Morning Headlines: A Dozen More Lawsuits Filed Against Drug Companies; Opioid Deaths Outpace Nation

Feb 14, 2018

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 14:

  • Former Akron police chief loses officer certificate, gets a year of probation;
  • A dozen more lawsuits blame drug companies for the opioid crisis;
  • Private investors to acquire 60 percent ownership of American Greetings;
  • Connie Pillich leaves governor's race to back Richard Cordray;
  • Online charter school and state education officials trade barbs in legal dispute;
  • Federal statistics show Ohio opioid deaths outpace the national rate;
  • Akron Public Schools says it will look into teachers' claims of assault by students;
  • Summit County shooting leaves two hospitalized;

Former Akron police chief loses officer certificate, gets a year of probation
Former Akron Police Chief James Nice has been sentenced to one year of probation and lost his certificate to be a police officer in Ohio. Nice pleaded guilty to misusing a police database for unspecified reasons not related to his duties as an officer. Nice was also fined $1000 – the maximum for the first-degree misdemeanor. The Beacon Journal reports that after his sentencing, Nice denied using a racial slur and having an affair with a subordinate – allegations that surfaced shortly before he abruptly resigned last year.

A dozen more lawsuits blame drug companies for the opioid crisis
The number of lawsuits continues to grow in a combined federal challenge of drug companies' role in the opioid crisis. Judge Dan Polster is overseeing the consolidated lawsuits in a case in federal court in Cleveland. The complaints allege drug manufacturers and drug distributors bear responsibility for the deadly overdose epidemic and for not doing enough to stop it. Polster is trying to hammer out a settlement between the industry and communities that have filed complaints. Polster allowed 12 more lawsuits into the case on Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 320.

Private investors to acquire 60 percent ownership of American Greetings
A private investment firm is set to sign a deal to acquire majority ownership of a Westlake-based greeting card company. American Greetings announced a deal giving 60 percent ownership to investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. As part of the deal, American Greetings’ chief operating officer will become the new CEO, making him the first non-relative of the company’s founder to assume the role. The deal is expected to close in the next 45 days.

Connie Pillich leaves governor's race to back Richard Cordray
Ohio Democrats' lone female gubernatorial candidate will leave the race today to back rival Richard Cordray. Former state Rep. Connie Pillich will drop out and endorse Cordray at an event today. Pillich's decision comes on the heels of a positive wave for her long shot bid amid the crowded Democratic field. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell campaigned and raised money for her and she won the endorsement of EMILY's List, a politically influential group that elects women who favor abortion rights. Pillich's decision leaves four main contenders in the Democratic primary in addition to Cordray: Dennis Kucinich, Bill O'Neill, Joe Schiavoni and Jon Heavey.

Online charter school and state education officials trade barbs in legal dispute
The Ohio Supreme Court is hearing arguments over whether funding for the state's largest online charter school should be tied to enrollment. The state claims the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow owes some $80 million for students whose enrollment could not be verified. The attorney for ECOT argued funding should be tied to enrollment because that's the standard for traditional bricks-and-mortar schools. The Ohio Department of Education says funding should be tied to full-time equivalency, or student participation. Supreme Court rulings usually take four to six months.

Federal statistics show Ohio opioid deaths outpace the national rate
New federal figures show no slowing of the rate of overdose deaths in Ohio. Fatal overdoses rose by 39 percent from 2016 to 2017, three times the national rate. The Centers for Disease Control reports that Ohio’s overdose rate was topped only by Pennsylvania and Florida. The CDC reports from June 2016 through June 2017, 5,232 Ohioans died from overdoses. The numbers are from before stricter prescribing guidelines went into effect, which officials hope will reduce opioid deaths. Ohio is spending $1 billion annually to fight the opioid crisis, mostly through Medicaid treatment programs.

Akron Public Schools says it will look into teachers' claims of assault by students
Akron Public Schools has formed a special committee to look at allegations of student violence against teachers. The teachers' union has filed 22 complaints this academic year claiming students verbally and physically assaulted teachers. The Akron Education Association argues the administration is violating a decades-old collective bargaining agreement to remove problem students from their home school. Superintendent David James in his state of the schools address said the issue is complex. James said race and special needs could be contributing to tension between teachers and students.

Summit County shooting leaves two hospitalized
Two men were hospitalized in an officer-involved shooting early Tuesday morning in southern Summit County. The Beacon Journal reports an employee reported a suspected theft while she was working inside Tractor Supply store that was closed at the time. It’s unclear who fired shots. No officers were injured. The state has taken over the investigation.