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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

Local Government

Scanner encryption doesn't involve 9-1-1 center

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — A petition opposing local law enforcement's encryption of radio traffic incorrectly attributes the decision to Knox County 9-1-1.

“It has nothing to do with the 9-1-1 center,” said County Administrator Jason Booth. “The law enforcement in the county has made a decision to encrypt their radio traffic.”

Booth said that the 9-1-1 center had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Mount Vernon Police Department in order to get access to the encrypted channel. Otherwise, he said, law enforcement could hear the dispatchers, but the dispatchers could not hear law enforcement.

Last year, Knox County 9-1-1 received a Local Government Safety Capital Grant to purchase MARCS radios for county agencies. “You have to have encryption capability to be on that system,” explained Booth. While the grant requires encryption capability, only law enforcement can activate the encryption. “Dispatch doesn't have the ability to make that decision,” said Booth.

According to Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer, local law enforcement officials made the decision to encrypt last fall, citing privacy and security as the reasons. Mount Vernon resident Katie Jackson started the petition on change.org to encourage residents to oppose law enforcement's decision. More than 600 people have signed the petition thus far.

After 9-1-1 Operations Director Laura Webster explained to Jackson in an email that 9-1-1 did not make the decision to encrypt, Jackson apologized for the incorrect wording, noting that she did not realize Knox County 9-1-1 was an agency and that she was just referencing the system in general.

U.S. Senators Brown and Portman honor police officers, outline legislation in support of law enforcement


WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown joined Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees on Wednesday to mark National Police Week and to outline bipartisan legislation in support of law enforcement officials and their families as they work to keep Ohio communities safe. Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed three bills that Brown cosponsored. The bills now await action by the House.

“As we honor the work and sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers throughout Police Week, we need to offer more than kind words – we need action to support law enforcement as they work to keep Ohio communities safe,” said Brown. “Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day to protect us. This Police Week, we owe them more than gratitude – we must do all we can to support the men and women that selflessly serve our communities and country every single day.”

Brown’s bills would:

1. Put pressure on the Department of Justice to speed up claims processing so families of disabled officers or fallen officers get the benefits they are owed more quickly.
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act of 2017 was passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday. The bill would update legislation signed into law in 1976 that provides federal benefits to the family members of fallen officers. The bill would work to clear the backlog in the benefits process and would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to post weekly status updates for the total number of pending claims on its website and report statistics related to those claims to Congress twice a year.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and is also cosponsored by Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

2. Authorize police departments to use certain federal grant funding to hire veterans as law enforcement officers.
The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 was also passed unanimously by the Senate yesterday. Brown’s bill prioritizes federal grant applications for DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding for those departments and agencies that seek to use COPS funding to hire veterans.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and is also cosponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Todd Young (R-IN).

3. Help law enforcement agencies establish or enhance mental health care services, like peer mentoring pilot programs and crisis hotlines, for their officers.
The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act would direct the Department of Justice to conduct studies of mental health practices and services for officers and make grant funding available for law enforcement agencies to develop or improve existing mental health services for officers, including crisis hotlines and annual health checks. The Senate passed the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act unanimously passed the Senate yesterday.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Todd Young (R-IN) and is cosponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

4. Increase access to federal scholarship dollars for the children of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.
The Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act would increase access to Pell Grant scholarships for children of public service officers who are killed in the line of duty, including police, firefighters, and EMS workers. With this bill, if the child of the fallen public service officer qualifies for a Pell Grant, they would be eligible for the maximum award authorized by law.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and is also cosponsored by Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

The bill has been introduced and has been assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Brown also highlighted his work in calling for full funding of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, a program through DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs to provide funding for local and state law enforcement to acquire bulletproof vests for officers. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, National Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Tactical Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Major Cities Chief’s Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, and the National Narcotics Officers’ Association have voiced support for Brown’s effort.

Today, Brown also wrote to DOJ urging the agency to speed up the distribution of federal funding for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program, which provides funding to police departments to train first-responders as they deal with opioid related incidents, and to purchase resources and devices to use in the field to protect themselves against these deadly drugs. The grant program was created as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which Brown supported.

