Recent Stories

Mysterious Ohio nonprofit backs winning campaigns in Illinois and Georgia

Bruce Rauner is a Chicago billionaire who has never held political office, yet this spring he mowed down a crowd of rivals and claimed the GOP nomination to be Illinois’ next governor. David Perdue is a wealthy former executive who also has never been elected to public office, yet he too knocked off a string of far more experienced Republican opponents to win the party’s Senate nomination in Georgia. Read the full story at Opensecrets.org.

Wilberforce University faces loss of accreditation

Wilberforce University, one of the nation’s oldest historically black universities, will lose its accreditation if it is unable to demonstrate within six months its fiscal and administrative fitness to the regional accrediting agency for Midwestern and Southwestern schools. The university, near Xenia, Ohio, has received a “show cause” decision from the Higher Learning Commission which accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states from West Virginia to Arizona. Losing accreditation would make Wilberforce ineligible to receive Pell Grants, Perkins loans and other federal loans and grants that its students use to finance their education. That loss could be devastating to the struggling institution that depends on tuition to make ends meet. In 2011, for example, tuition and fees totaled $9.3 million – about 64 percent of the school’s $14.5 million in revenues.

VA hasn’t followed own rules on narcotic prescriptions, audit says

Editor’s note: In December, Eye on Ohio reporter Anna Duee told the story of Scott McDonald, a Columbus area veteran who died from an overdose of prescription painkillers.  His story echoed that of many others chronicled by the Center for Investigative Reporting. CIR investigated the sharp rise in opiate prescriptions by the United States Veterans Administration nationally from 2001 to 2012. CIR recently followed up its investigation with a story about a VA audit that shows the agency failed to follow its own rules for the prescribing of addictive narcotic painkillers.

A dubious honor: Ohio ranks high in haz-mat spills

In late November 2013, a CSX railroad car carrying the highly flammable chemical styrene monomer derailed near the Main Street overpass in Willard, Ohio, forcing hundreds of residents to be evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night. More than 30,000 gallons of styrene monomer leaked into nearby soil from the tank of a DOT-111 rail car, an older, so-called “legacy” car that has come under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Transportation because of its safety record. Officials in Willard, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland, said the town was lucky. Because the temperature was well below the combustible level for styrene monomer,  there was no explosion and no one was injured. According to Brian Humphress, Willard’s city manager, CSX, state and federal agencies and local first responders all reacted quickly to clean up the spill and get residents safely back in their homes.

A case of conflicts

Federal court judges – including one in Akron, Ohio – have heard cases involving parties in which they have financial interests. Read the story from the Center for Public Integrity and see the national map showing court districts where the potential conflicts have occurred.

The Bluegrass Pipeline

The Bluegrass Pipeline, which was supposed to carry natural gas liquids from Southwest Pennsylvania through Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia to the Gulf Coast, has been cancelled. Read the story from the non-profit Public Source.

Rail cars moving crude oil need makeover

Late on  Nov.  26, 2013, a train derailment and chemical spill forced hundreds of residents to be evacuated from their homes in Willard, Ohio, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland. Thousands of gallons of styrene monomer, a highly flammable chemical, leaked from the tank of a CSX railroad DOT-111 rail car into the nearby soil.   No injuries were reported and the cold weather helped ensure that the chemical didn’t ignite. The Federal Railroad Administration has not released yet the results of its investigation into the cause of the derailment or the chemical spill. Brian Humphress, Willard’s city manager, said emergency responders, state and federal agencies, and CSX handled the clean-up smoothly and the town appears to have recovered well from the accident.    But officials in other states and in federal agencies are starting to question the safety of the DOT-111 and whether the aging rail car should be used to carry new types of cargo such as crude oil from fracking. Public Source,  a Pittsburgh-based non-profit journalism organization and fellow Investigative News Network member, takes an in-depth look at the issue.

A new pipeline from PA fracking fields stirs controversy in the Bluegrass State

STAMPING GROUND, Ky. — The land agent first came knocking on Vivian and Dean House’s door in July. They sat on the patio of the retired couple’s 85-acre farm in this Central Kentucky town and chatted. The guy was friendly, the kind of guy Dean could talk to about fishing. He put the couple at ease and told them his company was interested in running a pipeline through their land.

