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Morning Headlines: Ohio Supreme Court to Hear ECOT Arguments; Akron Land Swap Moves Ahead

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, Feb. 13:

  • Cleveland will hire consultant to clear police complaint backlog;
  • Trump administration's budget proposal slashes Great Lakes funding;
  • Stow officer acquitted in shooting of homeless man;
  • Summit County approves part of Akron land swap;
  • Akron School Board to announce new member;
  • Ohio Supreme Court to hear arguments in ECOT case;
  • Toledo abortion clinic reaches patient-transfer agreement with hospital system;
  • EMS captain fired over offensive Tamir Rice Facebook posts sues Cleveland;
  • Cleveland man charged with providing handgun used to kill Columbus policemen;
  • University of Cincinnati says white nationalist will not speak on campus;
  • Actor Michael Keaton to deliver Kent State commencement address;

Cleveland will hire consultant to clear police complaint backlog

The city of Cleveland plans to hire a consulting firm to help eliminate a backlog of police complaints. City council voted on Monday to hire a Chicago-based law enforcement consulting firm to analyze nearly 380 non-criminal complaints about officers. The complaints date from 2015 to 2017. Clearing the backlog is required under the federally-mandated consent decree for police reform. The city will pay up to $70,000 for the analysis. New complaints will continue to be handled by Cleveland’s Office of Professional Standards.

Trump administration's budget proposal slashes Great Lakes funding

President Trump’s budget outline cuts Great Lakes funding by funding by 90 percent from $300 down to $30 million. The money is used for projects like cleaning up pollution, protecting wildlife and rebuilding wetlands. Last year, Trump zeroed out Great Lakes restoration funding in his proposed budget, but Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to restore the money. Both Ohio Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown say they intend to fight the cuts again.

Stow officer acquitted in shooting of homeless man

A Stow police officer who shot a man outside an Akron homeless shelter has been cleared of any criminal charges. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh determined officer Robert Molody “acted within his authority” and did not break any laws. Last September, Molody approached the 30-year-old man and offered to take him to a local shelter. The man had a history of mental illness and reportedly attacked Molody, who shot him twice in the chest and called an ambulance moments after. A release from the county prosecutor says body cam footage was a crucial part of the acquittal.

Summit County approves part of Akron land swap

Summit County has approved part of a land swap aimed at clearing space for redevelopment in downtown Akron. County Council yesterday approved the sale of the Sojourner Truth Building on High St. to United Way of Summit County. United Way will purchase the empty building for $1.75 million and use it as its new headquarters. The city and Akron Public Schools also approved deals to make way for new homes on the site of Perkins Middle School.

Akron School Board to announce new member

Akron’s school board has narrowed down the field of applicants to fill a vacant seat. Former board member John Otterman resigned in January after police found him unconscious in his SUV from a possible fentanyl overdose. Of the 57 applicants, 17 are still in the running. The board plans to hold a special meeting on Feb. 20 to announce its newest member.

Ohio Supreme Court to hear arguments in ECOTcase

The Ohio Supreme Court is ready to hear arguments in a legal dispute over how state education officials calculated enrollment at the state's largest online charter school. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow will argue Tuesday that the Ohio Department of Education overstepped its authority when it changed the way it tallied enrollment to account for learning time. The state will counter that it was following Ohio laws that said e-school funding should be based on participation, not just enrollment. The revised formula showed ECOT had inflated its attendance and owed the state a $60 million refund. The school's survival and the future of online K-12 education could be affected by the court's decision. Supporters and former students of the now-closed school were organizing a protest to accompany the arguments.

Toledo abortion clinic reaches patient-transfer agreement with hospital system

A hospital system has authorized a patient-transfer agreement to keep the last abortion clinic in Toledo operating. The announcement for Capital Care of Toledo came hours after feminist leader and Toledo native Gloria Steinem issued a statement urging one of the city's private hospitals to sign the patient-transfer agreement. Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a state order from 2014 shuttering Capital Care. Justices ruled the state Health Department acted within its rights because the clinic lacked the required transfer agreement with a local hospital.

EMS captain fired over offensive Tamir Rice Facebook posts sues Cleveland

An emergency medical services captain fired over Facebook posts about the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by police is suing the city of Cleveland. Jamie Marquardt's federal lawsuit says the posts, including one saying Marquardt was glad Rice was dead, were put on his Facebook account by someone else. Marquardt later deleted the posts. But the lawsuit says the posts were constitutionally protected speech even though they were posted by someone else, and that Cleveland violated his rights by firing him in 2016.

Cleveland man charged with providing handgun used to kill Columbus policemen

A Cleveland-area man has been charged with providing the gun used to kill two suburban Columbus policemen. Gerald Lawson, 30, is accused of buying the handgun for suspect Quentin Smith last summer. Smith allegedly gave Lawson the money to buy the gun along with $100 for completing the transaction. More than two dozen police officers crowded into the hearing Monday, almost all from Westerville in suburban Columbus, the department that lost two officers in Saturday's shooting.

University of Cincinnati says white nationalist will not speak on campus

The University of Cincinnati's president has confirmed that a white nationalist's plan to speak on campus during spring break is no longer an option. An attorney for Richard Spencer says Spencer's planned appearance March 14 was derailed by a legal standoff over the school's demand for a security fee of nearly $11,000. Attorney Kyle Bristow told The Associated Press on Monday that Spencer's tour organizer hopes to reschedule the appearance for summer or fall.

Actor Michael Keaton to deliver Kent State commencement address

Kent State University is hiring actor Michael Keaton to deliver this year’s commencement address. Keaton briefly enrolled at Kent State before dropping out and moving to Pittsburgh to study acting. The university says it will pay Keaton $100,000, the same amount paid to actress Octavia Spencer for last year’s address. The fee will be paid from unrestricted private funds. A university spokesman says “(none of) the money will come from taxpayers or students’ tuition.” The contract with Keaton’s management is still being finalized.

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.
Phil DeOliveira
Philip de Oliveira is a master’s student in Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC). Prior to pursuing journalism, he took a bachelor’s degree in music composition and piano. He also spent some time traveling Northern Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Phil currently lives in Cleveland Heights.