Last month, Brown also worked with his colleagues Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015. Several state and national law enforcement organizations have endorsed Brown’s bill.

Brown was joined on the call by Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees.

“I applaud the action of the United States Senate in taking prompt action on key legislation to support law enforcement personnel and their families. With the increasing complexity of the law enforcement and public safety environment, including its increased lethality in recent years, it is even more vital that the safety and health needs of law enforcement personnel are optimally met. Even more so, in those instances where law enforcement officers are disabled or killed in the performance of their duties, from which critical needs arise both immediately and long-term, it is paramount that federal benefits to surviving family members are provided expeditiously,” said Chief Biehl.

National Police Week honors law enforcement officers and their families and serves as a remembrance of officers who have died in the line of duty. The commemoration of National Police Week began in 1962 under a proclamation signed by President John F. Kennedy.


Wednesday, during National Police Week, U.S. Senator Rob Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor to honor Ohio’s fallen police officers. Portman, who has introduced the Back the Blue Act to increase the penalties for criminals who intentionally target law enforcement officers and provide new tools for officers to protect themselves, discussed the recent tragedy in Kirkersville that took the life of Police Chief Steven Eric Disario and his appreciation for every officer who risks it all in order to protect our communities. Senator Portman also read the names of Ohio police officers who died in the line of duty in 2016.

Rob Portman Us senator

Senator Rob Portman

A transcript of the speech can be found below:

“I rise today during Police Week to pay tribute to our police officers around the country; the men and women in blue who every day serve us in Ohio and in every state represented in this chamber. In Ohio this is a particularly difficult week. Here we are in Police Week and we are once again mourning the loss of a police officer. This happened just last Friday. Last Friday a gunman took two people hostage in the woods behind a nursing home in Kirkersville, Ohio, it’s a small town about 25 miles east of Columbus. The first one to arrive on the scene was the police chief of this small town. His name was Steven Disario. Chief Disario confronted the assailant. He was ambushed by this assailant. He was shot. He was killed. This gunman then went inside the nursing facility and murdered two staff members: a registered nurse Marlina Medrano and a nurse’s aide named Cindy Krantz. Then he took his own life.

“By the way, Police Chief Steven Disario was 36 years old and had just become the police chief in Kirkersville a month ago. The women who were slain were Marlina Medrano, who had a son, and Cindy Krantz, who had five kids, including a 10-year-old son. Those kids had to spend Mother’s Day preparing for the burial of their moms.

“On Monday I went to Kirkersville and saw the memorial there for the officer. I also had an opportunity to meet with some of the officers who were from neighboring communities. There was just one police officer in Kirkersville, just the chief, and I was able to express to them the sympathy and the gratitude of people from throughout Ohio. I brought a flag that had been flown over the United States Capitol here in honor of Chief Disario and that flag will go to the family as a very small token of appreciation and gratitude of all of us for the service of their father and their husband.

“Chief Disario had six kids, and his widow Aryn is currently pregnant with their seventh child, a child who is never going to know his or her dad. What this child will know is that he died a hero. He died a hero risking his life to protect innocent people. And that’s what police officers do every single day. They keep us safe, and they take dangerous criminals and weapons and drugs off our streets, they enforce the law. Even their very presence helps to deter crime and keep our communities safer. But they do it all at great risk, at great risk to themselves and in great sacrifice to their families.

“A little more than a year ago I did a ride-along in Columbus with an officer named Greg Meyer. He’s one of these brave Columbus police officers who goes out every day to help keep the community safe. We were focused on a couple of issues that night in Columbus. One is the drug trade and particularly the opioid crisis we face in Ohio, and he was able to show me where much of this activity occurs, and we were able to see with our eyes some of the people who were trafficking drugs, dispersing, and what goes on in our communities. We were also talking about human trafficking and his work in that area, and we were able to go to some particular places where there’s been trafficking in the past where the police officers have broken up trafficking rings and where girls and women are made to become dependent on heroin and then the traffickers have them often in a hotel for a week until they move on to another one and traffic, sell human beings, usually online, usually through the iPhone. And, again, this police officer was able to tell me about what he has done and what his force has done to help protect these girls and women and help to get them out of that situation. This was just a few hours for me, and I always enjoy doing these ride-alongs, but this is his life, and their lives. Every day out there doing their best to try to protect us and make our communities safer.

