Welcome to Auburn Township in Beautiful Geauga County Ohio

News Stories and Events for 2024 July thru September                

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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

During the early hours after midnight on Friday, July 19, 2024, a global crisis affecting Microsoft users of a Cloud-based update system could have found themselves paralyzed and subject to more perilous world disasters. In Geauga County, Sheriff Hildebrandt notified Frank Antonucci shortly after midnight of two server failures and a communication failure that caused 911 systems to become inoperative. Consequently, Auditor Charles Walder notified his tech team of the failure of Cloud-based retention geared to Microsoft, and the whole team, recognizing the potential of a worldwide communication glitch, started to manually restart 120 Geauga servers in Safe Mode to help Geauga County restore its safety and security.

Noting that the decision to move Geauga County to Cloud-based data-retention “was the best decision ADP had made,” Walder praised Cloudstrike for its ability to provide users worldwide with “instantaneous data results.” Consequently, the IT team was able to get 120 servers in stable shape by 6 am Friday morning, July 19. Nevertheless, Mr. Walder and the IT team did not feel on top of the problem until about 2 pm on Friday, July 19. Walder made his team available to answer any questions from Commissioners and attendees at the July 22 Commissioner meeting.

Mr. Walder attributed the failure of Cloudstrike to use a so-called test cell as the reason the company’s CEO might endure unprecedented negative criticism. When Commissioner Tim Lennon noted the inflationary price increase from $114,000 in 2023 to $125,000 in 2024. Auditor Walder noted additional negative financial outcomes to the Cloudstrike glitch: the loss of $340,000 in Geauga County budget dollars, exclusive of additional human labor costs to restore Geauga County’s IT.

As a result, Mr. Walder cited County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz’s willingness to contact Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in regard to initiating class action litigation seeking remuneration from Cloudstrike. He compared any such outcome to the funds distributed to Geauga County as a result of the opiate class-action litigation of several years ago. Mr. Walder suggested that the final outcome of such litigation might result in final discredit for Cloudstrike’s CEO.



July 24, 2024

Geauga County Commissioners approved an $746,488.06 in partial payment to Infinity Construction for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Courthouse Expansion Project.

The Commissioners approved the following additional items not approved in the original contract with Infinity Construction:

1) $9,562.00 for “addition of miscellaneous adjustments to wall sizes, deck heights, filling of unknown building openings and pumps and circuits”

2) $210,346.00 for “additional [unspecified] networking equipment and installation”

3) $72,853.00 for “34 dual and 37 single additional data drops” for an average price of $1026 for each additional data drop.” County Administrator Gerard Morgan defined “data drop” as an electrical outlet. Obviously, a single data drop is a single outlet, and a double data drop is an electrical outlet with double the capacity of a single outlet.

Altogether, the impromptu alterations to Phase 1 and Phase 2 provide Infinity Construction with the promise of an addition three/quarters of a million bucks on the backs of Geauga taxpayers already stretched with increased real estate payments, as well as inflation with all expenditures. . .

Commissioners at the same meeting approved paying Partial Payment for the same Geauga Courthouse Project. This was Payment # 10 for “expenses in the amount of $453,727.06 Expansion Project..” Combined with the $292,761.00 for three Change Orders cited at the beginning of this report, Commissioners approved Courthouse Expansion Project expenses of $746,488.06.

Commissioner Lennon expressed concern about the final prices of the Geauga Courthouse Expansion Project being out of hand and exceeding the original budget, presumably a cap of $15 million. Lennon asked County Administrator Morgan to have an updated report on the initial contract price provided by Infinity Construction and the total costs expended thus far. Morgan agreed to have an update on those total costs for the Commissioner meeting of July 31, 2024.

This is a breaking story, subject to updates as they become available.


Sunday, July 21, 2024
Tom Gantert and Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

President Joe Biden ended his bid for reelection Sunday, opening the door for Vice President Kamala Harris or another top Democrat to replace him atop the ticket.

In a statement posted to X, Biden said he is stepping aside "in the "best interest of my party and the country."

"It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President," Biden said. "And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term."

He also endorsed Harris to succeed him.

"My very first decision as the party nominee in 2020 was to pick Kamala Harris as my Vice President," he said in a second statement. "And it’s been the best decision I’ve made. Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year. Democrats – it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this."

