they go home? What happens when they have those bad days? What happens when they're confused at home?”

The best way to prevent youth suicides is for school staff and parents to work together, Ms. Konen said.

“If everyone’s included, then that is in the best interest of the child—not hiding it,” she said. “The secret stuff has to go.”

A spokesperson for the Spreckels Union School District was not immediately available for comment.


Eric Sell, a civil rights attorney at the Center for American Liberty who represented the Konens, told The Epoch Times the school district settled the case based on the underlying allegations in the lawsuit but hasn’t admitted any fault or liability.

“What happened to Alicia, Jessica is hard to quantify. It’s hard to put a dollar value on it,” he said.

But the $100,00 settlement will serve as a deterrent for other school districts that continue “to propagate these policies and keep parents in the dark,” Mr. Sell said. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time a school district has had to pay a family money for secretly transitioning their kid behind their backs.”

The Center for American liberty is interested in such cases because it has seen a systematic erosion of parental rights, “particularly by government actors and schools,” he said.

The problem is “really apparent” in California in public schools where gender ideology is “infecting schools” and “pushing kids towards dangerous decisions and dangerous life paths,” he said.

Children, who may or may not fully weigh all the consequences of their actions, are making decisions that can potentially lead to medicalization or surgery and irreversible damage to their own bodies, he said.

“We’re seeing so much of this that ... the Center for American Liberty has decided to focus some of its time and resources on combating this specific problem,” Mr. Sell said.

He said "it's absurd" that California Attorney General Rob Bonta has sued Chino Valley Unified School District over its parental notification policy requiring school staff to inform parents within a few days if their child changes his or her gender identity at school.

“The Supreme Court has consistently held that parents have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” states the Center for American Liberty on its website.

“This includes the right to have a say in whether their children’s school socially transitions them to a different gender. Parents are denied that right when schools think they know better than parents how to raise their children and intentionally hide information from moms and dads.”


Sunday, September 3, 2023
By J.D. Davidson | The Center Square

Ohio’s largest manufacturing trade group thinks legalizing recreational marijuana would lead to higher business costs and more workplace injuries.

The Ohio Manufacturers Association voiced its opposition to Issue 2, a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would make recreational marijuana legal, saying it would harm the manufacturing industry across the state.

Due to concerns regarding workplace safety, worker absenteeism, increased insurance costs, and the already lagging rate of workforce participation, the OMA board has voted overwhelmingly to oppose the effort to legalize recreational marijuana,” OMA President Ryan Augsburger said. “America counts on Ohio manufacturers’ innovation and productivity. Legalizing recreational drug use would significantly impact the Buckeye State’s No. 1 industry.”

Issue 2 would legalize the growing, manufacturing and sale of marijuana for recreational use for those 21 and older. It would also add a 10% tax on the sale and limit the number of plants per person to 12.

If passed by a simple majority of voters, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana use.

The OMA pointed to a study on medical marijuana in the workplace from the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine that showed increased workplace accidents in states that have legalized marijuana.

The group also said a report by Quest Diagnostics found the number of marijuana-positive drug tests performed after workplace accidents soared 204% from 2012 to 2022.

In a recent report by 24/7 Wall Street published by The Center Square, 1.9 million people in Ohio aged 12 and up have reportedly used marijuana in the last year – or 19.6% of the 12 and older population, the 19th highest usage rate among states.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Frank LaRose certified the number of signatures needed to put the question on the November ballot.

In May, a bipartisan bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state was introduced in the Ohio House. It has not come to a vote.


Sunday, September 3, 2023
Brett Rowland | The Center Square

Synthetic opioids estimated to be 10 times more potent than fentanyl are creeping into the illicit drug market in the U.S., according to new research.

"Synthetic opioids, such as the fentanyl analog and nitazene drug class, are among the fastest growing types of opioids being detected in patients in the emergency department with illicit opioid overdose," researchers warned in a paper published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.

Nitazenes were developed in the 1950s as opioid analgesics, but were never approved to market, according to another study published this summer. That paper notes that "a characteristic of nitazenes is their high potency (e.g., hundreds to thousands fold more potent than morphine and other opioids and tenfold more potent than fentanyl)."

"Clinicians should be aware of these opioids in the drug supply so they are adequately prepared to care for these patients and anticipate needing to use multiple doses of naloxone," according to the JAMA Network Open study by Alexandra Amaducci, Kim Aldy, Sharan Campleman and others.

In the study of 537 overdose patients in the U.S. from 2020 to 2022, researchers found nine people tested positive for nitazenes such as brorphine, isotonitazene, metonitazene, or N-piperidinyl etonitazene. That's about 1.7% of the total. Of the 537 patients, 11 were found to only test positive for fentanyl – about 2%.

Why nitazenes are showing up in the illicit drug supply is unclear, but researchers said it may be the result of changing regulations.

"The exact motivation to produce nitazenes and brorphine are unclear," according to the study. "The increased regulation of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues throughout the last decade may have led to a change in the chemical precursors required for clandestine laboratory production that were not yet regulated. This change in chemical precursors may have led to these newer and more potent opioids."

The study found that people who overdosed on nitazenes and other novel potent opioids may require more naloxone to reverse overdose symptoms.

"These findings suggest that [novel potent opioids] may have a higher potency than fentanyl due to the observed naloxone administration in the clinical setting of overdose," according to the study. It also noted that "further study is warranted to confirm these preliminary associations."

"Furthermore, this preliminary data underscores the urgent need to study [novel potent opioids] in a larger, future cohort," the authors wrote. "These data suggest that [novel potent opioids] may have higher potency than fentanyl and by extension heroin.


Friday, August 25, 2023
By Marty Schladen | Ohio Capital Journal

From a lack of control over narcotics to expired drugs on the shelves, inspectors at the Ohio Board of Pharmacy have found more problems at what appear to be chronically understaffed CVS pharmacies.

The new inspection reports from four Ohio pharmacies are in addition to reports finding similar problems at nine others that the Capital Journal reported on in July. In those reports, inspectors described mass departures by frustrated, burnt-out employees who said they didn’t think they could do their jobs safely and didn’t feel supported by CVS management.

Several current and former CVS pharmacy employees made similar complaints to the Capital Journal and said that the corporation seemed to be more focused on maintaining profits than it was on protecting patients.

For its part, CVS maintains that it strives to uphold the highest standards of patient service and safety.

“As we’ve previously stated, we’re working with the Board of Pharmacy to resolve allegations raised from prior inspections at select CVS Pharmacy locations, we have policies and procedures in place to support prescription safety, and we’re committed to ensuring there are appropriate levels of staffing and resources at our pharmacies,” spokeswoman Amy Thibault said in an email Friday.

But the pharmacy board seems skeptical.

Earlier this month, it proposed sweeping new rules that were prompted in part by what it found in its inspections of Ohio CVS stores. An important one is aimed at limiting wait times for prescriptions to be filled to 72 hours after inspection reports found numerous 14-day waits and some that were as long as a month.

One of the newly released inspection reports details the unexplained loss last year of nearly 1,000 doses of controlled substances at CVS store No. 16660 in Rossford, a Toledo suburb. They include 499 doses of Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, and 275 doses of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone.

The report said that the loss of 413 Alprazolam tablets was discovered on Nov. 12, 2021, but not reported until Jan. 4, 2022, nearly two months later.

On April 14, an inspector spoke to CVS’s asset protection leader about the losses. That person said they “were due to operational error at the pharmacy. He did not know why the losses were reported months after discovery. He reported the losses to CVS’ regulatory office and the office later reported to the Board,” the report said.

CVS, which owns the largest pharmacy retail chain in the United States, has been accused of using other business units to cut drug reimbursements in order to drive smaller competitors to sell out to CVS. Regardless of whether that’s actually the case, CVS for the past five years has been buying up and closing its competitors and moving prescriptions at those pharmacies to existing CVS stores.

In 2021, CVS also announced that it would also close 900 of its own stores in the United States over the next three years and move those prescriptions to remaining CVS locations as well.

But as it has heaped loads of new work onto its remaining pharmacies, it’s unclear whether it’s added staffing to help deal with the extra work.

