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Two charged in federal investigation of Haslam's Pilot Flying J
Other headlines: Free credit freezes for Akron victims; Furloughs for air force base employees; Ohioans hope to advance in spelling bee

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  • Ohio Tea Party members question Obama administration
  • Kasich's BWC rebate plan to be voted on today
  • Cleveland hosts summit to end inner city violence 
  • First charges made in federal investigation of Haslam's Pilot Flying J 
  • Groundbreaking for Mahoning County racino
  • Furlough notices to begin at Dayton air force base
  • New amendment defines JobsOhio's liquor deal as private
  • Law enforcement may gain access to mental health information
  • Free credit freezes offered for Akron hacking victims
  • Columbus hospital shuttle kills one, injures another
  • Ohioans to compete in semi-finals of Scripps spelling bee
  • Former Goodyear HQ to become charter school
  • Ohio Tea Party members question Obama administration
    A Republican senator and a congressman from Ohio say the key question about the IRS's handling of conservative groups is "who in the Obama administration was involved."

    Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot spoke Wednesday evening at a gathering of Tea Party activists in Cincinnati.

    The Cincinnati IRS office is "ground zero," as one tea party leader called it, after disclosures that agency employees there subjected conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to special scrutiny.

    Chabot says investigations are still unfolding, and it's important to follow the facts and not to overreach. He and Portman both say the question that needs to be answered is "how high up" did the policy go.

    The Obama administration has said no senior officials were involved in targeting.

    Kasich's BWC rebate plan to be voted on today
    Directors of Ohio's insurance fund for injured workers are voting today on Gov. John Kasich's proposal to send $1 billion in cash rebates to businesses, local governments and schools.

    About 210,000 businesses and public employers would see one-time rebates sent this summer out of the bureau's $8.3 billion asset pool. Checks would range from $5 to more than $3 million.

    Kasich says solid investments made the rebates possible.

    In March, a class action suit of about 270,000 mostly small-business owners won an $860 million decision against the bureau for repayment of overcharges.

    The group says it favors the so-called Billion Back, and a spokesman said its members will benefit.

    Cleveland hosts summit to end inner city violence
    A four-day national summit to combat inner city violence opens today in Cleveland. The event is sponsored by the International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment, the Coalition for a Better Life, Peace in the Hood and other civic organizations.

    The summit brings together community and religious leaders, along with law enforcement and public officials to address the problems of crime, gangs and violence in America's cities.

    National organizer Khalid Samad says neighbors need to pull together to oppose gang violence.

    The summit includes a town hall forum Saturday and a remembrance march for victims of violence Sunday. 

    For more information on the summit's agenda, visit

    Pilot Flying J employees pleaded guilty
    Two employees of the truck stop chain owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his brother Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam have pleaded guilty in a federal probe of the company's business practices.

    Regional Sales Director Arnold Ralenkotter pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and Regional Accounts Rep. Ashley Smith Judd pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

    They are the first to be charged in the investigation.

    Federal prosecutors allege members of Pilot Flying J's sales team deliberately withheld rebates to boost profits and pad sales commissions.

    Ralenkotter's lawyer says his client has agreed to cooperate with authorities.

    Groundbreaking for Mahoning County racino
    A ceremonial groundbreaking will mark the start of another new gambling venture in northeast Ohio.

    Ground will be broken today for a $125 million horse racetrack and video slot racino in Austintown, near Youngstown.

    It will be built by Penn National Gaming, which operates casinos in Columbus and Toledo. Ohio also has casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

    Seven racinos are planned in Ohio, where new rules allow horse tracks to add slots-like gambling.

    The Austintown project is scheduled to open next summer.

    Furlough notices to begin at Dayton air force base
    Ohio's largest military base says more than 10,000 civilian employees will get furlough notices beginning Friday.

    Civilians working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton already knew that federal budget cuts would likely force them to take some mandatory unpaid time off this summer.

    The U.S. Department of Defense said 680,000 civilian employees will get 11-day furloughs starting July 8 — one day a week for 11 weeks.

    The 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson is reducing spending by $30 million between now and September.

    New amendment defines JobsOhio's liquor deal as private
    The Ohio House has voted to shield proceeds of JobsOhio's $1.5 billion liquor deal from public audit.

    Republicans say the move clarifies the Legislature's intent for the private job-creation entity formed by Gov. John Kasich.