The historic withdrawal comes just weeks before the Democratic National Convention is set to take place Aug. 19 in Chicago, where Biden's pledged delegates will face tough decisions on who to replace him with, regardless of Biden's endorsement.

Concerns over Biden's age, declining cognitive abilities and physical health led more and more elected Democrats in Congress to call for his exit, seemingly on a daily basis. Earlier Sunday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, I-West Virginia, joined the calls for the president to exit the race.

Biden’s support among Democrats began to free fall after his performance in the June 27 debate with former President Donald Trump, when Biden stumbled over his own words and often lost his train of thought.

At a NATO news conference a couple of weeks later, Biden referred to Kamala Harris as "Vice President Trump" when asked if he thought Harris was ready to be president if he were to step aside, one of many gaffes during the summit.

During the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee last week, where Trump officially accepted the GOP nomination for president just days after a failed assassination attempt on his life at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, Biden was hunkered down at his Delaware home, recovering from his third bout with COVID-19.

Biden has not fared well in 12 major polls tracking the 2024 general election in recent weeks, leading down-ballot Democratic candidates for Congress to raise concerns that his declining support could help Republicans to retake the White House and the U.S. Senate and solidify their majority in the U.S. House.

Trump led by an overall average of 3 points in the 12 polls. Biden only led in one poll, where he had a 2-point edge in the NPR/PBS/Marist poll. Trump and Biden were tied in the ABC News/Washington Post poll. Trump led in the 10 other polls as of Thursday.

In The Center Square Voters' Voice Poll of nearly 2,300 likely voters, conducted after the June 27 debate but before the attempted assassination on Trump, Biden's deficit grew to three full percentage points nationally. The poll has a margin of error of 2.1%.

Until Sunday, Biden defiantly opposed calls to step aside.

While his June debate performance seemed to seal Biden's fate, his deteriorating cognitive abilities made news months earlier.

In February, the Report of the Special Counsel investigating Biden’s taking classified documents to his home revealed the president had issues with his memory.

“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” the report stated.

The report also stated, “Mr. Biden's memory also appeared to have significant limitations – both at the time he spoke to [Biden ghost writer Mark] Zwonitzer in 2017, as evidenced by their recorded conversations, and today, as evidenced by his recorded interview with our office. Mr. Biden's recorded conversations with Zwonitzer from 2017 are often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries. In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden's memory was worse. He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 – when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?’). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”


Thursday, July 18, 2024
Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

All Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee have called on its chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to hold a hearing on the circumstances surrounding the assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump.

Led by Ranking Member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, they asked Durbin to hold a hearing to call U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas, Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Christopher Wray as witnesses.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction and oversight authority over all three agencies; the Secret Service falls under the leadership of Mayorkas.

“In light of the attempted assassination of President Donald Trump and the murder and injury of other attendees at a peaceful political event, we urgently request that you hold a hearing into the circumstances that led to this tragedy,” they wrote, calling on him to request Mayorkas, Cheatle and Wray to testify," the letter, dated Monday. said.

“There is much unknown about this attempted assassination, but its occurrence raises alarming questions and concerns,” they said, raising questions about how a “would-be assassin was able to access a nearby rooftop with a rifle and a line of sight to President Trump.”

Because of the committee’s oversight of the federal agencies responsible for security of the president and former presidents, they said the committee “must fulfill its responsibility to investigate this thoroughly and publicly to understand how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. The sanctity of our elections, the safety of our candidates, and the peaceful transition of power in our Republic demand nothing less.”

Graham was joined by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

On the same day as they sent the letter, Durbin said, “This morning, I was briefed by FBI Deputy Director Abbate on the investigation into the assassination attempt on former President Trump. I've requested a closed-door, in-person briefing next week with USSS, DHS, FBI for all Judiciary Committee members when the Senate is back.”

On Wednesday. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said the briefing some senators did have with Secret Service “was unbelievably uninformative. Only 4 questions were allowed. The rest of us are supposed to submit questions. I already have. Awaiting a response. Not holding my breath.”

He also published a letter of his questions, including requesting information from Mayorkas about a security plan in place for the July 13 rally, all records between Secret Service, the FBI, state and local law enforcement regarding the rally, among other questions.

The U.S. House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Cheatle to testify, stating it will hold a hearing on Wednesday.