A crime not to tell: HIV laws debated in wake of high-profile arrest

It usually doesn’t make the news when men solicit other men for sex at Edgewater Park on Cleveland’s lakeshore. Law enforcement does its best to clear up the problem, but the attempts to find a quick hook up there still happen. An arrest on Oct. 11, 2013, was different, though, garnering attention because it involved a priest and felony, not just misdemeanor, charges. Rev. James McGonegal, then pastor of St.

Fighting the war over prescription painkillers

A veteran’s widow pushes for change as the Columbus VA rethinks its prescription policies

When he returned from his service in Iraq in 2010, Scott McDonald was happy and excited about the future.  Returning to civilian life after 15 years in the Army, he and his wife Heather moved into a new house, bought a car and were trying to have another baby. They already were parents to 10-year-old Reise. “Everybody thought now that he is getting out of the army, he’s going to finally live that life he’s been dying for,” said Heather McDonald. But as the next two years progressed, Heather and Reise began recognizing changes in Scott’s behavior after he took his daily pain medication.  The stay-at-home dad was always tired, more reserved and more zoned out or “absent” than he had been before.

Religious instruction getting into public schools – through the outside

Ohio last year approved a bill allowing high school students to receive up to two units of academic credit for instruction outside the public school classroom. Students can get credit for religious instruction as long as no public funds or publicly paid personnel are involved and they’re not taught in public school buildings. The Center for Investigative Reporting, now found at the website revealnews.org has an update of what’s going on around the country when it comes to “religious release” programs.

America’s Vanishing Worker Protections

Since 2003, more than 30 states – including Ohio – either have cut workers’ compensation benefits or made it harder for injured workers to qualify for benefits. That’s according to a just-released series of stories by ProPublica non-profit investigative news organization and National Public Radio. The story was published just as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a report saying that, on average, workers comp pays only 20% of the cost of workers’ injuries and illnesses in the United States. Workers pay half the cost out -of-pocket and the rest is paid by private insurance and other government funding sources. In Ohio, workers’ comp benefit cuts came in the mid-2000s, when laws were passed raising the burden of proof for employees when an injury aggravated an existing condition, and lowering the “life” of claims to automatically close cases five years after the last medical treatment, making it difficult to receive payment if an injury recurs.

National donors pick the winners in state elections, including Ohio’s

The biggest donor to state elections in November was the Republic Governors Association, which spent $68.6 million, according to a data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. The Ohio Republican Party got $9 million of that pot, with $3 million directed to Gov. Kasich’s re-election campaign. Mike DeWine, who won re-election as Ohio’s Attorney General, received $1.3 million from the RGA. In contrast the Democratic Governors’ Association spent $32 million on state races in November. Kasich’s opponent, former Cuyahoga County executive, did not receive donations from the Democratic association.

The Great Ohio Death Drug Mystery

On Monday, Jan. 20, four death-row inmates in Ohio filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Columbus challenging the law that shields the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs to the state in death penalty cases.  This comes at a time when Ohio is changing the drugs it uses after a botched execution in 2014. The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that covers criminal justice issues, reports that an alternative drug that Ohio is considering is hard to come by – and its source may never be known under the state’s secrecy law. The piece was reported and written by Maurice Chammah. You can follow the Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Military “gifts” to Ohio cities total $73 million

Mine-resistant,  ambush-protected military vehicles: not your ordinary community police cars, but equipment several small towns in Ohio now own, thanks to the Unites States military. Local police departments for the past 20 years have been obtaining military equipment under a Pentagon surplus give-away program called 1033. Ohio cities such as Brimfield, Canton, Brunswick and Barberton are among the 600 municipalities across the country that have acquired so-called MRAP’s , designed to detect improved explosive devises,  valued at around $733,000 each, from the U.S. Department of Defense. That’s according to the Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that has compiled a data base of 1033 recipients from the DOD’s quiet release of the information last month. Ohio cities, county sheriff’s department, campus police departments and local offices of the FBI have received more than $73 million under the 1033 Program.