Commentary: Marietta City Schools and Realignment

 

Over the Christmas break my phone has been ringing off the hook with story tips. Surprisingly, the most prevalent under-reported topic has not been the IEI Fire or the Kevin Rings corruption case. The largest numbers of calls I have received are complaints about Marietta City Schools. There is a general sense that Superintendent Will Hampton is operating under the radar on issues of importance to parents and teachers.

One caller specifically questioned the increase in his salary, which consequently exceeds the amount of a grant awarded to the district for library needs. That kind of math does make it appear that the district could well have afforded the library upgrades without the help of grant funding if they weren’t so overburdened by excessive administration salaries.

As students returned to school this week, there were concerns about cold classrooms and icy walks left unprepared and dangerous. Yet, some of the most vexing information to come to light has to do with a complete realignment of the elementary school system and the closing of a neighborhood school. Newly elected school board members are going to be asked to vote on these matters in their first meeting at 5:30 pm on January 22 at the Board Office.

Given the timeline there may be limited opportunity for the public to weigh in on these sweeping changes.

Realignment Option 1:  Close either Harmar or Putnam Elementary School. School Pre K and Kindergarten and first grade in one building, second and third grade in one building, fourth and fifth at one building.

Realignment Option 2:  Close either Harmar or Putnam Elementary School. School Pre K and Kindergarten in one building, first and second grade in one building and third and fourth in one building. Fifth graders would be moved to the middle school.

These changes are planned for the coming fall. One board member explains that the initiative did not come from the board, but from the superintendent. Hampton was giving a presentation regarding Kindergarten Readiness that turned into the proposal detailed above. That may explain the Marietta Times article about the proposal that went largely unnoticed as it was focused on Kindergarten Readiness and not the closing of more neighborhood schools.

The public has a right to know exactly what plans the school district has in mind for their children. Parents and teachers are very concerned about the unintentional consequences. Instead of the staggered school schedules the district has observed for years, all schools would begin at 8 am.

And, there is one more development that is provoking much concern. Multiple sources have told RCNN that the district plans to do away with the bus for students with developmental disabilities. These special needs students would be bussed right along with everyone else.

There is no better time to make your opinion known. In fact, it may be your only opportunity before drastic changes are made to the operations of the schools district – and these are the kinds of sweeping changes that impact everyone.

Board Meeting January 22, 5:30 pm at the Board Office (High School Campus)

Email Superintendent Will Hampton at whampton@mariettacsdoh.org

(Editor’s Note: If any readers would like to help by providing the emails of the school board members, that would be much appreciated.)

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COMMENTARY: The People vs. Prosecutor Kevin Rings

Since RCNN broke the story in October about an ongoing investigation against Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, victims have been coming forward in droves leaving many members of the community wondering why he is still in office and responsible for prosecuting crimes.

The investigation was prompted by an accusation from suspect/victim Amy Davis who claims she was “sexually molested” by Rings. Text messages and courthouse surveillance footage tell the story of a philandering official, repeatedly using his authority to pressure attractive young women into sex. Far from being the only one violated in this way, Davis’ accusation opened Pandora’s box revealing that there have been dozens of such victims over many years of Rings’ tenure in the prosecutor’s office.

Often these victims are between the ages of 18-30, they are mothers afraid of losing their children, and they are facing prosecution for drug offenses. So, with the threat of jail and foster care dangled over their heads, these females are not in a position to resist.

Not that Rings’ misdeeds stop there. He also stands accused of inappropriate behavior with female courthouse employees.

It is a mystery to me why Rings has not stepped down pending the outcome of a full investigation in order to spare his wife and children further embarrassment. After all, while they were spending their Sundays in church, his own phone records indicate he was at the courthouse texting and arranging hookups with girls in trouble.

So, why is Rings still in office as the Ohio Bureau of Investigation examines the accusations against him? There are likely a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the Ohio BCI is essentially investigating one of their own. Rings prosecutes cases on behalf of the county and state. Some have suggested he is getting a pass because like Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine who oversees Ohio BCI, Rings is a Republican. However, the reality is likely much more about dollars and cents. If Rings is removed and prosecuted, not only would those cases involving victimized women be thrown out, but the state could stand to lose millions if all of the cases he has prosecuted during his time at the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office were thrown out. All of those convictions are now in jeopardy. What would happen if all of those cases were to be re-tried? Our courts will face a massive and expensive backlash.