Numerous Republican leaders, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have called for her resignation. Johnson said he’s creating a bipartisan task force to investigate the assassination attempt.

The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security has also demanded answers of Mayorkas, who has defended Secret Service’s failures. These include failing to secure the perimeter of the event, not having security on all surrounding building rooftops or a nearby water tower, not deploying helicopters, drones or other technologies, reportedly assigning new recruits as detail, including women who do not appear physically qualified for the job, former Secret Service agents have argued, describing the security failures as “apocalyptic” and calling for Cheatle’s immediate resignation.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General is also investigating Secret Service security breaches.

U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, is also conducting an investigation. He said he directed his staff “to review U.S. Secret Service actions before, during, and after the event. I am talking to law enforcement officials, Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, and others to collect all relevant information and take action.”

Cheatle will testify before the House committee “either willingly or under subpoena,” he said.

“Our nation was millimeters away from a presidential assassination,” he said. “As Americans, we must unite together and move forward from this tragedy.”


July 08, 2024 02:19 PM 6 days ago
By Elena Schneider, Sarah Ferris | EXCLUSIVE POLITICO

Biden delivered a forceful message in a private call with his National Finance Committee, which includes hundreds of top Democratic donors and bundlers.

A defiant President Joe Biden insisted to his donors on Monday that he is “done talking about the debate” and implored the party to ignore any further distractions and direct its attention back to Donald Trump.

“We need to move forward. Look, we have roughly 40 days til the convention, 120 days til the election. We can’t waste any more time being distracted,” Biden said in a private call with donors Monday, according to a recording obtained by POLITICO.

“I have one job, and that’s to beat Donald Trump. I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that. So, we’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye,” Biden said.

The forceful message from Biden — which was delivered to hundreds of top Democratic donors and bundlers in the president's National Finance Committee — is the latest evidence that the president and his allies are working furiously to stem defections in the party. Earlier in the day, Biden sent a fiery missive to congressional Democrats, declaring his intentions to remain in the race even as roughly a half-dozen members have publicly called for him to bow out.

Several donors who participated in the call described Biden as forceful and strong. He took four questions during the meeting, including one about Biden’s plans for the next debate. The president responded that his strategy was to “attack, attack, attack,” according to a person listening to the call.

Biden repeated multiple times that he would not be leaving the race: “I’m telling you, I’m not going anywhere folks. I’m in this to the end, and I’m going to beat Trump. I promise you.”

He touted the “grassroots support” he saw during his 10-day cross-country tour following the debate, from Georgia to Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, and thanked his donors for sticking by his side.

“I appreciate you hanging in there with me. I realize you’re getting a lot of heat," he said.

Instead of airing public concerns about his campaign, Biden argued the party should be directing its ire at Trump, who he said has “gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except driving around in his golf cart, bragging about scores he doesn’t score.” He said Democrats needed to focus on what Trump would do to abortion rights, Medicare, Social Security, and prescription drug prices.

But there’s still lingering concern and frustration within the high-dollar donor community about Biden’s ability to beat Trump in November.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people who think he should get out, and I’m not getting a whole lot of ‘he should stay in,’” said one donor on the call, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “I’ve also had people tell me, ‘I’m not giving anymore.’”


Saturday, July 13, 2024
Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

Nearly half of 80,000 small businesses surveyed say they won’t survive the current economic climate, ongoing inflation or another four years of Biden administration policies, according to the survey conducted by RedBalloon and Public Square.

Their May Freedom Economy Index found that small businesses “remain in survival mode,” with 40% delaying paying bills to manage cash flow and 70 percent putting staffing plans on hold, neither hiring nor reducing staff, “the highest reading … over the past year,” the report states.

Among those surveyed, 64% said the U.S. is headed toward stagflation, when inflation continues to climb and the economic rate slows.

Nearly half of businesses surveyed said they “definitely” (22.4%) or “probably” (26.2%) won’t survive continued inflation or “survive another 4-year term of a Biden presidency.”

An overwhelming majority, 90%, said a top priority for a second Trump administration would be to “control the border,” after more than 12 million foreign nationals have illegally entered the U.S. and violent crime has escalated since President Joe Biden’s took office, The Center Square has exclusively reported.