“The day before this tragedy in Kirkersville occurred, we had a lot of police officers here in town because on Thursday and Friday and over the weekend police officers were coming in for Police Week and Police Memorial Day, which was on Monday, so I got a chance to meet with a bunch of these officers and thank them for their service. We talked about the fact that the job is dangerous, and increasingly dangerous. And unfortunately the numbers show that. And little did we know that the day after we were talking, there would be this tragedy in Ohio. We talked about the fact that some of their families have had sleepless nights because they don’t know whether their husband or their wife or their son or daughter is going to be coming home.

“In our nation’s history, more than 21,000 police officers have died in the line of duty. Think about that. 21,000. This year we’ve already had 42, this year in 2017. In 2016 we lost 143, about one officer every three days. Again, last year, five of those fallen officers were from Ohio. Aaron Christian, a patrolman with the Chesapeake Police Department, Thomas Cottrell, a patrolman with the Danville Police Department, Sean Johnson of the Hilliard, Ohio Division of Police, Steven Smith of the Columbus Division of Police, and Kenneth Velez, an Ohio State Trooper. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the families of these fallen officers to express our appreciation, to express our respect for them and the sacrifices that they bear.

“It takes courage to wear the badge, and those officers wore the badge day in and day out. They knew what they were getting in to and yet they wore that badge. They died wearing that badge. Although these heroic men were taken from us, their examples can never be taken away and won’t be. Ohioans are going to remember them as models of bravery and service, examples of fellow citizens who on behalf of all of us who were in the habit of walking into danger rather than running away from it. We’ve got an opportunity in this body to do something that will make a difference for our police officers, by supporting Police Week. There is a resolution that the House and Senate are working on. I urge all of my colleagues to support it. I’m sure they will.

“I think we need to show our men and women in blue on the front lines that we do appreciate them. There’s also legislation that can be supported. Most recently I introduced legislation with the Majority Whip called the Back the Blue Act. It’s very simple. It says if you target law enforcement officers, you’re going to have to pay a very high price. And that’s appropriate. We think the Back the Blue Act, by increasing penalties on those who would attempt to harm or kill a police officer, will make a difference because it will send a strong message and help deter some of these crimes. Ultimately, I think that will make our heroes in blue safer and help save lives.

“So again, I urge my colleagues to join me. In the wake of the tragedy in central Ohio, I know the people of Ohio are looking for Congress to stand tall and to stand with our police officers, thanking them for what they do to protect us every day. Let’s support this Police Week resolution, let’s support the Back the Blue Act, let’s do everything we can to ensure our police officers know we’re with them, we’re on their side, as they do their job every day to protect us.”



Stats on Knox County Child support payments released

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — The county's Seek Work program, started two years ago, is a success judging by the increased child support payments in 2017. Thus far this year, the program has collected about $73,000, a nearly 64 percent increase over the $46,844 the program collected from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2016.

Deputy Doug Turpin of the Knox County Sheriff's Office coordinates the program through the Child Support Services division of Knox County Job & Family Services. He serves the initial papers on individuals ordered to pay child support, works with them to acquire the skills to get a job if necessary, points them to job opportunities and helps them with the application, and stays in close contact with them throughout the entire process.

“It's been two years now, and it's growing,” said Turpin of the Seek Work program during a visit with the county commissioners on Thursday. “The amount of people who are paying is positive.”

“Maybe you are going to help break this chain of generation after generation being on child support,” Commissioner Roger Reed told Turpin.

One hundred and fifty individuals are in the program now; about 35 percent of them do not live locally. Because of the increasing caseload and the travel distances involved, KCJFS is seeking to add a second deputy to assist Turpin.