A Board of Pharmacy report dated Aug. 16 said that Store No. 6153 in Columbus “absorbed prescriptions from CVS No. 342 which closed in August 2022.”

It added that the consolidation increased the prescription workload by at least 63%.

“The pharmacy went from filling 2,500 to 2,700 prescriptions per week to filling 4,400 prescriptions the week ending October 15, 2022,” it said.

A Dec. 8, 2022 inspection found conditions consistent with understaffing.

• “Drug shelves were dusty, cluttered, and overflowing.”

• “Pharmacy aisles were lined with stock bottles and trash (prescription inserts, foils, bits of paper, and loose pills).”

“There were 1,372 prescriptions in the work queue. The pharmacy dispenses an average of 700 prescriptions per day. The pharmacy was five days behind in the work queue.”

Thibault, the CVS spokeswoman, didn’t answer directly when asked whether the store added staff after it absorbed 63% more prescriptions from store No. 342. Similarly, the company’s spokespeople wouldn’t respond directly to earlier employee claims that they’re frequently told to cut hours even when employees are available and that district and regional managers receive bonuses based in part on keeping down labor costs.

Another of the reports released last week indicates similar cluttered, dirty conditions that could be related to understaffing — this time at CVS store No. 6183 in Springfield. It also underscored how high turnover that is often associated with understaffing can lead to the lack of controls over dangerous drugs.

During an inspection on Feb. 1, inspectors found that an inventory of controlled substances hadn’t been conducted since the previous April. That was the case even though there was a change of “Responsible Person,” or head pharmacist, in December and one was required to be done then.

A former CVS pharmacist last month told the Capital Journal that the lack of such controls — along with erratic doublechecks called “cycle counts” — could allow narcotics to disappear from pharmacy shelves in a way that’s impossible to trace.

Yet another inspection report released last week details further problems likely associated with understaffing at CVS store No. 6086 in Lebanon.

On Sept. 29, 2022, inspectors found “multiple expired drugs, including Colesevelam hydrochloride 626mg, armour thyroid 2 grain tablets, quinapril 40mg tablets, and quetiapine 200mg tablets, were in the active drug stock. They had expired between June 1, 2022 and August 30, 2022.”

After a subsequent inspection, they told the pharmacist in charge, “On or about October 20, 2022, you dispensed expired heparin 5000u/mL injections to Patient A.B. Patient A.B. administered one dose of the expired heparin 5000u/mL injection.”

Heparin is a blood thinner and if it’s expired, it can put an unsuspecting patient at risk by being less effective. Even so, a follow-up visit on Nov. 7, 2022 indicated that the problem with expired drugs persisted.

“Multiple expired drugs, including creams and ointments, were in the active drug stock,” the report said. “They had expired between August 2022 and October 2022.”

It’s not only CVS that seems reluctant to staff pharmacies at adequate levels. Opinion polling submitted by the Board of Pharmacy along with its proposed rule changes suggests that it’s a problem among the big chains, with their obsession with profits and relentless cost-cutting.

One was a 2021 survey asking Ohio pharmacists whether they agreed with the statement, “I feel that the workload-to-staff ratio allows me to provide for patients in a safe manner.”

Almost 90% of those working for large chains responded that they didn’t have enough staff to keep patients safe. By contrast, almost three quarters of small-chain and independent pharmacists said they were adequately staffed to protect patients.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023
By John Karlovec | Geauga County Maple Leaf

In a startling change of events, prosecutors have asked the court to dismiss a sexual battery charge against a Chester Township police officer accused of having sexual contact with a teenager while on duty because the state law making it a felony for a peace officer to have sex with a minor more than two years younger than the officer was ruled unconstitutional in 2016.

In a startling change of events, prosecutors have asked the court to dismiss a sexual battery charge against a Chester Township police officer accused of having sexual contact with a teenager while on duty because the state law making it a felony for a peace officer to have sex with a minor more than two years younger than the officer was ruled unconstitutional in 2016.

On Monday, Lake County Prosecutor Charles E. Coulson, who Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Paschke had appointed as special prosecutor in the case, filed a motion to dismiss the case against Chester Township police officer Nicholas J. Iacampo, 29, of Painesville, pending further investigation.

“The reason for said request is that the case cannot be prosecuted as charged,” Coulson wrote in his two-page motion.

“Defendant is presently charged with sexual battery, a felony of the third degree, in violation of Ohio Revised Code 2907.03(A)(13). In 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) is unconstitutional on its face. State v. Mole, 149 Ohio St.3d 215, 74 N.E.3d 368 (2016),” Coulson explained. “Despite the ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court, R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) remains in the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Legislature has not amended, corrected or otherwise appealed subsection (A)(13). Because R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) is unconstitutional, this case cannot proceed against defendant as presently charged. Therefore, the state moves this honorable court to enter a nolle prosequi on the above-captioned case, pending further investigation.”

Retired Wayne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Wiest, who is presiding over the case, scheduled the motion for oral hearing at 10 a.m. Aug. 18, the original date and time set for Iacampo’s preliminary hearing, according to the Chardon Municipal Court docket.

When reached for comment, Iacampo’s attorney Ian Friedman told the Geauga County Maple Leaf, “We respect the legal process and have no further comment at this time other than to say that we will appear in court on Friday pursuant to the Judge Wiest’s order.”

Iacampo was arrested the evening of Aug. 6, after the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office received a report involving serious allegations against a Chester Township police officer.

“These allegations involved a teenage complainant while the officer was on duty,” Chester Township Police Chief Craig Young said in an Aug. 7 press release.

The sheriff’s office contacted Young’s department, triggering an immediate investigation. In collaboration with Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, Young said the Chester Township Police Department requested assistance from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a third-party investigation.

That investigation, conducted by a Lake County sheriff’s detective, found Iacampo engaged in sexual conduct with a minor who at the time of the incident was 16 years of age.

The conduct allegedly took place in the parking lot of the Church of the Blessed Hope on Wilson Mills Road in Chester Township, according to law enforcement sources.

“Furthermore, the accused admitted to the offense while speaking with detectives,” the detective stated in a complaint filed with the court.

The complaint against Iacampo cites a violation of Ohio Revised Code section 2907.03, which states, in part, that no person shall engage in sexual conduct with another if “the other person is a minor, the offender is a peace officer and the offender is more than two years older than the other person.”

Iacampo, who has been placed under immediate administrative leave following his Aug. 6 arrest, had been released from the Lake County jail after posting bond.


In a 4-3 decision in “State v. Mole,” the Supreme Court of Ohio found a provision in Ohio’s sexual battery statute applying to peace officers — ORC section 2907.03 — violates the equal protection clauses of the Ohio and U.S. constitutions. Writing for the majority, then Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor noted other provisions of the sexual battery statute, such as those that apply to a teacher, a cleric or a mental health provider, require an occupational relationship with the minor, while the peace officer provision applies even when there is no occupation-based relationship between the peace officer and the victim.

The supreme court affirmed the decision of the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which found the conviction of Waite Hill police officer Matthew Mole unconstitutional and overturned his two-year prison sentence.

In separate dissenting opinions, Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Judith L. French wrote the General Assembly only had to have a rational basis for establishing the prohibition and that holding peace officers to a higher standard of conduct is enough justification to pass constitutional muster.

In the Mole case, Mole first encountered a minor identified in court documents as J.S. when J.S. initiated a conversation with Mole through a mobile phone dating application. J.S. claimed to be 18 and a high school senior, but was 14 at the time. Mole was 35.

Mole visited J.S. at the teen’s family’s home at 3 a.m. J.S. led Mole to an unlit sunroom at the back of the house where they engaged in sexual activity. Soon thereafter, they were discovered by J.S.’s mother, and Mole then first learned J.S. was 14.

It is undisputed that Mole never told J.S. that he was a peace officer, and that J.S. did not know that Mole was a peace officer, according to court documents.

The jury deadlocked on an unlawful sexual conduct charge against Mole, but found him guilty of sexual battery under ORC section 2907.03.

In her majority opinion, O’Connor explained lawmakers have a right to classify groups of individuals and set different standards of treatment for those classes, but the constitution only permits those classifications if there are legitimate reasons for them.