The survey queried 80,000 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees nationwide, including those in the retail, hospitality, service and restaurant industries.

"It’s been a difficult 3 years for America’s small businesses,” PublicSquare’s CEO Michael Seifert said. “While many inside the Beltway may feel like things are good, that isn’t translating to Main Street America – the frontlines of our small business economy.”

"Just like families all across the nation, many small business owners are now in bill paying triage,” RedBalloon’s CEO Andrew Crapuchettes said. “All of the government reports and happy-talk from Washington, D.C. doesn’t change that Americans continue wrestling with inflation, and a majority of small business owners now predict we’ll slip into stagflation."

The survey includes “verbatim” written answers from small business owners about the financial struggles they face.

When asked, “What (if any) changes would you consider making to your business plans in preparation for a second Biden term?,” small business owners said they couldn’t make it.

One said, “Actively look at selling out to a larger competitor.” Another said, “Close my businesses.” Still another, “Cross my fingers? I don't even want to consider that.”

Others said, “Decrease staff - cut costs;” “Elimination of lower performing business units, decrease staffing by 50%.”

Still others: “I would just shut the doors. We have already reduced cost as much as we possibly can to survive as it is. We would have no choice.”

“There are none to make. Have had to borrow money & with the drop in business, there's nothing more I can do. My daughter & I work 14 hours a day.”

“I will most likely have to close.”

“I would lay off all workers and transition to a self-employed business.”

“No changes can be made without just closing the doors. We have already cut costs to the bare minimum.”

“There is nothing I can afford to do in addition to what I’m already doing. If things don’t change, I’ll be finished.”

“We want to sell now and not take that chance.”

“Freeze on all new equipment, no new hires, decrease of hours for all employees.”

“I would close approximately half of my locations.”

“I, grievously, will probably have to close my business.”

“Laying off associates to stay afloat or just close the doors.”

“Buckle down and hope he doesn’t run us into the ground.”

“Sadly but probably close my business.”

Nearly half of those surveyed, 49%, have been in business for more than 10 years; nearly 28% have been in business for three to 10 years.


Friday, July 12, 2024
UPDATE FROM June 9, 2024

During a June 4, Geauga County Commissioners meeting, the Commissioners discussed complications in their quest to exit an ongoing legal arrangement with Portage County Juvenile Detention Center. The original request to exit the arrangement with the Portage County Juvenile Detention Center followed Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell’s personal appearance before the Commissioners on May 21 to present Agenda Item 11 “to change juvenile detention centers from the Portage-Geauga Juvenile Detention Center to the Lake County Detention Facility.”

Since the Portage-Geauga Juvenile Detention Center comes under the auspices of the Portage County Commissioners, Geauga Commissioners made arrangements to meet with Portage County officials, legally terminate the written agreement, receive a refund for the Geauga taxpayer funds which have been paid annually to Portage County, and to claim Geauga County’s portion of the valuation of the Portage-Geauga Juvenile Detention Center. By researching the Portage County Auditor website, Commissioner Spidalieri noted in early June that the Geauga Commissioners had rationalized that Geauga County taxpayers’ share of the investment into the Detention Center building probably approximated $400,000.

Before the end of June, 2024, Geauga Commissioners received the notification that the Portage County Prosecutor/Administrator would “be looking into the issue” of resolving monetary funds due to Geauga County. On two separate occasions Mr. Spidalieri inquired about whether the county had received at least one check from Portage County to the tune of $200,000. At that point the issue of Geauga County’s actual portion of funds due to Geauga taxpayers for the valuation of the Portage Detention Center seemed very unclear.

Shortly before adjournment of the July 9 Geauga Commissioner meeting, this editor asked the Commissioners for an update regarding resolution of the Portage County Detention Center squabble. Per Judge Grendell’s May 21 presentation, Geauga Commissioners, Geauga County Administrator Gerry Morgan, and Assistant County Administrator Linda Burhenne understood that they needed to be absolved of any relationship with Portage County Juvenile Detention Center before they entered into a relationship with Lake County Juvenile Detention Center. At his May 21 appearance, Grendell had expressed the superiority of Lake County Juvenile Detention Center to house any applicable Geauga County juveniles.

This is a breaking story. We will continue to keep you informed of the details and the moneys that are returned to Geauga County to make Geauga County fiscal stewardship less prohibitive for Geauga citizens on fixed income.