Yet, while the wait for justice in the Rings case seems long and perhaps unlikely, there is something anyone can do to take a stand.

The Ohio Disciplinary Counsel is responsible for investigating allegations of ethical misconduct against judges and attorneys. Anyone can file a complaint by downloading the form located here: https://www.supremecourtofohio.gov/Discipli…/…/complaint.asp . It is necessary to sign and date the complaint and to mail it to the address provided. The Ohio Disciplinary Council has the authority to remove Rings from the bench or to suspend his license to practice law until a full investigation has been conducted and the findings made public.

To anyone who has been violated by Rings, please come forward and tell your story to an investigator. Your identity will be protected. And, you are not alone. There is no better time to share your story. Ears are poised to believe you and the support system for women who are victims of sexual crimes has never been better. This systemic behavior must stop and you can be the hero that makes that difference. This hasn’t just happened to one or two people and you can help other victims and future would-be victims by providing some details to investigators. If you aren’t sure who you can trust, contact me and I will assist.

For everyone who is wondering why Rings still has a job, please consider filing a complaint with the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel requesting immediate action based on the following: Kevin Rings is a threat to the safety and welfare of the general public. He has used county resources to foster multiple sexual relationships with drug offenders and dealers. He has been compromised and cannot be counted upon to exercise good judgment on behalf of the voters he was elected to serve. Kevin Rings should lose his law license with no further delay because not only is he not fit to be a prosecutor, there is an enormous body of evidence detailing his dangerous and unethical behavior in the practice of law.

Depending on the level of detail you wish to submit, additional documents may be requested. Also, don’t be concerned by the ODC’s statement about the confidentiality of the investigation – the criminal investigation against Rings is already public knowledge.

From all indications, removal of Ring’s license by demand of the people may be the fastest means to justice. However, I think we all know there is also power in the petition process – and in this day and age nearly anyone can set up an online petition and begin its circulation. Whatever you decide to do, whether you are a victim or observer, if you feel strongly about this matter, please speak out. Exercise your right to free speech and the right to protest this unethical behavior.

You can contact me anytime for information. lyons.callie@gmail.com or 740-236-8635

Peace be with you. And, may the New Year be better than the last.

Callie Lyons
RCNN Publisher/Editor

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WVDEP: IEI Document Dump

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection today posted the following data regarding the IEI fire and the inventory of harmful substances contained in the building. (See the link below.) The agency did not indicate that the documents were sufficient to satisfy the demand that the owner of IEI turn over a detailed inventory of the materials that burned in the fire.

Community members who found themselves in the path of the plume have reported health problems associated with the fumes and smoke. So far, authorities have been unable to name or explain the potential hazards unleashed by the fire. Experts hope that the information posted today may provide some answers for the impacted population.

http://dep.wv.gov/news/Pages/WVDEP-Posts-Updated-IEI-Warehouse-Inventory.aspx

 

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Ohio AG Appointed as Special Prosecutor in Rings Case

The retired judge assigned to adjudicate the complaint against the Washington County Prosecutor who is accused of “sexual molestation” has appointed Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine as special prosecutor.

Former Summit County Judge Patricia Cosgrove was assigned the case in October to address the allegations against Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings. DeWine and Associate Assistant AG Brian Deckert will be responsible for the prosecution of the case.

A complaint lodged by a woman who was both victim and suspect in active cases on Ring’s caseload alleges that the county prosecutor used his position to “molest” her.  Dozens of text messages between the pair reveal some of the details of their adulterous relationship. The complaint provoked several other women to come forward with similar stories about Rings. Those who have contacted RCNN have been encouraged to report their incidents to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

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The Ring Text Messages: the First 50

This gallery contains 50 photos.

Every effort has been made to protect the identity of minors and to present the text messages in chronological order. The information may appear to be incomplete in parts, but that is not due to RCNN editing. It was received that way. Continue reading

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Is the Washington County Prosecutor Marietta’s own Harvey Weinstein?

On October 27, RCNN first reported that Prosecutor Kevin Rings is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation following allegations from a victim/suspect that he “sexually molested” her.  Rings refused to respond to the allegations. Early in October the Ohio Supreme Court assigned the case to a retired judge for the purpose of appointing a special prosecutor and to “hear any matter arising” from the investigation.