Marty Thomas, CSS administrator, said the eight case managers working in Child Support Services each average a caseload of 750. In 2016, CSS collected over $7 million in total child support payments.

“The case managers do such a good job,” she told the commissioners, adding that the managers are “really invested” and “hit the ground running every day.”

“That's $7 million that is going to families and children from their absent parent,” said Matthew Kurtz, director of KCJFS. “The absent parents have really stepped up more than a generation ago, and that makes a difference in the lives of children.”

Thomas cited out-of-wedlock birth statistics as one reason why CSS' caseload has increased. Between 1965-69, 8.9 percent of births were out of wedlock. In 2010, the number jumped to 41 percent. In 2013, one out of every three Knox County births were out of wedlock.

Attorney Mike Miller, who recently joined the CSS staff, said he has spent the last few months reviewing policy, streamlining contempt of court proceedings and preparing for emancipation filings. Emancipation season comes in the spring and involves those children who will be terminated from the program because they turned 18 and will graduate. This year, 194 children will be terminated due to emancipation.

Public forum presenters agree flexibility an advantage of home rule

 By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

MOUNT VERNON - An informative public forum was held Tuesday night at City Hall about the benefits of home rule charter government.  The event came about after an infomal discussion last fall between local political leaders, city officials, and Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson. 

Panelists included moderator Dani Robbins of the Ohio State Universitiy School of Public Affairs, Greeson, Marysville City Manager Terry Emery, Marysville City Councilwoman Tracy Richards and municipal law attorney Jonathan Downes. 

Over 100 years ago, the Ohio Constitution was amended to adopt Article XVIII, which is better known as the “Home Rule” Amendment. Article XVIII empowers Ohio’s cities and villages to govern themselves in local matters independent of state law. The adoption of “Home Rule” freed Ohio’s municipal corporations from control by the General Assembly and state officials in matters of local self-government, such as taxation, debts, urban renewal, and salaries.


Charter panel 5162017

Panelists from the home rule forum at City Hall. L to R Dani Robbins, The Ohio State University School of Public Affairs, Attorney Jonathan Downes, Marysville City Councilwoman Tracy Richards, Marysville City Manager Terry Emery and Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson. KP Photo

The “Home Rule” Amendment allows each of Ohio’s cities and villages to adopt and amend a charter for its government. The charter document is a legal instrument that prescribes the basic law of the municipality; it may be compared roughly to a constitution for the municipality. Approximately 263 of Ohio’s 990 cities and villages have chosen to adopt a charter because of the procedural advantages and flexibility that a charter offers.

No municipality is required to enact a charter, but municipalities without a charter must follow state law withrespect to exercising the “procedural powers” of local self-government. This means that the General Assembly controls the “structure and form” of local government for these cities, and the procedures by which the city or village operates in areas such as taxation, debt, legislative enactments, elections, and civil service are determined by the General Assembly.

Emery said, "The biggest benefit to the charter concept is your flexibility." The city manager form of government involves an elected city council and an appointed city manager - in theory - without regard to politics.

Richards says this form of government allows "..for the city manager to be hired, not at the whim of the electorate"

The Ohio General Assembly allows only three (3) statutory forms of government for non-chartered cities: a “City Manager” plan, a “Federal Plan” (a stronger mayor form of government), and a “Commission Plan.” These three plans are inherently inflexible and can only be amended by

The General Assembly; individual municipalities cannot customize these rigid plans to accommodate the size of the municipality or the particularly economic, political, or social needs of the community.

For chartered municipalities, however, the municipal charter prevails over some statutes passed by the General Assembly to specify the structure and procedures for local self-government. Chartered cities and villages are thus free to design their local government to have a more efficient and
flexible structure, administration, and operating procedures.

For the City of Mount Vernon, a charter would serve two major functions:
The Charter Specifies the Form and Structure of Government Charters typically provide one of four standard forms of government, tailored to the particular needs of that municipality: (1) strong mayor-council form, (2) weak mayor-council form, (3) city manager form, or (4) commission plan.

