Friday, November 18, 2011

Josh Mandel accuses Sherrod Brown of 'egging on' protesters doing vulgar acts: PolitiFact Ohio

Says that Sen. Sherrod Brown is "out there egging on a lot of these protesters who are spitting on policemen and going to the bathroom on policemen’s cars at these protests on Wall Street and other places." 

-- Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel

On a conservative radio program Monday, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel let loose a provocative attack on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, whose job he hopes to snag next year.

The segment on the Tea Party Express Hour, broadcast on KCBQ/AM 1170 out of San Diego, started with Mandel, a Republican from Lyndhurst, recapping last week’s election results in Ohio.

Mandel emphasized the overwhelming vote for a state constitutional amendment that registers opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care reforms. Democrats, meanwhile, have cheered the resounding repeal of GOP-backed restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees.

Over the course of a sometimes fawning 12-minute interview by host Howard Kaloogian, Mandel made several incendiary comments about the Avon Democrat. One particular statement caught PolitiFact Ohio’s ear.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ohio voters send mixed signals with Issues 2 and 3; Democrats and Republicans both claim victory

Written and reported with Joe Guillen

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Ohio voters sent mixed messages Tuesday when tackling two issues that are rallying cries for two very different political points of view.

A referendum on Senate Bill 5, a major overhaul of collective bargaining and other labor rules for public employees, went decisively for Democrats. A ballot measure that renounced a portion of President Barack Obama's national health care policy went heavily for Republicans.

Now, each party is working overtime to spin the results as a repudiation of the other's overreaching agenda. Democrats predict doom for Gov. John Kasich and whomever the GOP nominates to face Obama in next year's general election. Republicans, meanwhile, claim a far more compelling metric can be found in the symbolic rebuke of what they call Obamacare.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Senate Bill 5 repeal sets table for Democrats and President Barack Obama in 2012: Analysis

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Even in an off year, Ohio couldn't escape the burning spotlight from national media hungry for a juicy election story.

And Tuesday's repeal of Senate Bill 5 was merely an appetizer.

By resoundingly rejecting the Republican-backed push to rewrite labor rules for public employees, Buckeye State voters helped set the table for the 2012 presidential election.

Without question the results will be viewed as a momentum-builder for Democrats nationwide and should encourage President Barack Obama. He carried Ohio by four points in his 2008 Electoral College landslide, but the GOP won control of every state office and the legislature last fall.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

As elections near, intraparty fight brews between Gov. John Kasich and GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A year after their statewide triumph, Ohio Republicans find themselves on the threshold of a defining moment.
But beyond the obvious battle over a new labor law, which polls show headed for defeat at the ballot box Tuesday, a behind-the-scenes power struggle is percolating within the party
Few who know the most intimate details of the feud will talk on the record, but it is hardly a secret that Gov. John Kasich is no fan of Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine. The friction, more apparent in recent weeks than ever before, was punctuated last month when a top Kasich donor asked for DeWine's resignation in an email obtained by The Plain Dealer.
Asked if Kasich agreed with the call, a spokesman sidestepped the question.
"We have far bigger fish to fry than this," said Rob Nichols.
Nichols was referring, in part, to Issue 2. A "yes" vote would uphold Senate Bill 5, the Republican-backed push to restrict the collective-bargaining power of public employees and set requirements on how much those workers pay toward their health care and pensions.
GOP activists acutely aware of the Kasich-DeWine conflict already sense supporters of each man are pointing fingers at the other in anticipation of failure. And many fear the discord will seep into next year, when the party ideally would be unifying behind a presidential candidate.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mitt Romney leaves Ohio with unwanted souvenir

Word that Mitt Romney would travel to the Cincinnati area Tuesday surprised some, given that Ohio's June presidential primary figures to be one of the nation's last nominating contests.
And today, the Republican front-runner might wish he hadn't stopped here at all. 
After first refusing to take a position on two controversial Buckeye State ballot measures, the former Massachusetts governor is backtracking and now enthusiastically backing Issue 2. A "yes" vote would uphold Senate Bill 5, the new collective-bargaining law for public employees.
What made Romney's sidestepping so perplexing Tuesday was that the Ohio Republican Party billed his visit as one to rally phone bank volunteers dialing up support for Issue 2 and Issue 3. The latter is a Tea Party initiative aimed at blocking part of the federal health care law.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

From fan to The Man: How Cleveland's Rich Lowrie claimed a place in Herman Cain's inner circle

Rich Lowrie might not have realized it at the time, but his life changed seven years ago, the day he met Herman Cain.

A Cleveland investment consultant with a voracious interest in economics, Lowrie was attending a Florida conference hosted by the conservative Club for Growth. Cain, a former pizza-chain executive, was seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, and his remarks resonated.

"I just thought, 'Wow, whatever this guy has, he has it,'" Lowrie recalled Friday in a telephone interview with The Plain Dealer. "I introduced myself afterward, and that was that."