The court did agree peace officers occupy a unique position of public trust that calls for special standards and penalties in certain circumstances.

“But we do not agree that a person’s status as a peace officer justifies the imposition of different sexual-conduct standards for peace officers in circumstances in which the officer’s status is irrelevant,” O’Connor wrote. “The sexual conduct at issue here was unrelated to Mole’s professional status. And the jury’s failure to convict him of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor makes clear that, but for his status as a peace officer, Mole would not be subject to criminal liability for the sexual conduct at issue in this case.”

O’Connor reiterated peace officers must accept certain burdens as part of their employment in order to maintain the honor and privilege of being peace officers and to foster public trust.

“They do not lose all of their rights as ordinary citizens, including their constitutional right to be treated equally under the criminal law, simply because they have chosen the profession of peace officer,” she wrote.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023
By Amy Patterson | Geauga County Maple Leaf

Former Geauga Public Health employee Mark Citriglia recently filed a lawsuit accusing members of the Geauga County Board of Health and GPH Administrator Adam Litke of unethical and unlawful activity.

Citriglia — who was program manager for operations and maintenance for GPH — filed the complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. He alleged self-dealing from members of the board, retaliatory actions following whistleblower complaints and a “vindictive and retaliatory conspiracy” to drive him out of his position.

In addition to Litke, the suit names GPH as a defendant, along with former health board members David Gragg and Dr. Patricia Levan; former board President Rich Piraino; current board members Dr. Ashley Jones and Lynn Roman; current board President Carolyn Brakey; interim Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Cameron; and Patrick Kasson, an attorney employed by the board.

“In May 2021, Ashley Jones, the daughter of septic system installer Frank Klarich and the husband of septic system designer Trevor Jones, was appointed to the board,” Citriglia said in the complaint. “Ashley, who is quite influential, immediately (started) questioning the O&M program and started to sway the board’s opinion regarding implementing the program.”

Citriglia said all questions from Jones related to the O&M program were answered in emails copied to all board members.

In May or June of 2021, Citriglia said he performed a household sewage treatment system evaluation at a property on Sherman Road for which Piraino was the real-estate agent representing the buyer.

“The initial inspection indicated that the system was working effectively, but some of the components needed to be identified,” the suit claims. “On Aug. 18, 2021, defendant Piraino demanded that (Citriglia) falsify an inspection report that (Citriglia) had prepared so that the owner of a home on Sherman Road could access escrow money to install a new sewage system, rather than repairing the existing sewage system.”

Citriglia alleges when he refused to falsify the inspection report, Piraino verbally attacked and harassed him. That same month, Citriglia said Piraino invited Gragg and Klarich to meet at the Sherman Road property.

“Mr. Klarich, serving as a ‘consultant’ to Richard Piraino, verbally attacked (me), stating that the inspection was wrong and the system should not pass inspection,” Citriglia said. “Failing the system would allow the buyer access to the seller’s escrow money for a new system.”

But, when former Environmental Health Director Dave Sage and former Health Commissioner Tom Quade supported his inspection results, Citriglia said Piraino exhibited “hostility toward (him) in all of their subsequent interactions.”

Citriglia said he reported the issue to Sage, then his supervisor, who, in turn, reported it to the health district’s legal counsel. After reporting his concerns to supervisors and other management-level GPH employees, Citriglia filed, between October 2021 and February 2022, reports with the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Piraino did not respond to an email requesting comment before press time. Jones said she could not speak on pending litigation matters pertaining to the board.

In February 2022, Citriglia said he was formally reprimanded for “alleged discourteous treatment toward members of the public,” which he identified specifically as Klarich Farms’ team members.

Citriglia said in November of last year, he attempted to check his work email account, but found he was locked out.

“He, nonetheless, proceeded to work and upon arriving, learned that his key card had been deactivated,” the suit said.

Environmental Health Director Dan Lark met Citriglia in the building lobby and informed him the board had voted to place him on administrative leave pending an investigation and that he was to have no communication with GPH employees.

“(Citriglia) was given no indication of what he had done wrong, how long he would be on leave, who was performing the investigation or how long the investigation would last,” the lawsuit said. “Litke walked past (Citriglia) and Dan Lark in the lobby and saw what was transpiring but offered no information.”

Citriglia alleged the manner in which he was placed on leave violates GPH policies. Specifically,  employees being placed on administrative leave are supposed to be informed of their suspension at the end of the day, not the beginning, and should not be locked out of the computer system, the suit said.

“They are supposed to be told the reason for their suspension; and they are supposed to be given a letter and information on who to contact if they had questions,” it added.

Citriglia also accused the board of unlawfully entering an executive session in November 2022 — an accusation made in a previous lawsuit filed by Geauga resident Mary Briggs in April. That suit was dismissed with prejudice Aug. 1 by Court of Common Pleas Judge David Ondrey.

“It is the policy of Geauga Public Health and the board not to comment on pending litigation,” Brakey said Aug. 7.


Wednesday, August 9,2023

Ashtabula, Delaware, Geauga , Lake, Medina, Portage, Stark, Mahoning, Erie, and Trumbull County voters turned out on Primary Day, August 8, pretty much to speak their minds after the House Bill 6 Debacle of several years ago tipped them off that a “yes” vote could bite them in the butt. In the end voters paid attention to the language and distrusted the premise that the voters of just one county could destroy any attempts to bring a citizen initiative to amend the 1912 Ohio Constitution.

In the end the huge population centers, like Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery, and Highland Counties demonstrated that voters may have become disenchanted with following a party line,

In general, Ohio appears to be headed to become the bellwether regarding the issues of pro-life and pro-abortion. Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s apparent conflicts of interest and lack of success generating clarity of purpose about absentee ballots and/or failing to keep himself out of the confusion were not helpful. In the meantime, those who have actively supported abortion rights have lavished about $35 million to demonstrate their passion. The November 7 Ohio ballot will be the only state to ask voters to decide on the legality of abortion within 20 weeks of gestation.

When the 2023 political season is finally behind us and County Boards of Election bemoan the cost of making the election process possible, there will probably be plenty of stories to commemorate the local and county errors of Party Politics.

According to a U.S.A Today poll, 58% of those responding approve of abortion rights. 81% of those identify as registered Democrats and 32% identify as registered Republicans.


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

A 2012 West Geauga High School graduate installed as a Chester Township Police Officer at a February 2019 Chester Trustee meeting was arraigned yesterday after being accused on a sexually-related complaint. The complaint regarding Chester Officer Nicholas Iacampo’s actions while “he was on duty,” resulted in an arrest by a Lake County detective in collaboration with Chester Township Police. |Nicholas Iacampo, a veteran of more than four-years of ;service with Chester Township, was released from jail on Monday, August 7, after posting of a $50,000 bond on one count of third-degree felony violation of ORC 2907.03.

Iacampo, through his attorney Ian Friedman, noted that he would be returning to his Painesville home. His next court hearing in August 17. Iacampo was placed under paid administrative leave. Chester Police Chief Craig Young has promised transparency in this case.

At Geauga Prosecutor Flaiz’ request, Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson has been appointed as Special Prosecutor as the latest investigation unfolds.

Nicholas Iacampo is a son of long-time Chardon Municipal Court Judge, Terri Stupica.



Saturday, July 29, 2023
By Jack Phillips

Starting next week, Americans won’t be able to buy incandescent light bulbs anymore because a federal ban on the 140-year-old technology will go into effect starting Aug. 1.

It won’t be illegal to own incandescent light bulbs, it just will be illegal for stores to sell those products and for companies to manufacture them in the United States.

In January, the federal government started issuing warnings about the Aug. 1 cutoff date, claiming that a ban on the bulbs would help Americans will save money and will help the environment. Everyone will now have to purchase either LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs instead, according to the new rules.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy (DOE) said in a news release that “once these light bulb rules are in place, [the] DOE expects consumers to save nearly $3 billion per year on their utility bills.” It added, “In addition to delivering significant cost savings for households, schools, and businesses, these energy efficiency actions also advance President Biden’s climate goals.”

The rules, it claimed, will cut carbon emissions by about 222 million metric tons over 30 years, or the ” equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year. LED lightbulbs also last longer than incandescent bulbs.