    A provision tacked onto a bill in committee yesterday cleared the House despite objections delivered to lawmakers in person by state Auditor Dave Yost.

    Yost won a high-profile face off with JobsOhio this spring over access to its private financial records. Yost got the records through a subpoena, though JobsOhio disagreed they were subject to audit.

    Wednesday's amendment now explicitly limits Yost's authority to JobsOhio's public funds and defines liquor proceeds as private.

    Democrats protested the amendment as fostering secrecy, but Republicans said privacy in business dealings is best for the economy.

    Law enforcement may gain access to mental health information
    Ohio courts would have to report certain mental health information for inclusion in a law enforcement database under a bill headed to the governor.

    Courts would be required to report to law enforcement agencies those who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, or people who have been convicted of a violent offense and ordered to get mental health treatment.

    The bill is named after a sheriff's deputy who was fatally shot two years ago.

    The man who killed Clark County Sheriff's Deputy Suzanne Hopper previously had been found not guilty by reason of insanity and lived in a mental institution before receiving a conditional release. Responding officers were unaware.

    Free credit freezes offered for Akron hacking victims
    The city of Akron says the major credit bureaus are offering free credit freezes to people victimized by the recent hacking of the city's website and internal computers.

    The city's website and databases were hacked May 16 by a Turkish group targeting government sites. As many as 35,000 names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other information were made public for about two days.

    The city said the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — are providing free credit freezes to the potential victims, and those who already paid for freezes will be able to get refunds.

    Credit freezes typically cost $5 per person, per bureau.

    Columbus hospital shuttle kills researcher, injures another
    Authorities say a Columbus hospital researcher was killed and another was injured when they were hit by a shuttle bus near the hospital.

    Police said the two were hit from behind by a Nationwide Children's Hospital shuttle while walking along a road Wednesday morning.

    Killed was 35-year-old David Newsom, who was technical director for the Biomedical Genomics Core in the Research Institute at the hospital.

    The Columbus Dispatch reports that Peter White, director of the Biomedical Genomics Core, was hospitalized with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

    Ohioans to compete in semi-finals of national spelling bee
    Two Ohio youngsters are among the 41 semi-finalists this morning in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

    Ashwin Veeramani is a seventh grader at Incarnate Word Academy, in North Royalton.

    His sister Anamika Veeramani won the Bee as an eighth grader in 2010

    The other Ohioan to make the semi-finals is Joseph Cusi Delamerced of Cincinnati.

    They’ll compete in the oral round this morning. Then it will be down to 12 finalists tonight. The event is being broadcast on ESPN. 

    Former Goodyear HQ to become charter school
    A charter school operator says he's opening a new school in the former Goodyear headquarters in Akron.

    The Akron Beacon Journal reports that the school serving grades K-8 is set to open in mid-August in about 43,000 square feet of the tire company's former offices on the east side of town.

    The leasing agent for the property says he hopes to soon find more tenants for the vacant Goodyear campus. Goodyear's new $160 million headquarters opened this month about a half mile away.

    The charter school will be operated by I Can Schools, which has four schools in Cleveland. It will have the capacity for 300 students and expects 270 for the first year.

    'Columbus School Plan' passed in Ohio House
    The Ohio House has passed a measure aimed at boosting accountability and results in the Columbus public schools.

    The bill known as the "Columbus School Plan" would authorize a ballot issue on the creation of an independent auditor's office for the Columbus district, leaving that decision up to voters.

    That possibility comes as state and federal authorities investigate Ohio's largest school district over allegations that employees improperly altered the grades or attendance records of struggling Columbus students to improve performance ratings.

    The bill also would allow tax levy proceeds to be shared with community charter schools.

    It now goes to the Senate.

    Testimony cites neglect of Catholic church teachings cost teacher job
    An Archdiocese of Cincinnati official who recommended firing a teacher who became pregnant through artificial insemination has told jurors the teacher violated her contract.

    The human resources director testified Wednesday in the trial over the teacher's lawsuit against the archdiocese and two of its schools. William Hancock says Christa Dias was discharged because she violated a contract she signed to uphold teachings of the Catholic church.

    Hancock says premarital sex and artificial insemination violate Catholic doctrine. He says he would recommend firing a male employee for impregnating an unmarried woman or participating in artificial insemination.

    Dias tearfully testified earlier Wednesday. She contends she was fired in 2010 because she was pregnant and unmarried.

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