Since the story broke, three more alleged victims have contacted RCNN to share their stories. They have been advised to contact BCI. The three young women describe a pattern of “creepy” behavior that made them uncomfortable in the extreme. They recognized the behavior as “crossing ethical boundaries” but were afraid to either resist or call him out.

One such victim, who claims the bad behavior has been going on for years, said Rings would try to rub up against her (while in the courthouse) and often whispered inappropriate comments in her ear. Some victims have tried reporting the unethical practices to traditional local news outlets hoping they would pursue an investigation – but without success.

The three victims all say that at the time of their troubling interactions with Rings they did not report him to the authorities because they believed local attorneys would cover for him. They also assume a general notion that the prosecutor is “in bed” with law enforcement. In other words, they believed Rings was the law and that there would be no recourse for them as his alleged victims. Two of these incidents involved young women who were in trouble with the law. The third worked in the courthouse, where Rings was considered her “superior”.

It is unclear what impact if any the #metoo campaign might be having on the Rings accusers. Over the past couple of weeks many women (and men) have come forward with similar claims following very public sexual harassment allegations brought against filmmaker Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey – who both consequently entered rehab for what they are calling a “sex addiction”. Those who have found themselves victims of sexual wrongdoing use the hashtag on social media to indicate solidarity with other victims and to bring awareness to the magnitude of the issue.

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Ohio Supreme Court Appoints Judge to Oversee Proceedings Against Washington County Prosecutor

Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for allegations involving an inappropriate relationship with the female victim of a crime.

After months of investigating, the River City News Network was able to confirm some of the basic facts of the case thanks to multiple sources. Rings refused to comment.

On October 3 the Supreme Court of Ohio assigned the case to retired Summit County Judge Patricia A Cosgrove. She is to preside “for the purpose of appointing a special prosecutor and to hear any matter arising from that appointment”.

RCNN readers may recall that Cosgrove presided over the 2015 corruption case involving Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly.

The woman involved with Rings was not only a victim of a crime, but was also facing charges at the time of the relationship. She claims that Rings “sexually molested” her.

RCNN has received several complaints from citizens indicating that the incident was keeping Rings from performing the job he was elected to do.

The 31 year old woman pled guilty to selling meth in August after she was caught selling to an undercover agent.

Text messages between the two show Rings repeatedly asking for risqué pictures and the woman complying, calling herself his “little outlaw” and telling him that she likes a powerful man to “take” what he wants.

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Ames Fire: Hazardous Contents 

It was a disaster waiting to happen – a regulatory nightmare and a hazardous scene even on good days.

A look at Intercontinental Export Import’s environmental record speaks volumes about the “recycling” business and its operations at the old Ames shovel plant in Parkersburg. Records from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reveal that regulators were aware of sloppy practices that endangered the river, the workers, and had potential for great harm to human health. Years of violations had been recorded yet the enterprise owned by Dr. Saurabh Naik of Clarksville, Maryland continued to operate. Naik owns and operates several similar recycling warehouses where he purchases and stores plastics and other manufacturing products.

RCNN sources indicate that the contents were obtained from several area plants – with the largest volume of materials originating at DuPont Washington Works (aka Chemours).

A WVDEP consent order describes the warehouse contents as follows:
Nylon
Polyester
Polycarbonate
Cellulose
Polybutylene phthalate
Acrylic
Thermoplastic elastomer
Polypropylene
Polyethylene
Acetal
Polyvinyl chloride
Chlorinated polyethylene

Additionally, it is noted in the 2015 filing that an underground storage tank closed by Ames True Temper still showed evidence of trichloroethylene, lead, ethylbenzene, toluene (in the soil and groundwater.)

A WVDEP inspection of the facility in May 2011 revealed several blatant violations:
• Discharge monitoring reports had not been submitted since 2009.
• Good housekeeping was not being maintained and stored substances had potential to come into contact with storm water.
• Facility failed to record and report flow for each outlet. Failed to install a flow measurement device. Failed to install outlet markers at both outlets.
• From July 2009 to May 2011, failed to collect any required samples.
• Failed to develop and maintain a groundwater protection plan.
• A storm water protection plan had not been implemented.
• The facility was found to be lacking a plan for compliance with effluent phthalate esters and vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene. From 2009 to 2015 the facility was found to be exceeding the permitted limit of vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene discharged in amounts from 34 percent to 114 percent.
• An unpermitted outlet was discovered.

