Update for Belpre Parents Concerned

Update 5/21:  Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn explained:

“All volunteers who serve in an official capacity within our district are Board approved.  If they serve in a capacity that puts them in a position where they are alone with students, they go through the same FBI/BCI background checks as other school employees.  Student safety is of utmost importance to us and we take all the steps necessary to ensure to the best of our abilities that persons who may do any type of harm to our students do not serve this district in an official capacity and anyone who does serve the district in an official capacity has the proper training to ensure student safety.”

Dunn said Totten does not volunteer in an official capacity.

RCNN asked if there would be security at tonight’s Board of Education meeting.

“We have not asked for any police presence at tonight’s meeting.  We do not expect any loud confrontations and our Board does not allow those types of interactions at their monthly meetings or any special meetings.  Our meetings are orderly, lawful, courteous, and open to the general public.  There is a public participation portion, but the Board will ask anyone with a complaint about an employee or Board member to make them aware of that in Executive Session.  Concerns about programming and procedures are usually handled in open session, but we ask that community members limit their comments to the time-frame listed in BOE policy, 5 minutes.”\

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Belpre Parents Raise Concerns Following Coach Indictment

The indictment of a Belpre coach this week has parents concerned about student safety – and about the black eye the story may be giving the district.

It was the last week of school in Belpre and on Wednesday a Wood County, West Virginia grand jury indicted 23 year old Trent Jacob Stanley on 15 charges – 7 counts of sexual assault in the third degree and 8 counts of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust. It has since come to light that the Belpre High School girls’ soccer coach and Belpre Junior High girls’ track coach is accused of an inappropriate relationship with at least one 14 year old girl under his supervision. The investigation is ongoing and charges are expected out of Washington County, as well. The Wood County charges stem from incidents that occurred between October and December of last year.

Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn said he became aware of the situation in April.

“In April of 2018, a complaint of inappropriate conduct was received by Belpre City Schools against Mr. Stanley, a coach for the district, Dunn said in a statement released Thursday. “Mr. Stanley was suspended from all duties with the District and local law enforcement and Child Protective Services were notified. We have cooperated fully with their investigation and look forward to the resolution of this issue. Student safety is the District’s top priority. Thanks to parents, staff, and students, this matter was brought to light. We encourage everyone ‘if you see or know something, say something!’ Belpre City Schools has mandatory training and background checks in place to prevent such behavior and we will use all the information from this case to increase our efforts in preventing this type of conduct from happening in the future.”

Shortly after reporting on this matter, RCNN began receiving messages from Jeffrey Totten of Little Hocking, Ohio, which over the weekend progressed into threats that were reported to the local police.

Totten is the Belpre school’s visual communication teacher and has been accepted as the volunteer assistant football coach for Belpre High School. Totten is a Belpre alum who spent many years in California before returning in recent years to care for his ailing father and share his videography talents with his hometown.

In Torrance, California in August 2008, Totten was injured in a skirmish with police. Court records indicate he was charged and convicted of two counts of resisting an officer. The physical altercation began when Totten stormed into a police station with an angry complaint about an intersection. He filed a federal suit against the city of Torrance and the police department and ended up with a settlement of $120,000 – less than damages claimed.

As recently as 2016, Totten has been charged with domestic violence and disorderly conduct.

So, who is responsible for the decision to allow these characters to be in a position of authority over Belpre’s students and athletes?

Some parents are looking to Belpre High School Athletic Director Stephanie Evans for the answer.

In 2005, Evans lost her first year teaching job to what might have been nothing more than a vicious “rumor mill”. She was accused but not charged with an inappropriate relationship with a student. She went on to join the teaching staff at Belpre High School in 2009, rising up through the ranks to take the position of Athletic Director in 2013.

It is only fair to say that there is much disagreement amongst the Trimble witnesses as to what exactly happened – or didn’t happen there. When all was said and done, Evans admitted to inappropriate talk with students, but nothing more. She was not reinstated, but kept her teaching license. However, under the circumstances, the old allegations from 2005 are drawing new scrutiny from parents who are stunned by the revelations prompted by Stanley’s indictment. Parents are questioning the climate that has permitted Stanley and Totten to be in positions of authority over students in the classroom and on the field.

Dunn and parents appear to be on the same team with their stated goal: student safety. Even so, many parents have questions about the process for protecting students from predators and for informing guardians when a concern does arise.

The Belpre City Schools Board of Education will meet at 7 pm on Monday in the Stone Administration Building. The meeting is open to the public.

Editor’s Note: RCNN found no evidence of a conspiracy to hide this matter until after the levy vote. And, no reason to believe this would have influenced the outcome of the election.

Please keep your comments as respectful as possible. Personal attacks will not be tolerated. The first rule of RCNN is attack the establishment, not each other!

If you have evidence of wrong doing, please share that privately; report it to the police and to the school superintendent.

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GenX Detected in LHWA Pretreated Water

 

The Little Hocking Water Association is notifying consumers that the chemical DuPont is using to replace C8 or PFOA has been detected in pretreated water. The substance known as GenX was adopted by DuPont as a replacement in the manufacture of Teflon and hundreds of other applications after C8 was shown to be harmful to human health. Specifically, a study of Mid-Ohio Valley residents found a probable link between C8 exposure and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and high cholesterol.

In February, GenX was detected at level of 32 parts per trillion in pretreated water from the Little Hocking wellfield. At the same time treated water was non-detect for GenX. High levels of GenX discovered at and around a North Carolina manufacturing facility prompted the US EPA to require this round of testing.

Chemours, formerly DuPont Washington Works, is located directly across the Ohio River from the Little Hocking wellfield. GenX has already been detected in four wells on the Washington Works property – three production wells and one on-site drinking water well. The substance is not regulated by the EPA and there is a lack of toxicological information on GenX, which is in the same family of chemicals as C8. Some studies have classified GenX as a suspected human carcinogen.