The DOE completed its rulemaking last April. However, the full enforcement of the rule is starting Aug. 1, while the department said it has given manufacturers time to comply with its mandate to phase out incandescent bulbs to produce and sell LEDs and fluorescent ones.

Manufacturers who violate the federal rule could face a maximum penalty of $542 per incandescent bulb, according to reports.


The fight over incandescent light bulbs has been going on for years. In the last days of the Obama administration, for example, it took action to finalize bulb efficiency requirements before then-president Donald Trump halted the move; it was revived under Mr. Biden’s agenda.

In 2019, Mr. Trump said that LED bulbs “that we’re being forced to use” are “no good,” joking: “I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.” When the rule was killed by the Trump administration, the DOE said that it would “ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government.”

The average cost of an LED bulb ranges from $5–7 each while an incandescent light bulb normally costs from $2–3, according to a LifeHacker report. Officials have stressed that LED bulbs can save people money in the long term because they last longer and require less energy than incandescent ones.

Republicans, meanwhile, have been critical of the move and said that it’s another example of the federal government’s overreach. Earlier this month, Republicans in the House of Representatives held a hearing that highlighted the ban on bulbs and recent regulatory action against gas stoves as well as other appliances.

“I’m happy the Department of Energy is out here, making sure that we can all save money because we’re too dumb to figure out how to do it ourselves,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) told the hearing.

Environmentalist groups cheered the rule when it was announced, saying that LEDs use less energy.

“We are long overdue to phase out inefficient old-fashioned light bulbs,” said Joe Vukovich, an energy efficiency advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement at the time. “LED bulbs, which will replace the old incandescents, use one-sixth the amount of energy to deliver the same amount of light and last at least 10 times longer.”

And hardware store owners have said that they’ve predicted that a ban on incandescent bulbs would be coming for years now.

“We saw this coming a long time ago, tried to phase them out for a while,” Gary Straus, the owner of Straus Paint & Hardware in New York, told The Hill earlier this year. “It will save energy, and it will be cheaper in the long run,” he claimed.

One lawyer, Daniel Eisenberg, issued a warning that the federal government now “can go after you if you’re a brick-and-mortar store, an online retailer, a distributor, an importer. They can go after anyone in the [supply] chain they want.

“It’s going to impact a much wider sector of the economy than the typical Department of Energy appliance efficiency standard does,” Mr. Eisenberg, an attorney with Beveridge & Diamond PC, told E&E News this week.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a group that represents retail stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, told E&E News that members are complying with the federal rule.

“The DOE one-year enforcement discretion seems to have been sufficient time for most of our members,” Melissa Murdock, a spokesperson for RILA, told the outlet. “We haven’t heard additional concerns from retailers on this recently.”


Friday, July 21, 2023
By Marty Schladen | Ohio Capital Journal

Attorneys are continuing to battle over documents regarding how Ohio’s former top utility regulator spent and spoke about $4.3 million he received in 2019. The company paying it later said the money was a bribe made in exchange for official action.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in a class-action suit against Akron-based FirstEnergy want to know what Sam Randazzo, Gov. Mike DeWine’s first appointee to chair the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, did with the money as part of their lawsuit over one of the largest bribery and money laundering conspiracies in Ohio history.

FirstEnergy and other Ohio utilities paid more than $60 million through dark money groups between 2017 and 2019 to make then-Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, speaker. From that perch, Householder shepherded and protected a $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout that mostly was intended for FirstEnergy.

Householder last month was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role helping to lead the conspiracy. Former GOP Chairman Matt Borges was sentenced to five years for his more minor role.

Both men are appealing, while more indictments in the case are expected.

The plaintiffs in the class-action suit — a big group of pension and investment funds — are claiming that the reckless conduct of FirstEnergy’s leadership harmed their investments and cost them big money.

For its part, FirstEnergy fired several of its top executives and signed a deferred prosecution agreement in 2021 admitting to its role in the conspiracy and agreeing to pay $230 million. The corporation’s new leadership now seems to want to forget the episode.

In an interview published Tuesday in the Akron Beacon Journal, new CEO Brian X. Tierney called the racketeering conspiracy a “trauma” and said, “I think the company has done a good job taking responsibility for what happened, entering into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice, owning up to what happened, taking steps to ensure that that doesn’t happen again, making changes in management, making additions to management and making sure that something like that never happens here again.”

The former private-equity executive added, “So that now allows us to focus on the future and put that past behind us.”

Not so fast, the plaintiffs in the class action suit and a few of the fired former executives said in a motion filed on June 30, the same day Borges was sentenced.

The plaintiffs joined with former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and Vice President Michael Dowling in demanding that FirstEnergy produce the report from the internal investigation it conducted after Householder, Borges and others were arrested. Jones and Dowling haven’t been charged, but in court filings, they’ve said they’re objects of the feds’ ongoing investigation.

The former executives and the class-action plaintiffs argued that FirstEnergy has selectively disclosed parts of its investigation to throw some employees under the bus, while concealing others to protect executives and board members who are still running the company — despite Tierney’s desire to “put that past behind us.”

As part of their effort, the class-action plaintiffs want to know what Randazzo, the former PUCO chairman, did with the $4.3 million that FirstEnergy admitted was a bribe — and what he told others about it during the conspiracy and during the 17 months following Householder’s arrest.

Just before and while he was the state’s top regulator, Randazzo played a major role in drafting legislation providing the corrupt bailout to utilities he was supposed to be overseeing. In a sign that problems persist at the PUCO, the agency was asked during Householder’s trial if it had a policy against commissioners and staff writing utility legislation. It apparently does not.

“The PUCO is a state agency and will always be responsive to requests for information or technical assistance to the Ohio General Assembly on matters related to utilities and commercial transportation,” spokesman Matt Schilling responded.

The class-action plaintiffs and Randazzo’s attorneys have been going back and forth since April 5 over what Randazzo must do “to produce any documents regarding the $4.3 million payment within (his) possession, custody, or control.” They’ve also disputed the time period that covers.

In May, Randazzo disclosed that he paid about $1.5 million to the U.S. Treasury in taxes. He said he made another $2.1 million in mortgage payments and he lent his daughter’s restaurant $100,000.

But even as he did, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Jolson slammed the former PUCO chairman for what she saw as a lack of cooperation. She wrote that his conduct so far, “does not suggest good-faith compliance with their discovery obligations.”

The plaintiffs still want to know what Radazzo was communicating to others about the payment — and not just up until the time his condo was searched in November 2020, but until the end of 2021. In addition, the class-action lawyers demand that Randazzo hire a contractor to search the cloud for communications, instead of simply searching devices from which messages presumably might have been deleted.

After all, the class-action attorneys said in a July 14 motion, Randazzo had long been a recipient of FirstEnergy largesse when Gov. Mike DeWine nominated him to be the state’s top utility regulator in early 2019.

“FirstEnergy Corp… has admitted that it paid Randazzo (through his two shell entities… ) over $22 million to do nothing — and that money is on top of Randazzo’s earnings from his decades-long career as a lawyer,” the motion said. “Actually, FirstEnergy has admitted that the final $4,333,333 it paid Randazzo was to do something — something illegal by selling out his position as Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.”


Tuesday, July 18, 2023 updated July 22, 2023 @ 12:30pm

Michael Kurzinger, a 36-year employee of Department of Geauga Water Resources, today received an indictment of 6 counts from Geauga County Grand Jury announcement made public this morning, Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

After an anticipated raid by federal agencies in early May 2023, current Geauga County Commissioners Lennon and Dvorak announced that Kurzinger was to be denied access to his old stomping grounds, the Department of Water Resources, as an internet technology administrator until the federal investigations were completed.

Although federal authorities have not apparently completed their investigations, the Geauga County Grand Jury by Commissioner meeting time had announced its indictment of Kurzinger on 6 counts alleging unlawful interest/conflict of interest in over $400,000 in awarded contracts

Former Water Resources Director, Steve Oluic announced his resignation from that post effective July 8, 2023, resulting in the appointment of Interim Director, Nick Gorris, Sanitary Engineer, on July 11, 2023.