In June 2011, IEI was ordered to complete a permit for storm water associated with industrial activities and failed to comply.

In August 2012, an inspection resulted in a repeat of all the violations from the May 2011 inspection and also:
• Maintenance was needed on drop-inlets and the sedimentation tank.
• Plastic pellets were observed at Outfall 001.

The facility continued to operate out of compliance. The record shows that WVDEP levied fines against the company but the noncompliance continued.

In 2015, WVDEP ordered IEI to immediately take all measures to come into compliance with the terms of its permit and pertinent laws. At that time, IEI had racked up more than $80,000 in penalties for noncompliance. In a press conference today, officials indicated that the relevant portion of the facility – the part known as Plant 2 – continued to operate out of compliance until it was destroyed by fire.

Perhaps WVDEP photo #17 is the most haunting. The caption reads: “Dumpsters for fire cleanup.”

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Water Leak: Details of DuPont C8 Settlement

RCNN Exclusive Report by Callie Lyons

In February, DuPont settled thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley C8 (PFOA) contamination cases at a cost of $670.6 million. Until now the details and terms of the Master Settlement Agreement have remained a carefully-guarded secret. RCNN has obtained a copy of the offer made to 3,500 eligible claimants for qualifying conditions including: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

The settlement is the latest development in what began as a class action lawsuit against DuPont brought by neighbors of Washington Works in 2002 over the contamination of several water supplies with C8, otherwise known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid. Impacted communities include: Lubeck and Mason County, West Virginia; Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Pomeroy and Little Hocking, Ohio.

DuPont has been using the manmade compound at Washington Works since the 1950s in the production of Teflon and hundreds of other consumer applications. During that time the corporation released C8 into the air and water – contaminating the environment around the plant and sickening thousands. The substance was subsequently detected in every mile of the Ohio River.

The personal injury claims are being settled by disease category with a base award set for each medical condition – and additional payments from the extraordinary injury fund depending on the severity of the disease. For example, the base range for testicular cancer is $1.35 million; however the extraordinary injury fund could increase that amount by $250,000 if the patient suffered chemotherapy, radiation, or death resulting from the cancer. Similarly, the base award for kidney cancer is $1.35 million with the possibility of extraordinary injury funds of $250,000 – for those who have endured chemotherapy, radiation, or death.

A statement in the settlement packet explains that the numbers are not absolute and disease information and residency must be verified by a Claim Administrator:

“At this time, there is no definitive information available regarding your exact settlement value. However, we are able to confirm that if your claim is approved by the Claim Administrator that you will not receive less than the base award(s) identified for your Qualifying Condition(s) category.”

If it is determined that there is no medical record support to back a personal injury claim, the minimum recovery will be $1,500.
Due to the large number of cases, the process is expected to take six to nine months to complete. Individual attorney fees will be taken out of the settlement amount according to the original retainer signed by the plaintiff and there is a seven percent mandatory court fee that will be applied to every case. Four percent is reserved to pay attorney fees for the Multi District Litigation. Three percent will be allocated for expenses incurred for the benefit of all claimants.

People with personal injury claims who do not choose to participate in the settlement will have their cases continued in the judicial system – meaning that they may not go to trial for many years and the outcome is not assured.

The settlement itself was intended to be a secret. Participants are warned not to discuss or disclose the terms to anyone – particularly the media. Claimants are further warned that failure to keep the terms secret could result in a penalty from DuPont.

The settlement amount for ulcerative colitis is based on four tiers representing the severity of the condition. Tier One is the most serious and relates to those who have undergone surgery because of the ailment, while Tier Four relates to those who have medical records indicating chronic inflammatory bowel disease like Chron’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastritis, or Diverticulitis. The base award for Tier One is $290,000 – $300,000. The base award for Tier Four is $20,000 – $22,000. Those who have suffered extraordinary injuries including the placement of a colostomy bag or death resulting from ulcerative colitis may be eligible for an additional payment of $200,000 – $325,000.

Individuals who have claims related to thyroid disease have been assigned a base award of $38,000 – $40,000. Those whose thyroid had to be removed due to disease may be eligible for an additional $20,000.

There are no extraordinary injury funds for pregnancy-induced hypertension or high cholesterol.

Claimants who have suffered pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension are subject to a base award of $20,000 – $22,000 for those with medical records verifying their disease and $10,000 – $11,000 for those without records.

