Ohio News Briefs

New public records appeals process to begin in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new and inexpensive appeals process for Ohioans denied public records by government at local and state levels is set to begin later this month.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the Ohio Court of Claims will start accepting complaints on Sept. 28 through a website.

The process requires a complaint form, a $25 filing fee and accompanying copies of the records requests and government denials. A system allowing the filing and payment is expected to start operating by Nov. 1.

Under the law, complaints will be sent to a mediator who will work with citizens and government officials to reach a resolution. If no agreement is reached, a special master will rule whether it was legally correct for the government to deny the request or if it broke the law and must hand over the records.

“If the process works as intended, Ohio may have a national model to quickly and affordably resolve many cases that would otherwise clog court calendars or never get litigated at all,” said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark retired this month and will be the court’s special master in ruling on records appeals. The court has five magistrates who will also serve as mediators.

Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost have stopped their offices’ respective complaint programs due to the new program. Yost’s office had accepted complaints against state government agencies. DeWine’s office offered to mediate disputes between residents and local governments.

The law was introduced in the spring by Republican Senate President Keith Faber who said the process would be easier for people who believe they’re wrongfully denied records.

Lawmakers have appropriated $500,000 to pay for the program.

Ohio deputy sues over suspension following Facebook posting

WARREN, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio sheriff’s deputy says in a federal lawsuit his free speech rights were violated when he was suspended without pay over a Facebook post last year.

Trumbull County deputy Michael Geer is seeking back pay from his three-day suspension in the lawsuit filed Friday.

Geer is also asking for unspecified financial damages to cover mental anguish, humiliation, harm to his reputation and a reduction in earning power.

The Tribune Chronicle of Warren reports the county sheriff and a county commissioner didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The newspaper says Geer’s post was written in the voice of Freddie Gray, who died in April 2015 from injuries sustained while in Baltimore police custody.

The paper says the post was critical of protesters and people blaming police officers for their problems.

Feds award $14M to fight homelessness among Ohio veterans

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The federal government has awarded more than $14 million to 15 organizations that work to prevent homelessness among Ohio military veterans and to quickly rehouse those who lose their homes.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced the grants last week. They are part of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The money will be used to reach out to more veterans and help veterans obtain VA benefits.

The money also helps provide case management to low-income veteran families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Participating organizations also provide veterans with critical services, such as health care, financial planning, child care, legal services, transportation and housing counseling.

Newspaper: Ohio gamblers lost almost $10 billion in 4 years

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A newspaper analysis of legal gambling in Ohio finds that those playing scratch-off lottery tickets and making bets at casinos have lost nearly $10 billion in the past four years.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that almost $63 billion was bet while about $53 billion was won from 2012 to 2015.

The newspaper examined legal forms of betting at the state’s four casinos, seven racinos at horse-race tracks and the Ohio Lottery.

Much of gamblers’ losses provide a boost to Ohio schools, cities and counties. For example, the lottery sent more than $1 billion this year alone to public education.

Critics say gambling has put a strain on some Ohioans.

A state study this year found that 4.7 percent of Ohio adults are at risk of becoming problem gamblers.