Commissioner Jim Dvorak dropped a brief bombshell after the BOCC meeting adjourned at 10:30 am. He revealed that an internal audit had discovered a highly questionable $275,000 influx of cash from the BOCC in late December 2019. That cash influx, subject to repayment within 5 years, still remains unsatisfied to the tune of $205,000

The current InteragencyTransit Service Agreement (pdf) between Laketran and the Geauga County Board of Commissioners, was originally unanimously approved Geauga Commissioners on March 7, 2023, to become effective July 1, 2023, following its approval on February 27, 2023, by a Laketran board vote of 7-1. As Laketran Executive Director, Ben Capelle, has played a major role in bringing the Laketran/Federal Transit Authority/Ohio Department of Transportation opportunities to advance Regionalism and to foster the new awareness of terms like Social Justice and Underserved Communities in the agreement. Geauga Commissioners have heard Mr. Capelle present his support for Laketran's control of Geauga Transit over the last year.

Section 1(b) of the Interagency Agreement clearly states, "Laketran shall have NO responsibilities of ANY kind to make payment of any debt or other obligations with respect to the operation of the public transportation system in Geauga County which may have been accrued [i.e., $205,000 ] prior to the time of this Agreement."

When personally reached by Mr. Dvorak by phone prior to the meeting, Mr. Capelle noted his oral commitment "to wipe the slate clean" and pay back the $205,000 "cash transfer" because he/Laketran really had no need for the extra dark money.

We will report back as events unfold… If the "$205,000 loan" is determined to be illegal, Auditor Walder has stated the need for his staff to restate Geauga County's Annual Financial Reports for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 for the sake of transparency.

UPDATE July 19 at 3pm: First Addendum to Interagency Agreement 
UPDATE July 22 at 12:30pm: Video of Commissioner Dvorak


Sunday, July 9, 2023
By Marilou Johanek | Ohio Capital Journal

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is a federal prisoner. That should give all the others in state government with their hands in the cookie jar pause, right? A once all-powerful Statehouse boss faces 20 years behind bars for orchestrating the biggest public corruption scandal in Ohio’s history. That’s deterrence enough for Householder’s political colleagues to walk the straight and narrow, no?

If only. The national news flash Ohio made last week when a federal judge threw the book at the ex-speaker may have raised a few eyebrows in Columbus but not many. Malfeasance in public office moved from shocking to systemic years ago in the state.

The dirty dance of lawmakers, lobbyists, and undisclosed donors is the culture of the capital. Ambitious pols enriching themselves and advancing their careers through dark money webs and corrupt activity that flies under the radar is “business as usual,” argued Householder’s attorney.

His client (and former lobbyist/Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges) just got caught dead to rights with outrageous bribery and racketeering. But they are far from the only ones motivated by greed and power to bend the law for lucrative paybacks. Back door, under-the-table, out-of-sight deal making is writing legislation now that is bought and paid for by special interests.

It’s business as usual in Ohio and getting worse.

It’s how Householder’s billion-dollar bailout of a major utility became law and withstood repeal. FirstEnergy is an influential powerhouse in Ohio politics. For decades it has greased palms with big campaign checks to reap corporate dividends. Ohio House Bill 6 was a pinnacle achievement.

But nothing about HB 6 was above board from the beginning — and everybody knew it. Those intimately engaged in shepherding the bill through the legislature were well aware of the aggressive efforts the utility giant and its affiliates were leveraging to win passage of HB 6. The measure was custom-made for one company angling for government handouts to prop up two old, uncompetitive nuke plants.

FirstEnergy had to close the deal. So it laundered over $60 million through an elaborate web of dark money groups to get it done. Householder orchestrated the scheme, spearheaded HB 6 through the Statehouse and helped himself to a gusher of ill-gotten gains. He was an easy mark for the Akron-based company that long understood how determined politicians could be bought for a career boost.

Householder and countless others in the General Assembly and statewide office gladly accepted FirstEnergy’s money to triumph at the polls. In 2018, FirstEnergy pumped $1 million into groups that helped elect Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, according to a Dayton Daily News investigation.

The utility also supported DeWine’s daughter’s failed bid for county prosecutor.

In 2019, the governor came through for FirstEnergy. He was an unfailing champion of HB 6. He appointed the state utility regulator FirstEnergy lobbied for despite warnings about Sam Randazzo’s extensive ties with the company.

DeWine stood by his PUCO pick even as reports surfaced about the chairman pocketing a pre-appointment bribe from FirstEnergy (which the utility later admitted was $4.3 million) to draft HB 6 and get it over the finish line. The nuclear plant bailout on the backs of Ohio ratepayers passed. Business as usual.

FirstEnergy kept the pressure on and the money flowing to stop a ballot initiative that threatened to scrap the corporate swindle. Government subsidies for FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants were greenlit to go in 2019. But by then the feds had gotten wind of Householder’s criminal enterprise to pass HB 6 and get elected speaker.

It was public corruption on a history-making scale. The scope of the racketeering conspiracy to buy political power in exchange for $1.3 billion in utility subsidies was stunning. A stealthy maze of nonprofits laundering untraceable dollars to elect Householder loyalists, to buy votes for the bailout bill and to poison subsequent efforts to repeal it.

The avarice of the twice-elected House speaker, flush with obscene amounts of cash and control, undid him and the pay-to-play operation he thought was his ticket to fame and fortune. Householder was seduced by the possibilities of what else “anonymous rivers of money” could buy for him personally and politically and even plotted a constitutional change that would extend his speakership years beyond current term limits.

Yet tellingly, even after prominent legislative leader was arrested and indicted in the staggering bribery and racketeering probe, House Republicans quibbled on whether his offenses really rose to the level of removal from the chamber. One adamant defender of Householder insisted members could only be expelled for “disorderly conduct” which, he implied, did not include being federally indicted for selling legislation.

The corrupt speaker lost his coveted leadership post but remained in office as a voting representative for nearly a year before fellow lawmakers finally kicked him out of state government. HB 6, the rotten-to-the-core legislation Householder was paid to enact, still remains the law in Ohio — minus the nuke subsidies which were reluctantly removed.

But a utility-friendly rider to the scandal-plagued HB 6 — that forced ratepayers to subsidize two money-losing, hyper-polluting coal plants to the tune of $400 million so far — is here to stay. One of those plants sits in the current Republican speaker’s district and he’s fine with the bailouts tucked in a bill at the heart of Ohio’s largest bribery disgrace.

Business as usual.

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.


Sunday, July 9, 2023
By Morgan Trau | Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has signed the state’s nearly $200 billion budget, but he issued more than 40 vetoes ranging from higher education policy to health care management.

The main focus of both the House’s and the Senate’s budgets was education. The Senate plan was much more conservative, while the House plan was bipartisan. After a week and a half of negotiations, an agreement was reached on the two-year, $191 billion budget. The budget is projected at $86 billion for fiscal year 2024 and $105 billion for fiscal year 2025.

The governor kept the majority of the provisions the same; this includes education funding and most of the tax cuts.

“I think this budget is about putting money into the economy,” House Finance Chair Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said. “It’s about allowing our Ohioans to keep money in their pocket while also maintaining a social safety net for people in need in our most vulnerable population. I think we land in a good spot.”

Edwards explained that he tried to compromise between the Senate’s conservative budget and the House’s bipartisan one — which meant ultimately sending a budget to DeWine that is Republican-focused but does give some Democratic wins.

“Let’s hope he doesn’t veto anything,” Edwards said with a smile on Friday.

Well, the governor issued 44 vetoes Tuesday, helping each side of the aisle.

For Democrats, he vetoed a provision that would ban cities from creating their own tobacco laws. This isn’t the first time he has vetoed this bill.

Back in January, DeWine vetoed a bill that banned municipalities from regulating flavored tobacco.

“Candidly, though, we’re dealing now with young people’s lives,” DeWine said at the news conference. “When a local community wants to make the decision to ban these flavors to protect their children, we should applaud those decisions.”

For Republicans, he vetoed Medicaid coverage of doulas.

“The DeWine-Husted Administration supports the legislative intent of this item and intends to regulate the practice of doulas and require Medicaid coverage of these services,” DeWine wrote. “Several provisions included in the language, however, are unnecessary and would impede ODM’s ability to quickly provide access to these needed services for pregnant and new mothers.”