As a result of litigation brought over C8 contamination, DuPont constructed six community filtration systems including one for the Little Hocking Water Association. The detection of GenX in the Little Hocking wellfield is raising questions about whether or not the filtration systems put in place will be sufficient to remove GenX from the water.

“There are scientific concerns about the long term effectiveness of carbon treatment at removing GenX from public water supplies,” states a press release from the Little Hocking Water Association. “As of this date, there is a serious question as to whether the kind of carbon filtration used at Little Hocking will effectively remove any GenX before it enters your drinking water.”

The statement says the water association is working to better understand the scope of the GenX contamination. Updates will be posted to the LHWA website at littlehockingwater.org.

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Evidence Piles Up Against Prosecutor

Last October the Ohio Supreme Court appointed a judge to oversee proceedings arising from an investigation of Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings. Rings is accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who was the victim in one case he was prosecuting and a suspect in another. The woman, Amy Davis, pled guilty to drug charges last fall. She claims Rings “sexually molested” her in his courthouse office. So far, Rings has declined opportunities to comment on the developing situation.

Because of Davis’ accusations against Rings, a pattern of behavior began to emerge as told by numerous women who have been pursued by the prosecutor. Several women have come forward with stories and emails. The authenticity of these documents has been confirmed.

Earlier this year the River City News Network filed a public information request with the Washington County Commissioners and the prosecutor’s office seeking access to emails involving more than a dozen women. Although the building and its contents and its IT Director are all under the control of the Washington County Commissioners, they passed the request along to the prosecutor’s office where it was largely denied. The office refused to turn over what it termed “purely personal” emails. Thanks to women involved we have a peek at what they were trying to conceal. These emails indicate not only that Rings was mixing business with pleasure, but also that he bartered for services, engaged the women in sexual activity and provided them with monetary loans in order to gain or maintain control over the women.

RCNN has been able to obtain only a few of the thousands of incriminating emails from Rings’ official courthouse account, but they paint an ugly picture of the prosecutor.

In what might be the most audacious acts committed against these women and the public, Rings offers to make court problems go away in exchange for payment of one sort or another.

When the women are slow to respond to his emails and text messages, Rings grows irritated and accuses them of ignoring him, then badgers the women to repay him. For example, in one exchange he demands: “Repay your loan, and then you can go live happily ever after . . . But don’t bother asking me again.” This same line of reasoning appears again and again in his communications with these women.

Rings remains in his elected position despite calls for him to resign pending the outcome of the Ohio BCI investigation. The Ohio Disciplinary Council is waiting on the outcome of the investigation before taking action on dozens of complaints regarding Rings’ behavior.

RCNN has been investigating the Rings controversy for several months. Recently, there is a new wave of complaints against the prosecutor. And, these are very serious charges of threatening witnesses and tampering with evidence.

Much is at stake in the investigation. Rings has been working in the prosecutor’s office for twenty years and every case he has ever tried could be in jeopardy. The cost to the state would be immense. For this reason many people with knowledge of the situation fear Rings will go unpunished.

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MMH Fires 150+

Marietta Memorial Hospital is laying off more than 150 employees in a massive reorganization. RCNN contacted MMH for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

The news began to break last Friday when the hospital released a video to employees to “calm the rumors”. However, the administration also said they will not be honoring employees’ 403B for 2017. This is a tax sheltered annuity plan, or retirement.

Since Friday several nurses have contacted RCNN reporting the loss of their jobs. At the same time, ProLinkStaff has posted an advertisement for contract nurses to work at Marietta Memorial for $1500 a week. The ad says nurses are needed immediately with a start date of February 8.

Meantime, employees report being escorted off the premises “like thieves”.

And, indeed, the rumors are flying about the hospital system’s financial woes. Within the past couple of years the health system has opened a new emergency room and health care campus in Belpre. Fired employees are blaming the expansion and a new computer system for the money problems.

A number of people who contacted RCNN said they did so because they felt the local, traditional media would not report on the massive layoffs so as not to risk their advertising incomes from the hospital – which are substantial.

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Rings Plays Hide and Seek with Public Records

The Washington County Prosecutor’s office is playing a ridiculous game of hide and seek. More than two weeks ago, RCNN made a FOIA request of the Washington County Commissioners – specifically that they release a number of emails originating with disgraced but still sitting Prosecutor Kevin Rings. His office was asked to comply and after negotiating terms there was agreement that the records would be provided.

Please understand I do not want anyone’s case records or personal information. I am quite aware that Rings has used his position and his county email account to pursue both suspects and victims of crimes he was prosecuting. You may recall RCNN has made public a number of text messages between Rings and Amy Davis, who is accusing him of sexual wrongdoing. Despite being under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Rings is still prosecuting cases on behalf of the state and the county.

Now his office is trying to make the asinine claim that his personal emails are exempted from disclosure. He shouldn’t have any personal emails on his county courthouse email account but since he does they are public records.

In case you don’t know me, well, I’m relentless. So, don’t anyone think this is over. And, there exists a whole nation of women who are tired of this bad behavior from men in positions of power. All of this spells bad timing for Mr. Rings.

Not to mention, I have quite a bit of evidence already gathered and that is how I know these emails exist and are being unlawfully withheld. I have a few of them. Some of Rings victims have provided me with information and I am so grateful and proud of you who are willing to take a stand. So, let me just put this out there. Ladies, please forward your emails from Kevin Rings to me either here or at lyons.callie@gmail.com.

If justice is to be done, the people are going to have to see to it. No one is above the law. That reminds me of the Lorax.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Your Livid Correspondent,
Callie Lyons

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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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