Plaintiffs with medically diagnosed high cholesterol may be eligible for a base award of $10,000. Individuals who filed a C8 personal injury case in the Southern District of Ohio prior to February 11, but who have no proof of a related condition are eligible for a base award of $1,500.

Participants must release DuPont/Chemours from future liability and provide evidence that they were exposed to C8 in their drinking water for at least a year.

If the Claims Administrator finds the claim lacking, the participant’s C8-related disease will not be eligible for future compensation. The rejected plaintiff will receive a payment of $1,500.

Participation in the settlement does not impact class members’ right to receive medical monitoring. The C8 Medical Monitoring program (www.c-8MedicalMonitoringProgram) is available to all members of the class and was established to screen for diseases linked to C8 exposure.

While this settlement agreement pertains to old cases, newly diagnosed individuals may still file claims. DuPont and Chemours have agreed to set aside funds in future years to settle future cases.

“Persons diagnosed with linked diseases within two years may file claims before that time limit expires. They will not be included in the settlement because it only encompasses the claims which have been listed prior,” explained class counsel Harry Deitzler. “New cases will not be in the MDL (multi district litigation) and will be tried in the court where they are filed or federal court if removed by DuPont.”

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of diagnosis. It is expected that people who live in the Mid-Ohio Valley will continue to be diagnosed with related conditions for some time. C8 is resistant to deterioration and will be present in the environment around Washington Works for a thousand years unless a massive cleanup operation is ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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DuPont Settles MOV Cases for $670 Million

A settlement agreement is in the works to resolve more than 3,500 C8 personal injury claims. DuPont will pay roughly $670 million to settle all of the cases.

Residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley who live in one of six PFOA contaminated water districts may be eligible to file claims against the corporation if they suffer from one or more of the related diseases. The C8 Science Panel determined that exposure in Mid-Ohio Valley residents can be linked to testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

Today’s announcement will resolve all of the MOV cases filed against DuPont to date. Individuals who worked or lived in one of the six contaminated areas for at least a year prior to 2004 and who have developed related disease can file a personal injury claim against the corporation without having to provide their own potentially expensive scientific evidence.

If split evenly amongst the claimants, the settlement would pay out about $189,000 per case. However, class counsel Harry Deitzler said different medical conditions will be assigned different settlement amounts.

“Cancer cases will be different from other diseases,” Deitzler explained. “In typical mass tort cases, there is a “grid” proposal which provides an offer to each person based on the disease or condition from which he or she suffers.”

The plaintiff’s lead attorney Rob Bilott released the following statement:

“Today, DuPont publicly disclosed that it has reached a settlement in principle to resolve the C8 Personal Injury Multi-District Litigation now pending in federal court in Columbus, Ohio for $670.7 Million in cash.  The litigation arises from a 2001 class action lawsuit involving DuPont’s contamination of the drinking water supplies of approximately 70,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio with the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8).

Under a 2004 settlement of the class claims, DuPont has paid or has committed to pay over $350 Million for impacted community water filtration systems, class member blood and health data collection, class member health studies, and class member medical monitoring.  Today’s settlement in principle involving payment by DuPont of an additional $670.7 Million to address the individual personal injury claims of approximately 3500 class members who claim that the C8 in their drinking water led to one or more of six diseases linked to the contamination of their drinking water with C8.

This is a tremendous positive step toward resolving the litigation in a way that provides compensation for our injured clients without the need for additional, lengthy, and expensive trials.  We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible.”

Officials from the activist organization Keep Your Promises DuPont say they are cautiously optimistic about the settlement.

“DuPont’s settlement offer of $670.7 million for the 3,550 local residents harmed by C8 represents an enormous step in the right direction, and we are cautiously optimistic that the company will prevent any further delay, that this offer will be approved by the plaintiffs, and that this long-awaited promise will finally be fulfilled,” said Harold Bock. “As of this announcement, no checks have been written and no compensation has been paid. Folks who have already had their days in court, including Carla Bartlett, David Freeman, and Kenneth Vigneron, have had their awards bogged down in appeals. For DuPont and Chemours, who have shamelessly dragged this crisis out for decades, it is time to make good on this settlement offer without any further delay.”

Bock said no settlement can restore the health of the thousands of victims, but he is “heartened to know that this long-awaited justice for these 3,550 members of our community is now within arm’s reach.”

As soon as additional information becomes available about the details of the suit, RCNN will provide updates.

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