Also, the veto was requested by the sponsor, he added.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said that the budget has already unfairly cut Medicaid funding.

“It looks like it’s at least $1 billion cut to Medicaid at a time when we… [have] $6 billion in surplus,” she said. “Why in the world would we cut the funds from a program that lifts people up?”


Other major vetoes include changing the sales tax holiday. Lawmakers originally extended the holiday to two weeks and increased the number of products that fall underneath it. The governor said he supports this but still vetoed it because he wants the tax commissioner to choose the length.

The governor also vetoed a provision within the income tax rate reduction. As it was written, the code required the tax commissioner to set personal income tax rates and brackets. DeWine said that is unconstitutional.

Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) also needed a specific callout, as “this veto closes an unintended potential loophole, open to exploitation through tax planning.”

OCJ/WEWS reached out to the governor’s team, and the spokesperson clarified that the governor’s tax vetoes won’t kill the full policies, allowing for the tax cuts to still be workable.


DeWine also vetoed several provisions related to higher education. The first would remove OSU student trustees from having voting power. Republican lawmakers did this because they say the university is too liberal.

DeWine said the OSU board should decide who gets voting rights. However, Antonio notes that there is still a provision that takes away the State Board of Education’s voting rights.

“Their members across the state are going to be rendered basically with hardly any responsibility,” she added. “I hope that people would be very outraged that their voices are being ignored and taken away.”

Another controversial provision was a student’s right to decline vaccines required for enrollment or residence in a dorm at a public or private university. DeWine vetoed and said this “may compromise the overall health and safety of students, residents, staff and faculty at the institution.”

Educators have told OCJ/WEWS they are happy about this veto.


Sunday, July 9, 2023
By Marty Schladen | Ohio Capital Journal

At least eight CVS pharmacies in Ohio are so understaffed that they have seen rampant turnover, dirty conditions, lack of controls over dangerous drugs and wait times as long as a month for prescriptions, according to reports by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

The waits have been so long that a harried CVS pharmacist in Wooster said he was “actively triaging prescriptions to ensure lifesaving, life-sustaining medications are filled in a timely manner.”

In one case, pharmacy workers told inspectors they begged their superiors — unsuccessfully — to close their pharmacies so they could catch up. In another, a pharmacy did intermittently close, making it impossible for patients to get their medicines during the closures.

In another instance, Board of Pharmacy inspectors couldn’t tell if employees were stealing controlled substances. In yet another, they couldn’t tell if CVS was improperly billing insurers for scripts it didn’t fill.

And in several additional cases, inspectors repeatedly found expired and adulterated drugs on pharmacy shelves and filled prescriptions that gave patients the wrong instructions.

“Corners are cut to dispense prescriptions,” at least one employee at Toledo’s CVS store No. 10246 told investigators last year. Workers there added, “Supervisors/District Managers do not respond to staff calls for help,” the report said.

The accounts come from inspection reports going back to 2020 that the Capital Journal obtained under the Ohio Public Records Act. At least some of the inspections came in response to patient complaints to the board, which licenses Ohio pharmacies.

The inspections come after CVS — already the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer — has for years bought up competitors, closed them and moved the prescriptions of the closed pharmacies to existing CVS stores. Critics raised concerns about the practice, known as “buy and close,” at least as early as 2019.

“Staff at this location was not increased,” a pharmacist at Dayton’s CVS store No. 2528 said last September after the store had absorbed two other closed pharmacies’ prescriptions. She quit the following month.

For its part, CVS didn’t answer questions about specific allegations in the reports, which it referred to as “isolated incidents.”

“We’re working with the Board of Pharmacy to resolve allegations of isolated incidents, most of which date back a year or more,” Amy Thibault, director of communications for CVS Pharmacy said in an email Wednesday. “The health and well-being of our patients is our number one priority.”


Pharmacies across the country found themselves under siege as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the spring of 2020. They were conducting tests and, when they became available, providing COVID vaccines in addition to already administering those for flu and shingles.

At the same time, some pharmacy employees were reluctant to work face-to-face with the public in a health care setting — especially before there were vaccines against a disease that has killed more than 1 million Americans.

But according to the Board of Pharmacy reports, turnover in the CVS stores they investigated seemed particularly bad. And it seemed to be linked to stress from overwork — as well as the parent corporation’s inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.

For example, when an inspector arrived at CVS store No. 2063 in Canton on Sept. 13, 2020, the staff was so harried that it took them 20 minutes to even acknowledge the inspector. The staff said that the store had lost a pharmacist and six technicians “within a short time.”

As workers scrambled, they sweltered in a pharmacy in which the air conditioning unit was broken and an alarm in a drug cooler failed to warn them that it was too warm at 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Pharmacy staff and an assistant store manager stated they have asked district leaders to close the store down temporarily to get caught up filling prescriptions as well as clean and organize the pharmacy, but this request was denied,” the report said.

When an inspector returned to the pharmacy on Oct. 29, 2021, things had only gotten worse.

“All pharmacy staff that was present for the September 2021 inspection quit or transferred out of CVS #2063,” the report said.

Even more alarmingly, understaffing there created delays that easily could have harmed patients’ health — despite workers’ best efforts to “triage” which prescriptions to fill first.

“The pharmacy was over a month behind in filling prescriptions,” the report said.


During the pandemic, conditions were universally difficult for pharmacies, but CVS might have been a special case.

An owner of an independent pharmacy in Northern Ohio said things were rough for everybody, and that he’s still having trouble keeping enough pharmacy technicians on his staff. But, he said, that never led him to consider temporary closures, or anything like the delays filling prescriptions and other problems seen at some CVS stores.

The pharmacist depends on CVS Caremark — the corporation’s gargantuan pharmacy benefit manager — for his business and asked not to be named. But, he said, he’s talked to CVS pharmacists who have been under pressure so great that it affected their mental health.

The stress appeared to extend even to the upper ranks of CVS’s pharmacy operation.

In July 2021, Ken Sidwell became leader of the district which includes Canton CVS store #2063. When he was interviewed by the Board of Pharmacy, he said the store was short-staffed when he got the job.

Just three months later, Sidwell was gone. On Oct. 29, 2021, the new district leader, Kenneth Cook, told the Board of Pharmacy that the store “is in the process of hiring new pharmacy staff as well as transferring staff from an overstaffed CVS location.”

CVS spokeswoman Thibault said the company’s policies ensure that its stores are not dangerously short of pharmacy workers.

“Decisions about staffing, labor hours, workflow process, technology enhancements and other operational factors are made to ensure we have appropriate levels of staffing and resources in place at our pharmacies,” she said. “We have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to support prescription safety and we continue to make important strides, including using technology to support our pharmacy teams.”


Not only is CVS the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer, its parent corporation also owns Aetna, a top-10 insurer. It’s also buying up medical centers and physicians practices, helping to make it the nation’s sixth-largest corporation.

And crucially for pharmacies everywhere, CVS owns the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, CVS Caremark. It and Express Scripts and OptumRx are estimated to control more than 80% of the marketplace and they’re under investigation for possible anti-competitive practices by the Federal Trade Commission.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, act as middlemen for insurers in the drug supply chain. They decide which drugs are covered, so they have great power to negotiate huge, non-transparent rebates and other discounts from drugmakers.

At the same time, they create pharmacy networks. And, because they control access to so many millions of patients, most small-chain and independent pharmacists think they have little choice about contracting with them on whatever terms the big PBMs choose.

“Take-it-or-leave-it” contracts, the pharmacists call them.

CVS has long said that it maintains strict firewalls between its retail and PBM operations, but small pharmacy operations in Ohio and elsewhere aren’t so sure.

After seeing their reimbursements from CVS Caremark plummet in late 2016, CVS’s “Acquisition Unit” in 2017 sent many of its competitor pharmacies letters saying that it knew times were hard for them and offering to buy them out.

In many instances, CVS didn’t put its sign on the store it had just purchased. CVS instead closed the stores and folded all of their prescriptions into an existing CVS pharmacy.

Some pharmacists call the practice “buy and close.”