Thursday, July 11, 2024

Commissioner Lennon used the last five minutes of the Tuesday, July 9, public session to ask for explanation/clarification from the Geauga Prosecutor’s office regarding final acceptability/approval of the purchase of the one-time Dollar General Store for use by the Department of Aging as a senior center.

Commissioner Lennon appeared visibly frustrated with the Prosecutor Office’s hesitation to respond to the Commissioners’ request of several weeks ago for a written answer—one way or the other. Lennon noted the failure of a request for a representative from that office in Executive Session but related that the purchase of property is not one of the valid reasons for an assistant prosecutor to participate in an executive session.

Lennon was quick to respond that final written confirmation—if nothing more grandiose than a copy of an e-mail—was all the notification that the Board of County Commissioners was looking for. Summer vacation schedules in the Prosecutor’s Office apparently have been the fly in the ointment, and Assistant Prosecutor Laura La Chapelle could be expected to provide suitable explanation of details at the July 18, 2024, public commissioner meeting.

Mr. Lennon seemed visibly relieved and comfortable with the explanation, Otherwise, if an explanation were not to be forthcoming soon, Mr. Lennon advised that the BOCC “scrap the deal and move on,” rather than put up with the current “hangup” by “sitting on our hands.”

Public session adjourned about four minutes later.


Thursday, July 11, 2024
Carly Moran | The Center Square

Flush with state government incentives, Ford is looking to backtrack on its electric vehicle plans by at least $750 million.

The Detroit-based automobile maker is working with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to cancel two projects, in response to lack of customer demand in the electric vehicle market. The state and Ford agreed on Tuesday to cut significant funding on a battery factory outside Marshall.

“We are nimbly adjusting our manufacturing operations to match evolving customer demand and the Michigan Strategic Fund board is revising its incentive offers accordingly,” said Tony Reinhart, a government affairs director at Ford.

The new agreement is to slash the $825 million in tax credits to just $225 million, alongside cutting $69 million in a public grant. Despite this, the Marshall plant is already partially completed, and on track to begin battery production in 2026. Wages have also increased from $20 to $25 per hour.

Prior to Tuesday, Ford had already cut back on production plans for Marshall’s BlueOval Battery factory. In late November, they reduced the project investment by a whopping $1 billion, cut 800 jobs and reduced production capacity by 40%. This week, the state has responded by substantially reducing benefits.

With the new plan, Ford could still receive a $141 million grant if it produces 1,700 jobs and invests $2.5 billion in production.

The news comes just a day after the state partnered with Consumers Energy to install 1,500 public electric vehicle fast-chargers by 2030. Consumers’ partnership is just one part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal to install 100,000 public chargers by 2030.

That's a big jump from 335 installed last year.

With manufacturing speeds slowed and consumer demand far below expected levels, it’s unknown what the future of the electric vehicle industry in Michigan will look like.


Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Anne Bucher | Top Class Actions

Intuit class action lawsuit overview:

Who: Plaintiff Joseph Garite filed a class action lawsuit against Intuit Inc.
Why: Intuit allegedly failed to adequately safeguard sensitive data which was compromised in a TurboTax and Credit Karma data breach disclosed in March 2024.
Where: The TurboTax data breach class action lawsuit was filed in California federal court.

Intuit Inc. failed to adequately protect its computer systems, leaving sensitive data vulnerable to a TurboTax and Credit Karma data breach earlier this year, according to a new class action lawsuit.

Plaintiff Joseph Garite alleges Intuit, the maker of popular software services including TurboTax, Credit Karma, Quickbooks and Mailchimp, failed to maintain reasonable security safeguards and failed to adequately train employees about cybersecurity.

Garite, a former TurboTax customer, claims these failures left Intuit’s systems vulnerable to cybercriminals, who allegedly infiltrated the networks and gained access to customers’ sensitive personal identifiable information (PII).

Victims of the Credit Karma and TurboTax data breach were allegedly not informed of the cyberattack until March 2024. Garite says the data breach notice failed to inform victims about pertinent information including when the breach first occurred, how many people were impacted and how cybercriminals were able to access Intuit’s systems.

Intuit “had no effective means to prevent, detect, stop or mitigate breaches of its systems—thereby allowing cybercriminals unrestricted access to its current and former customers’ PII,” Garite alleges.

