Ohio News Briefs

GOP candidate who lost Ohio House race says she’s a Democrat

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A member of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party Central Committee who badly lost a race for an Ohio House seat has acknowledged she’s actually a Democrat and resigned from the committee to return to the Democratic Party.

Cassandra McDonald revealed her stance in an election night Facebook message with a photo of her at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Cleveland.com reported. McDonald shared positive reflections on her own campaign experience and a prediction, writing: “This is the beginning of a very successful career in politics.”

She said she was persuaded to run as a Republican, felt minorities need more representation in that party and liked its values of creating opportunity and promoting accountability. She joined the GOP committee after the primary but resigned last week, alleging that local Republican Party leaders didn’t provide much financial backing for her campaign because she is black and didn’t support her because she refused to endorse now-President-elect Donald Trump.

A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County GOP said that McDonald apparently lied to party officials when she was added to the central committee. The local party is aware of only one reason for McDonald’s departure — her announcement about being a Democrat, spokesman Doug Magill said. He declined to comment on McDonald’s other allegations.

City votes to decriminalize marijuana but it’s still a crime

NEWARK, Ohio (AP) — Officials in a central Ohio city where residents voted to eliminate criminal penalties for having small amounts of marijuana say they’ll continue to charge and prosecute violators under state law instead.

This month, Newark voters approved decriminalizing possession of less than 200 grams of marijuana, about 7 ounces. The new law says having that amount is a minor misdemeanor that’s not subject to fines, jail or probation.

But under Ohio law, such marijuana possession remains a minor misdemeanor that could result in a fine and loss of driving privileges.

Newark’s law director says the local law gives authorities an option in pursuing such cases, but they’re not changing their approach.

Supporters of the new law had argued it would allow police to concentrate on the city’s heroin and opiate problem.

Ohio zoo: 2 sets of newborn polar bear twins, but 1 cub dies

POWELL, Ohio (AP) — Another set of twin polar bears has been born at The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, shortly after one of the twins born last week to another bear died.

The central Ohio zoo says the latest cubs were born Monday to a bear named Aurora, about a week after her sister, Anana, gave birth.

Staff monitoring Anana’s cubs through a camera in the private den noted Sunday that one of Anana’s cubs had stopped moving. The cub died hours before the newest cubs were born. Zoo officials say they likely will never know why the cub died.

Zoo officials say polar bear cubs have about a 50 percent survival rate in the first few weeks.

The father of all the cubs is a 28-year-old bear named Nanuq.

Union representing Dayton bus drivers authorizes strike

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The union representing Greater Dayton RTA bus drivers rejected management’s third contract proposal over the weekend and voted to authorize a strike.

The Dayton Daily News reports the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385 voted in favor of a work stoppage on Sunday.

By law, the union is required to provide 10 days’ notice of a forthcoming strike to the state Employment Relations Board. RTA management says it has not yet received notice.

It has been decades since the union went on strike or authorized taking such action.

ATU Local 1385 counts 461 members among its ranks — including approximately 260 bus drivers, more than 90 Project Mobility drivers and maintenance staff.

Union officials say sticking points are back pay, working conditions and proposed changes to health care plans.

Blasting underway as part of Akron’s $1B sewer project

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Officials say contractors started conducting controlled blasts underground in downtown Akron last week as part of work on the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports the giant underground tunnel is a major component of the northeast Ohio city’s massive $1 billion sewer project to limit overflows into local waterways.

Project officials say the use of explosives became necessary after workers got to the point where the underground rock was too hard to continue digging.

Blasting began Nov. 8 in one of the two shafts in the construction area along the Akron Innerbelt at West Market Street.

Residents within a half-mile radius of blast sites may potentially hear a sound similar to fireworks and feel vibrations when blasts are occurring.

Ohio sheriff accused of stealing drugs set to change plea

FREMONT, Ohio (AP) — A jailed Ohio sheriff accused of stealing prescription drugs is scheduled for a change of plea hearing.

Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer pleaded not guilty in August to six felony charges in a 43-count indictment. The change of plea hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

A special prosecutor charged the sheriff with stealing medications drug disposal drop boxes, deceiving doctors into giving him painkillers and misusing department funds.

A judge recently sent him back to jail after deciding he violated terms of his bond by contacting potential witnesses and people in the sheriff’s office.

The two-term sheriff has said the investigation was politically motivated. He was suspended but kept his sheriff’s title.

Overmyer was in jail when he lost his re-election bid last week.

Former Ohio mayor, wife indicted on racketeering charges

NILES, Ohio (AP) — A former longtime northeast Ohio mayor has been indicted on a racketeering charge prosecutors say is related to his involvement in bribery, theft in office and illegal gambling.

A Trumbull County grand jury handed up an indictment Tuesday against former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante, his wife and a Niles city employee. Infante was mayor 24 years before losing last year’s Democratic primary.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office says the 61-year-old Infante received nearly $200,000 in unreported cash, income and gifts and ran an illegal gambling house at a tavern he owned in Girard. Sixty-seven-year-old Judy Infante is charged with racketeering and falsifying records. The city employee was indicted on two counts of theft in office.

Calls to a publicly listed telephone number for the Infantes were met with busy signals.

Ohio village retires town seal featuring Christian church

ARCHBOLD, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio village has removed a town seal featuring a Christian church from government buildings, street signs and various documents after objections by a national watchdog group.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the village of Archbold also has stopped calling itself a “Christian community” on its website.

The action followed warnings by the foundation that the seal and motto violated the separation of church and state provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The seal featured a church at the center surrounded by images representing education, farming, forestry and industry. It’s been removed from buildings, signs and village forms and documents, including utility bills.

The village website now features a “Live Archbold!” motto superimposed on a state of Ohio shape. The new motto calls Archbold “A Community of Character!”

Ohio school denies claims in consultant’s $4.5M lawsuit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A university sued by a consultant seeking $4.5 million in unpaid compensation from the school has denied all claims made in the consultant’s lawsuit.

The Dayton Daily News reports Wright State University’s response to Ron Wine’s lawsuit was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims this week. Wine’s lawsuit was filed in September.

Wine’s lawsuit says his consulting group secured $134 million in new contract revenue for Wright State and the university’s president agreed to pay him a 5 percent bonus for money he brought into the school. Wine says Wright State stopped paying him after a state investigation focusing on whether the consultant should have registered as a lobbyist.

Investigators found no evidence of Ohio lobbying law violations.

Wright State officials say they don’t comment on pending litigation.

GOP-led Ohio Senate picks leadership team for next session

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate have elected their first president from Medina County since the Civil War.

Sen. Larry Obhof tops a leadership team elected unanimously Tuesday. It’s rounded out by Sens. Bob Peterson of Washington Court House as president pro tempore, Randy Gardner of Bowling Green as majority floor leader and Gayle Manning of North Ridgeville. Manning is returning as majority whip.

They take over Jan. 4.

Obhof replaces Keith Faber, of Celina, who is returning to the Ohio House after facing term limits. Obhof was appointed to the Senate in 2011, then elected twice in 2012 and this year. He’s served in Senate leadership since 2013.

Medina County’s last resident to lead the Ohio Senate was Samuel Humphreyville, who took the helm in 1864.