In 2019, when CVS bought 20 stores owned by Medina-based Ritzman Pharmacy and closed all but three, critics said it was classic buy-and-close.

Two of the now-closed pharmacies were in Wooster, one of the cities in which inspectors now find problems in a still-open CVS pharmacy. Three more — in Sugarcreek, Millersburg and Dover — were to the rural south of Canton and Massillon, where CVS stores found themselves seriously stretched in the years since.

Mount Vernon-based Conway’s Pharmacy in 2019 partnered with Knox County to open a pharmacy in Danville on the edge of Amish Country after CVS bought and closed the only pharmacy there a few years earlier. The closure meant that Danville residents — many poor, disabled or both — had to drive 20 minutes or more to get their medicines or to consult with a pharmacist.

Such practices have fueled fears that pharmacy deserts are being created in Ohio and elsewhere.


The constant churn in CVS staffing found by Board of Pharmacy investigators led to breakdowns in accounting for dangerous drugs, including opioids, the inspection reports said.

For example, between June 10 and Sept. 22, 2022 Dayton’s CVS store No. 2528 reported 75 oxycodone, 100 hydromorphone and 70 amphetamine pills were missing. In each instance, “CVS Pharmacy was unable to determine a reason for the loss,” the inspection report said.

For most of that period, no “Responsible Person” was in charge.

The role is as the name implies. The Ohio Administrative Code says, “The Responsible Person shall be responsible for the practice of the profession of pharmacy, including, but not limited to, the supervision and control of dangerous drugs as required…”

That person would normally be the managing pharmacist at a drugstore. But for months after May 26, 2022, there was no such person at the Dayton CVS, according to the report. Inspectors interviewed pharmacist Jean Getter, who said she was asked to serve as temporary manager after the previous Responsible Person, pharmacist Tyler Philo, left.

Getter said that even though she wasn’t the Responsible Person, she asked for help sorting out the safe that contained controlled substances because “it was a mess.”

“She asked the previous Responsible Person and also the District Leader about cleaning up the safe, but it never happened,” the report said.

An inventory of dangerous drugs is supposed to be conducted whenever there is a change of Responsible Person at a pharmacy, but that kept not happening at the Dayton CVS, Getter said.

“No one ever became the permanent Responsible Person, which is why Ms. Getter left CVS in August,” the report said.

Then Pharmacy Board investigators interviewed Philo, the previous Responsible Person and learned something even more confounding.

“He was not aware (four months after he left that) he was still listed as the Responsible Person for CVS Pharmacy #2528,” the report said.


Board of Pharmacy inspectors also found serious potential problems in CVS stores’ tracking controlled drugs — including the kinds of drugs that have fueled Ohio’s opioid crisis.

Some problems were as simple as leaving deliveries of dangerous drugs at the front of the store for nine hours because pharmacy staffers were too busy to get them. But others might have been more sophisticated.

At Toledo CVS store No. 10246, inspectors conducted, “Multiple audits consisting of 241 controlled substances were conducted by representatives from the Board between on or about November 11, 2021 and on or about April 27, 2022.”

In 42% of cases, they found that too much or too little of the drugs had been provided. They discovered “significant losses” of amphetamines and the painkiller tramadol.

“Additional losses and overages were discovered, some of which were reported to the board, but many were not reported at all, or not reported in a timely fashion,” report said. It added that auditing what happened to controlled substances was difficult “because CVS records showed multiple significant inventory adjustments and changes in medication counts…”

Counter intuitively, investigators found that on some days when controlled substances were delivered to the Toledo pharmacy, inventories of the drugs actually went down. That might indicate “diversion” — a term used in the industry for stealing drugs.

“It remains questionable if counts were entered as negative numbers in error, or if staff were entering negative numbers to mask the diversion of drugs received on that day,” the report said.

In the same store, inspectors discovered chaotic conditions.

On repeated visits, inspectors found “expired/adulterated” medications on pharmacy shelves and workers told them they hadn’t had time to address the issue. The inspectors also painted a picture of general chaos.

“Shelving for drug storage had collapsed and medications were crushed beneath the shelving units. Drug stock crowded the aisle floors,” the report said, adding, “The counter used for non-sterile compounding was overflowing with (over-the-counter) medications and return-to-stock bottles. Staff food and beverages were also stored in this area. Moldy/rotting food was found on the counter.”

Beyond delays and lacking controls, inspectors found another problem at the store that could endanger patients’ health.

Inspectors on March 3, 2022 reviewed 49 prescriptions filled at the store. They found that seven “had errors in the directions to patients.”

And when inspectors talked to employees, they heard echoes of the complaints at other CVS pharmacies they’d visited.

• “The pharmacy is always short staffed.”

• “The workplace was described as hectic. There is no downtime to catch up on tasks.”

• “Morale among store employees is poor.”


When inspectors visited CVS store No. 8248 in Massillon in late 2021, they found a pharmacy so understaffed that “the pharmacy would close intermittently,” meaning “patients were unable to pick-up/receive their prescriptions.”

They again found confusion over who was legally responsible.

“The Responsible Person, Abbey Yannerella, was listed as the Responsible Person at this location as well as CVS #2063; however, she was no longer working at” the Massillon store, the report said.

They found something else that raised serious questions.

The store in October 2021 had more than 2,000 prescriptions waiting to be filled, the oldest of which had been waiting for 13 days. A month later, the pharmacist on duty told inspectors that after scripts go unfilled for 14 days, they’re “deleted from the queue.”

The inspectors found one such prescription that was labeled “Print Ready.”

“The prescription’s status indicating ‘Print Ready’ means the prescription was processed through insurance,” the report said. “When a prescription is deleted from the queue, the pharmacy does not reverse the insurance claim.”

CVS didn’t respond directly when asked how often scenarios like this occur — or whether it routinely bills insurers for prescriptions it fails to fill for two weeks and then deletes from its system.

On Nov. 28, 2021 a new Responsible Person, pharmacist Nayan Patel, had been named. He told investigators that the deletion of prescriptions after 14 days was a requirement of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He added that the scripts are placed back into the queue after their deletion.

However, “When asked to explain this process further, he could not elaborate,” the report said.

Then on Feb. 4, 2022, the Board of Pharmacy learned that Patel was Responsible Person for two CVS pharmacies without the special permission required by the board. When the board notified a CVS district leader of that fact, “The district leader notified the board Mr. Patel is no longer the Responsible Person of” Massillon CVS store No. 8248, the report said.


The board has notified CVS that it can impose penalties ranging from fines to revoking their licenses as a “Terminal Distributor of Dangerous Drugs” at each of the locations in which it found violations.

So far, CVS store #3613 in Columbus received a $1,000 fine and a written reprimand last August, Board of Pharmacy spokesman Cameron McNamee said in an email Thursday. The violations outlined in that report seem considerably less severe than those found in some other CVS pharmacies.

Violations found at CVS’s Canton store No. 2063 — where staff turnover was particularly rampant — are slated to be considered at the board’s Nov. 7-8 meeting McNamee said.

Hearings for the other stores are yet to be scheduled.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023
By JIM SALTER | Associated Press

Editors’ note: Please take the time to read the U.S. District court Judgment pdf (Case # 3:22-CV-01213) below.

A judge on Tuesday prohibited several federal agencies and officials of the Biden administration from working with social media companies about “protected speech,” a decision called “a blow to censorship” by one of the Republican officials whose lawsuit prompted the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana granted the injunction (pdf) in response to a 2022 lawsuit brought by attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri. Their lawsuit alleged that the federal government overstepped in its efforts to convince social media companies to address postings that could result in vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic or affect elections.

Doughty cited “substantial evidence” of a far-reaching censorship campaign. He wrote that the “evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’ ”

Republican U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt, who was the Missouri attorney general when the lawsuit was filed, said on Twitter that the ruling was “a huge win for the First Amendment and a blow to censorship.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the injunction prevents the administration “from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans” on social media.

The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive with senior federal officials deciding that they could dictate what Americans can and cannot say on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms about COVID-19, elections, criticism of the government, and more,” Landry said in a statement.

The Justice Department is reviewing the injunction “and will evaluate its options in this case,” said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” the official said. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.”