The Intuit class action alleges the TurboTax data breach took place from Dec. 23, 2023 through Feb. 21, 2024 but the hack was not discovered until Feb. 27. The breach may have compromised the following types of PII:

• Names

• Addresses

• Birthdates

• Social Security numbers

• Driver’s license numbers

• Other information contained in victims’ tax returns


Garite says he trusted Intuit with his PII and its commitment to protecting his sensitive data. Due to the TurboTax and Credit Karma data breach, his PII may be published imminently (if it has not already been published) on the Dark Web, the Intuit class action lawsuit alleges.

In fact, Garite claims he has already suffered from identity theft and fraud. He says he received a letter in May 2024, purportedly from the IRS, that contained highly sensitive information, including his Social Security number and the exact amount he owed on taxes in 2023. The IRS has reportedly confirmed the letter is fraudulent.

Garite filed the Intuit class action lawsuit on behalf of all U.S. residents whose PII was compromised in the data breach.

The Intuit class action lawsuit asserts claims for negligence, negligence per se, breach of implied contract, invasion of privacy, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, declaratory judgment, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Privacy Act.

Last year, Intuit agreed to pay $141 million to settle allegations it improperly charged some consumers for TurboTax when they were eligible to file for free through the IRS’s Free File Program.

Garite is represented by Andrew G. Gunem of Strauss Borrelli PLLC.

The Intuit class action lawsuit is Joseph Garite v. Intuit Inc., Case No. 5:24-cv-03960, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division.


Tuesday, July 9, 2024
Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clashed with reporters during Monday's press briefing while dodging questions about published reports that a renowned Parkinson's disease expert visited the White House several times this year.

Citing White House visitor logs, the New York Post reported that the visits by neurologist Dr. Kevin Cannard of Walter Reed Medical Center included several with President Joe Biden's personal doctor, Dr. Kevin O’Connor.

The revelation came less than two weeks after Biden's poor debate showing against former President Donald Trump renewed concerns about his declining cognitive abilities and his ability to remain in office and serve another four-year term.

Biden is seeking reelection against presumptive GOP nominee Trump.

During the sometimes hostile back-and-forth, Jean-Pierre refused to acknowledge the visits or even confirm Cannard's name.

Visibly frustrated with Jean-Pierre's earlier non-answers, CBS reporter Ed O'Keefe shouted: "It's a very basic, direct question. That's what you should be able to answer by this point."

"No, no, no, no, no," Jean-Pierre responded. "Ed, please. A little respect here. Please."

Jean-Pierre continuously cited security and privacy concerns for not answering the questions.

Biden, 81, has shown visible signs of decline throughout his presidency, which were punctuated by Special Counsel Robert Hur's final report on his investigation into Biden's mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House following his term as vice president under Barack Obama.

Hur declined to charge Biden, but his report highlighted Biden's trouble remembering things, including the year his son died.

"In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden's memory was worse," according to the report, as The Center Square previously reported. "He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ('if it was 2013 - when did I stop being Vice President?'), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ('in 2009, am I still Vice President?')"

The report continued:

"He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him."

Since the debate, when Biden repeatedly stuttered and faltered, and at times became incoherent and trailed off, many Democrats have stepped forward calling for him to step aside from seeking reelection.

Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square


Monday, July 8, 2024
Sarah Donaldson, Karen Kasler | statenews.org

When Ohio voters cast their ballots in November, they won't get to weigh in on whether to raise the minimum wage.

A national spokesperson with One Fair Wage said late Wednesday afternoon the organization missed the mark on signatures—writing it was short on the 44-county requirement to make the ballot in November 2024. The spokesperson said it was “very close” to its goal but would hold off on submitting anything.

Paid gatherers and volunteers with Raise the Wage Ohio had been getting signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment before voters. The amendment would have boosted the minimum wage in the state for most workers to $12.75 per hour by 2025 and $15 per hour by 2026.

For service workers currently making less than $10.25 per hour, under the amendment, businesses would be on the hook to raise their rates on a sliding scale—hitting $15 hourly for all workers by 2029. Under state law, they can offer service workers a base minimum wage of $5.25 hourly if customer gratuity bridges the difference between that rate and the regular $10.45 hourly rate.