Except it wasn't. Lowrie stayed active with conservative causes, followed Cain's post-loss work as a political commentator and expanded his network. Then came the call last year from Mark Block, a friend Lowrie had made through Americans for Prosperity. Cain, their mutual dream candidate, was saddling up for a presidential bid. Block would help run the campaign.

What began as "informal dialogue and a phone call every now and then" quickly turned into a full-fledged role as Cain's senior economic adviser. That's how Lowrie found himself this summer on a New Hampshire-bound flight with Cain, sketching the tax-reform plan that in recent weeks has become a household name and helped Cain surge to the head of the Republican field.

"I had one question for him," Lowrie said of the chat. "How bold do you want to be?"

Cain, "with his signature smile and booming voice," leaned in and replied: "Bold."

And so, "9-9-9" was born -- a proposal to replace the federal tax code with a flat 9 percent tax on personal income and businesses and a 9 percent national sales tax. Asked about the plan's architects Tuesday in a televised debate, Cain identified only one: Lowrie, "out of Cleveland."

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Twitter, Juan Williams and Chuck D help City Club of Cleveland celebrate 100 years of free speech

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When the City Club of Cleveland opened its doors in October 1912, Tweets were known as nothing more than weak chirps.
But Monday, as the institution began its 100th birthday celebration with a Conference on Free Speech, Tweets -- the kind that have revolutionized communication -- were the backdrop.
Poignant thoughts and probing questions streamed on stage in real time as those in the Allen Theatre audience and others following from afar via the social network Twitter contributed to the discussion. Guest speakers like Fox News commentator Juan Williams and rap icon Chuck D saw their provocative comments "retweeted" almost as quickly as the words escaped their lips.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Car crashes, bar fights and more: The controversial career of Cleveland Police Lt. Jerome Barrow

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Over his 32 years on the streets, he's wrecked cars, brawled in bars and been accused of roughing up citizens without cause.

He's also faced criminal charges of aggravated robbery, intoxication and felonious assault.

His name: Jerome Barrow. His occupation: Cleveland police lieutenant, badge No. 8467.

Though he's never been convicted of a crime, more than 1,500 pages of documents obtained by The Plain Dealer detail a career of controversy, including nearly three dozen investigations into his behavior. Privately, colleagues say few, if any, officers have a record so blemished.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cleveland police boast near-spotless Taser record, but experts question credibility of the numbers

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

When it comes to Tasers, Cleveland police have a record of perfection that some law enforcement experts believe is too good to be true.

Between October 2005 and March 2011, officers chose the electrical-shock devices to gain control of struggling suspects 969 times, according to city data analyzed by The Plain Dealer.

And during that period, Chief Michael McGrath and other police supervisors under his command found the use of a Taser to be appropriate in all but five of the cases they reviewed.

The 99.5 percent clearance rate "strains credibility," said Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor emeritus at University of Nebraska at Omaha who focuses on police accountability.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cleveland police release jailhouse video from disputed arrest involving Patrolman Martin Lentz

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Cleveland police on Wednesday released a jailhouse surveillance video that contradicts claims that an officer was struck in the face with a suspect's belt.

Police administrators provided a copy to The Plain Dealer, bringing an end to conflicting statements from city officials about whether the video still existed and whether they intended to make the images public.

A police lieutenant, in response to a March subpoena in the subsequent assault case, had told an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor that the footage no longer existed.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Missing video in Cleveland use-of-force case existed all along, but police say it's not a public record

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Cleveland police have turned over a potentially damaging surveillance video to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason -- the same video they denied existed when Mason's office sought it more than two months ago.

The video contradicts an officer's claim that he was struck in the face when a Pennsylvania man tossed a belt during a January incident at City Jail, according to a supervisor's report. Both Mason and The Plain Dealer sought the video to gauge the truthfulness of the officer's statement.

But city officials refuse to provide a copy to The Plain Dealer, which has been examining the case for weeks. Legal experts said the video is a public record and should be released.

The newspaper's findings have prompted police and the prosecutor to launch separate criminal investigations into the accusation made by Patrolman Martin Lentz.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath overlooked conflicting statements in use-of-force investigations

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath frequently overlooked conflicting statements and other inconsistencies when reviewing uses of force by officers who now stand accused of brutality, The Plain Dealer has found.

The discrepancies emerged as supervisors under McGrath's command conducted department-required investigations into the use of nondeadly force.

At least twice, superiors ordered sergeants to correct information that didn't make sense, rather than perform a more thorough review or explain mistakes. In one incident, video evidence invalidated an officer's claim but compelled no further scrutiny.

And in all 37 cases the newspaper examined, McGrath or a deputy blessed the use of force.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

6 Cleveland police officers accused of brutality have used force on 39 suspects since 2009

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Six Cleveland police officers, all accused in recent months of using excessive force, have scuffled with at least 39 suspects since February 2009.