A charter for the City of Mount Vernon would provide for a customized and flexible form of government that would allocate functions between the Council and the Mayor, and it may also provide for a city manager or administrator.1 The City Council under a charter would retain the legislative authority of the City, and would continue to set the policies and direction of the City under the principle of Home Rule.
The charter itself would provide for the structure and procedures of the Council.

A charter would allow for an administrative structure that can consolidate functions and provide for accountability and efficiencies such as:

* Finance Department combining fiscal responsibilities
* Safety Director combined with City Manager’s functions
* Law Director appointed by City Manager or Council
* Service Functions consolidated (e.g., water, sewer, streets)

Like a constitution, a charter does not attempt to solve all of the detailed administrative and legislative policy matter for the municipality, but leaves a great deal of flexibility and policy-making power that is guided by statements of fundamental principles.

* The Charter Facilitates Local Self-Determination (Home Rule)
A charter itself does not necessarily confer additional substantive powers beyond those given to the City by the Ohio Constitution; however, a charter does allow the City a greater measure of freedom to distribute its powers among the various elected and appointed officials and bodies, and between the city officials and the citizens. In this sense, a charter is necessary for the City to have access to the full procedural freedom of local self-government.

A charter would enhance local autonomy, enabling the City of Mount Vernon’s government to be more responsive to local needs than the non-chartered statutory forms of government, since the citizens will provide for the distribution of municipal powers as they determine, rather than relying upon the Ohio General Assembly. A charter could help the City of Mount Vernon to strengthen its own democratic processes and facilitate a more efficient government.

The chief advantage of a municipal charter is that it is flexible. A charter may be amended from time to time as circumstances and the values of the community change. Modifications to the City’s government structure and procedures would no longer need approval by the General Assembly, who represents other entities whose concerns are not necessarily the same, nor are their opinions and values closely oriented, to Mount Vernon’s electorate.

Following the presentation, questions were taken from audience members. 

More discussions are planned. Then the voters will decide if a commission of 15 people should be formed to draft a charter, or mini-constitution, for the city. Details on who would serve on the commission or their qualifications are to be announced.

To view video of the public forum provided by the city click here. 




Carfagna promotes Ohio Means Jobs

COLUMBUS - It is no secret that continually advancing technology is changing the way we live our everyday lives. As a state representative, I think it is important that government seek ways to use technology and other resources to help make the lives of Ohioans easier.

One way in which this is already being utilized is through the website, OhioMeansJobs.com. In case you are unfamiliar with the site, it offers up-to-date listings of job postings across the state, both for those looking for a job and for business owners looking to hire. The site is simple to use and allows individuals to post resumes or job qualifications. It also is broken down into categories based on a person’s needs or interests, including for veterans or people with disabilities.

Besides just being a host for job listings, OhioMeansJobs.com has helpful resources for young people looking for future educational opportunities. For example, clicking on the “K-12” link opens up a number of options, including opportunities for scholarships and career readiness advice that help students identify potential professional interests. Simply typing in a few key words or job titles opens up a massive field of information that can be helpful when looking at avenues for higher education and future employment.

As we often hear, we are living in the “information age,” a time when pretty much every piece of knowledge or information can be accessed with the click of the finger. But while this can no doubt be helpful, in many ways it can also be intimidating. That is why I believe OhioMeansJobs.com is such a valuable tool for individuals who are looking for employment and educational opportunities.

Of course, it is in the best interest of our entire state to have people working. My goal as the representative of the 68th House District is to support initiatives that will lead to more job growth. There are plenty of job openings available, but, as many small business owners will tell you, it can be difficult to fill those jobs if people are not aware of them. For young people, the same can be true for things like scholarships and career readiness programs.

For beginners, OhioMeansJobs.com even provides guided online tours so that no one misses any of the helpful resources contained in the website. I encourage everyone to take a look at OhioMeansJobs.com, and as always do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions.

Rep. Carfagna represents Knox and part of Delaware counties at the Ohio Statehouse.


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