Raise the Wage Ohio falls under the national umbrella of One Fair Wage, a national organization seeking to get rid of subminimum wages. The state’s current $5.25 subminimum wage for service workers is three dollars higher than the federal one, which sits at $2.13 hourly.

It was down to the wire for an effort marred by dysfunction.

Signatures need to be submitted to Secretary of State Frank LaRose by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. But Monday, when anti-gerrymandering organization Citizens Not Politicians was celebrating submitting nearly double the number of signatures needed in the Ohio Statehouse atrium, volunteers with Raise the Wage Ohio lingered on the peripheral for a last-minute push.

A spokesperson with LaRose's office said earlier Wednesday they had been told numerous different times for when Raise the Wage Ohio would come. With roads closed off around downtown Columbus for the annual Red, White, and BOOM! celebration, delivery never materialized.

My team has made every accommodation to facilitate a smooth and secure filing of this petition,” LaRose wrote in an email statement Wednesday evening. “We worked with the city’s Emergency Operations Command, the Columbus Police Department, the Ohio Highway Patrol and the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff at the Columbus mayor’s office. Access issues were never a problem. Rural Ohioans are not to blame.”

Ohio Chamber of Commerce President Steve Stivers said in an email statement Wednesday evening he believed the failure to file in time was a win.

Raising the minimum wage will only result in higher prices for Ohio families, and today’s events prove that the general public is realizing that,” Stivers said.

Weeks earlier, the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance (ORHA) put out a survey arguing the bulk of the state’s bartenders and servers prefer the current wage system. According to the ORHA-commissioned survey, 93% of service worker participants said they believed they’d earn less money if their base salary was raised. Right now, more than four-fifths of participants said their pay exceeds $20 per hour with gratuity.


Friday, July 5, 2024

Months ago, fees that were collected in advance to inspect commercial septic systems in Geauga County, were returned to the remitters after Geauga County Health Board member, Carolyn Brakey, investigated the reported shortcoming and made certain that improperly-collected funds were being restored to those who had never received the service. Returning the unused funds cut into the already small budget overseen by Geauga Public Health Administrator Adam Litke.

Since moving its location to the Geauga County Administration Building, Geauga Public Health has dealt several times with the issue of getting that space free as a public service or being forced to pay the County Commissioners a price per square foot of occupied area. The snafu apparently is in determining whether Ohio Revised Code authorizes Geauga Public Health to pay an agreed-upon monthly rate of rent.

During the Tuesday, July 3, 2024, public Commissioners’ meeting, all three Commissioners were present at the same time. Citing the concern that “a ton of money” to offset bona fide expenses was not an option, Commissioner Spidalieri implied that $4 per square foot can be regarded as a reasonable rent charge. Commissioner Lennon chimed in that if the Department of Health has plans to stay put in the new County Administration Building, then the Department likely will have to seek passage of a levy to bolster its small operating budget, already reduced from returning the unused fees cited in the first paragraph. Assistant County Administrator Linda Burhenne attributed the actual cost as $3 per square foot.

Citing some other rental rates of $1.85 per square foot, Commissioner Dvorak noted his preference for having the Department of Health closely accessible in the new Office Building. Noting that “Nothing is free in this world,” Mr. Litke noted the service to the community performed by the public health department, the department of water resources, and the department of soil and water all under one roof.

After about ten minutes of discussion of possible rental fees per square foot that Geauga Public Health might be expected to pay, Commissioner Dvorak noted a five-year rent agreement for GPH: $2 per square foot payable for the first year of occupancy, $3 per square foot the second year of occupancy, and $4 per square foot during the second, third, and fourth year of occupancy.

It was Carolyn Brakey who cited at this point that the Board of Commissioners could actively help solve their lack of “a ton of money.” Citing her understanding that the BOCC has been paying at least twice the contract rate for electricity, she urged the the commissioners to lock in a more reasonably priced contract for electricity. Assistant County Administrator quickly noted that they would follow whatever lead the County Commissioners Association of Ohio offered as a way of saving utility expenses.

The discussion ended when Ms. Brakey and Adam Litke invited the Board of Commissioners to be present for the County Board of Health meeting the fourth Wednesday of the month, July 24 at 5 pm, on the first floor of the County Office Building to discuss a suitable rent agreement.