But, based on reports completed by the officers and reviewed by The Plain Dealer under the state's public-records law, few posed an imminent danger to the men and women in blue.

All but one were unarmed. And 14 of the 36 suspects whose cases are closed -- 39 percent -- were never convicted of any crime. Eight were never charged, other police and court records show.

Yet in every case they investigated, police supervisors at multiple levels, up to and including Chief Michael McGrath, deemed the more than three dozen uses of nondeadly force to be justified.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

2 Cleveland police officers charged with assault are among department's most prolific uses of force

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

Two Cleveland police officers accused of assaulting a Cleveland Heights man during a January arrest were among the department's most prolific users of nondeadly force last year, a Plain Dealer review of city records has found.

Kevin Smith reported using force 11 times in 2010, ranking him fifth in the department for the year. Martin Lentz reported eight such incidents, ranking him 11th.

Those two officers, along with Paul Crawford and Christopher Randolph, are accused of beating Edward Henderson following a late New Year's Day chase. Henderson, 40, suffered a broken eye socket, broken nose and detached retina. He has a history of mental illness.

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The life and times of the Rev. John Henry, the gun-collecting abbot with a colorful past

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- "A little oasis of promise from a troubled world."

That's how the Rev. John Henry described his Ohio City monastery and homeless shelter in January 1990, when neighbors spoke against his plans to build a larger dining room.

But 21 years to the day after Henry's soothing words appeared in The Plain Dealer, Cleveland police discovered that his oasis was something more like a mirage.

At Henry's apartment across from St. Herman's House of Hospitality were 80 guns, some in unlocked cars, along with 874 boxes of ammunition. A week later, another 150 guns and 1,314 boxes of ammunition were found at the farm in Amish country where the monk raised beef.

Supporters were stunned, but warning signs of a fragile mental state cluttered the shelter. After Henry, 58, surrendered the weapons and agreed to a leave of absence, at least 12 two-ton trucks were needed to haul away old furniture, clothing, knickknacks and other rubbish he had collected.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Cleveland police officers charged with felonious assault did not file report on use of force

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

None of the four Cleveland police officers charged with assaulting a man during a New Year's Day arrest submitted paperwork required when non-deadly force is used, records obtained by The Plain Dealer show.

Whether the force is as simple as wrestling a suspect to the ground or as serious as using a Taser, department policy calls for officers to detail such incidents in special reports. The written accounts help track police behavior and trigger investigations.

Third District officers Paul Crawford, Martin Lentz, Christopher Randolph and Kevin Smith face felonious assault and obstruction of official business charges. They are accused of beating Edward Henderson, 40, on Jan. 1. All four have been suspended without pay and have pleaded not guilty.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cuyahoga County's boards of revision turn page on past with new members and refreshed approach

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- All three wore business suits.

Two men, one woman. Each with a calculator, stapler, staple remover, legal pad and pen.

They were polite but aggressive in the questions they asked the residential real estate developer and his lawyer, seated across the short conference table. An aging cassette-tape recorder and a overflowing dish of plastic-wrapped breath mints sat between them.

The hearing lasted more than a hour.

Eight months ago, it would have been quite a different scene. The attire would have been more casual. A bottle of Wite-Out might have been alongside the other supplies.

More than an hour? Maybe, if there was a hearing at all. Breath mints? Forget about it.

Welcome to Cuyahoga County's boards of revision, version 2.0. Three weeks ago, a reform-driven county government refreshed the way challenges to property valuations are handled.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prosecutor Bill Mason's family tree plants deep roots in Cuyahoga County government

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The branches of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason's large family tree have blossomed in state and local government.

During Mason's two-decade career in politics, taxpayers have paid his relatives more than $2.2 million in salary, a Plain Dealer review of public payrolls and other records has found.

At least 13 of his family members have received a public job -- several of them more than one -- since Mason began his climb in 1991 by winning a City Council seat in Parma.

The county has hired 10 of those 13 since Mason became prosecutor in 1999. Four are nieces he hired for his own office. A fifth woman, whom Mason hired as a paralegal, was engaged to one of his nephews when she applied but listed no legal training on her resume.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Board of revision problems cost Cuyahoga County schools, governments and libraries $21 million

Written and reported with Gabriel Baird

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Throughout the scandals that plagued the Cuyahoga County boards of revision in 2010, the question that went unanswered was whether school districts or cities lost taxes because of the problems.

The question arose after a Plain Dealer investigation found that lax work habits were partly to blame for a backlog of hearings for nearly 29,000 taxpayer challenges to property values. It arose again when the newspaper reported that 2,200 property records were illegally altered to reduce property values. And it arose again when the newspaper found that the boards improperly and illegally wiped more than a billion dollars in values from the books. 

Losses due to improprieties might never be fully measured. But The Plain Dealer has discovered that the massive backlog of delayed cases has cost schools, local governments and other public agencies more than $21 million since 2007. And that money cannot be recovered.

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