The ruling listed several government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI, that are prohibited by the injunction from discussions with social media companies aimed at “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

The order mentions by name several officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and others.

Doughty allowed several exceptions, such as informing social media companies of postings involving criminal activity and conspiracies; as well as notifying social media firms of national security threats and other threats posted on platforms.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit also included individuals, including conservative website owner Jim Hoft. The lawsuit accused the administration of using the possibility of favorable or unfavorable regulatory action to coerce social media platforms to squelch what it considered misinformation on masks and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also touched on other topics, including claims about election integrity and news stories about material on a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

Administration lawyers said the government left it up to social media companies to decide what constituted misinformation and how to combat it. In one brief, they likened the lawsuit to an attempt to put a legal gag order on the federal government and “suppress the speech of federal government officials under the guise of protecting the speech rights of others.”

Plaintiffs’ proposed injunction would significantly hinder the Federal Government’s ability to combat foreign malign influence campaigns, prosecute crimes, protect the national security, and provide accurate information to the public on matters of grave public concern such as health care and election integrity,” the administration says in a May 3 court filing.


Sunday, July 2, 2023
By Eric Mack | Newsmax

A white powder was found in the White House's West Wing on Sunday, prompting an emergency hazardous material call to the Washington, D.C., fire department, a U.S. Secret Service (USSS) source told Newsmax.

The substance is now in a lab for further analysis, but it is believed to be cocaine, a source told White House correspondent James Rosen.

Reports had indicated the substance was believed to be cocaine hydrochloride, a hazardous material that is often used as a local anesthetic.

When reached for an official comment, the USSS declined.

"The Secret Service does not comment on an on-going investigation," an email to Newsmax read.


Tuesday, July 4, 2023
By Jason Cohen, Admin |The Ohio Star

China has implemented export limits on two metals utilized in the manufacturing of computer chips and other valuable technological devices, according to an announcement by the country’s Ministry of Commerce on Monday.

The export restrictions on gallium, germanium and their corresponding chemical compounds will officially take effect at the beginning of August, according to the announcement. The controls may increase expenses for hardware producers and exacerbate geopolitical tensions surrounding the competition for groundbreaking computing technology, according to Bloomberg.

In addition to computer chips, manufacturers use gallium and germanium for a vast array of devices including solar panels, lasers and night vision goggles, according to Bloomberg. China is the primary producer of these metals based on its portion of worldwide mining and exporters will require a license to export them, according to the announcement.

The U.S. also relies on China for medical supply chains and the CEO of U.S. defense contractor Raytheon technologies told the Financial Times it would be impossible to break all ties with China.

President Joe Biden’s administration is weighing limits on U.S. exports of artificial intelligence chips to China, The Wall Street Journal reported. Similarly, they would require exporters to have a license.

This move would follow measures the Biden administration implemented in October to curb U.S. chip sales to China that could benefit the Chinese military, according to the WSJ.

The China Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), the country’s primary nuclear weapons research institute, obtained American chips despite the export restrictions, the WSJ reported in January. CAEP has purchased the technology at least 12 times over the past two and a half years.


Tuesday, July 4, 2023
By Susan Tebben | Ohio Capital

With Gov. Mike DeWine spending the day before a holiday poring over a 1,200-page document debating line-item vetos, he had a lot of input from advocacy groups as to the final education budget.

A conference committee of Ohio House and Senate leaders reached an agreement last week, and on the last day of the month, the original deadline for passage of the budget, sent the document on to DeWine with a three-day extension.

Before it even hit the governor’s desk late Sunday night, education groups and some members of the Ohio State Board of Education had already sent messages urging vetos and explaining their lack of support for some parts of the education budget.


Ohio’s biggest teacher’s unions, the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Education Association, joined with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and think-tank Policy Matters Ohio to praise an increase in state funding that landed in the final budget via the Ohio House’s version, but also to express concerns about the private school vouchers expansion.

The groups, all part of a coalition called “All in for Ohio Kids,” called the nearly $1 billion increase in public school funding as part of a phase-in of the Fair School Funding Plan “a monumental step forward,” considering multiple rulings in DeRolph v. Ohio, in which the state’s highest court said the public education system in Ohio was unconstitutional.

“After decades of non-compliance with the Ohio Supreme Court rulings, the legislature is on the brink of finally meeting its constitutional responsibility to fairly fund Ohio’s public schools,” the coalition said in a joint statement.

The funding increases, which also included current data accounting for real-time costs of education disabled students and those for whom English is not their native language, unfortunately don’t distract from the “serious concerns” the coalition said it had about private school vouchers.

The compromise budget included near-universal private school scholarship eligibility, in which households earning up to 450% of the federal poverty level, or $135,000 for a family of four, qualifies for a full scholarship.

The scholarships amount to $6,165 for K to 8 students and $8,407 for high schoolers.

But the financial help doesn’t stop there, even for those families making more than $135,000 annually.

“Scholarships for students in families within incomes above 450% will be means-tested with scholarship amounts adjusted based on their income,” Senate President Matt Huffman’s office said in announcing the new budget. “Every student in Ohio will be eligible for a scholarship worth at least 10% of the maximum scholarship regardless of income.”

House Majority leadership said the program “is designed to safeguard lower-income families and offers options beyond traditional public schools,” according to a statement.

But the teacher’s unions and advocacy groups see the voucher “scheme” as a way to “ensure that state support for our public schools will be diminished to pay for tuition for private school students, no matter how wealthy their family is or how their school performs.”

“Priority should be given to fully implementing the Fair School Funding Plan so that our public schools, where 90 percent of students attend school, receive the resources they need instead of expanding unaccountable private school vouchers,” the coalition stated.


Even before K-12 education comes into play, the child welfare advocates at Groundwork Ohio say more could have been done within the budget to promote child care and preschool.

The group praised the restoration of $47 million the Senate version of the budget had removed in child care/preschool allocations, but pointed to the end of one-time COVID-era federal funding as a “massive cliff” that won’t be accounted for in the new budget.

The fact that the new funding won’t allow the publicly funded child care in the state to serve new children could result in the state “continuing to trail behind the rest of the nation as we only will now offer public support to a family of three making at or below $16.05 per hour when the average cost of infant care is well over $11,000 per year across the state,” according to a Groundwork budget analysis.

“The stark reality is that Ohio’s child care system is no more stable with this budget today than yesterday, despite years of parents, professionals and community leaders sounding the alarm – and the problem only gets worse,” the group said in a statement.

One element of education that did see improvement was the school lunch program. Nutrition advocates are relieved that the conference committee discussions ended in the restoration of expanded school lunch programs, something that was removed by the Senate in the previous budget draft.

The new state budget, barring any unexpected changes from DeWine, will include reimbursements for school districts so that any child eligible for the free or reduced-lunch program can receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, as long as the school participates in the National School Breakfast or Lunch Program.

“Ohio should be incredible proud of this step to expand access to free breakfast and lunch for our students, which will directly support working families and which acknowledges that adequate nutrition is an essential part of every child’s ability to learn, grow and fulfill their potential,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement.

SB 1

It wasn’t just advocacy groups speaking out against the inclusion of language previously a part of Senate Bill 1, which splits the Ohio Department of Education into the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, puts the department under the authority of the governor’s office, and limits the State Board of Education.

Seven of the members of the board wrote a letter to DeWine the day he received the budget asking for him to veto the voucher expansion, along with the “power grab” of changing the the state board’s roles.

“The budget moves educational governance from a primarily elected body, the State Board of Education, to an appointed director who answers to the governor and the legislature,” states the letter from board members Christina Collins, Teresa Fedor, Katie Hofman, Tom Jackson, Meryl Johnson, Michelle Newman and Antoinette Miranda.

Under the senate bill now included in the budget, the board authority would now be mainly limited to teacher disciplinary and licensure cases and territory disputes.

According to the Legislative Service Commission, creating a new director position for the ODEW “may increase annual costs by up to $254,000,” and creating two deputy director position, one for education and another for workforce, could up costs from $151,000 to $189,000 for each position.

Appropriation for the state board would be $14.4 million in fiscal year 2024 and $14.7 million in the next fiscal year, which would be in a “standalone budget” strictly for the board.