Morning Headlines: FirstEnergy Solutions Gets Downgraded; Former Akron Police Chief to Plead Guilty

Jan 24, 2018

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Jan. 24:

  • FirstEnergy Solutions likely to default, says Moody's;
  • Mercy, Aultman prepare for influx of patients amid Affinity's uncertain future;
  • Former Akron police chief expected to plead guilty to misdemeanor charge;
  • Cleveland Heights settles with family of woman who died in jail;
  • Houston pipeline operator opens ethane delivery system connecting Utica shale to Canada;
  • Ohio's largest online charter school faces another setback amid closure;
  • Former secretary of state endorses Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for governor;
  • Three charged in interstate marijuana drug ring;
  • Ohio State University fraternities resume recruitment after suspension;
  • Solon fails to register violations bureau with Ohio Supreme Court;
  • Akron Civic director to receive Governor's Award for the Arts;

FirstEnergy Solutions likely to default, says Moody's
A ratings service is warning the competitive arm of FirstEnergy is very likely to default. Moody’s Investors Services on Tuesday downgraded FirstEnergy Solutions, saying it’s unlikely they’ll be able to pay a $100 million bond that matures in April. The Beacon Journal reports bondholders could lose up to 70 percent of their investments. The downgrade comes after FirstEnergy got a $2.5 billion cash infusion from private investors.

Mercy, Aultman prepare for influx of patients amid Affinity's uncertain future
Hospitals in Canton are stepping in to help patients affected by the uncertain future of Massillon’s Affinity Medical Center. The Repository reports Mercy Medical Center and Aultman Hospital are boosting staff in anticipation of increased traffic from Affinity patients. Aultman is planning to offer emergency care services at its Aultman West facility in Massillon. Affinity said it would continue to accept new patients after a Stark County judge temporarily stopped the closure. The city of Massillon is seeking a preliminary injunction to give Affinity another four months to close. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

Former Akron police chief expected to plead guilty to misdemeanor charge
Akron’s former police chief who resigned amid accusations of potential misconduct has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge. James Nice is accused of misusing a law enforcement database last February. Nice resigned as chief last August amid allegations of potential misconduct related to an investigation into his nephew and accusations of using a racial slur and having a sexual relationship with a department member. He denied any criminal wrongdoing. Cleveland.com reports the ex-chief's attorney says Nice intends to change his plea at next month's sentencing hearing.

Cleveland Heights settles with family of woman who died in jail
The city of Cleveland Heights has settled a lawsuit with the family of a woman who died in her jail cell. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Ralkina Jones, 37, was an accident. Cleveland.com reports documents it obtained suggest jail staff may have improperly medicated Jones, resulting in a potentially deadly interaction. An autopsy showed Jones had at least four different drugs in her system, including oxycodone. The settlement amount is not yet known.

Houston pipeline operator opens ethane delivery system connecting Utica shale to Canada
A Houston-based pipeline operator has brought online a new pipe system to deliver ethane from Ohio’s Utica shale to Canada. Kinder Morgan’s Utopia system includes 270 miles of pipeline carrying 50,000 barrels per day. The company has a contract with NOVA Chemicals, a plastics and chemical company based in Windsor, Ontario.

Ohio's largest online charter school faces another setback amid closure
The giant Ohio online charter school that abruptly closed mid-school-year says it has lost another round of its legal battle with the state over funding. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is challenging how Ohio tallied student participation to determine the publicly funded e-school was overpaid. Ohio already started recouping $60 million from the 2015-16 school year. The Department of Education also concluded ECOT was overpaid by $19 million for 2016-17, and the lawyer who considered ECOT's appeal of that in an informal hearing sided with the state Monday. He's recommending the state Board of Education move to recoup that money, too.

Former secretary of state endorses Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for governor
Former Ohio secretary of state and pro-Donald Trump conservative Ken Blackwell is supporting Republican Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's bid for governor. Blackwell calls Taylor and her running mate, Nathan Estruth, part of a "new generation of strong conservative leaders." Estruth was a longtime executive for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. Blackwell is a former Cincinnati mayor.

Three charged in interstate marijuana drug ring
Federal and local authorities seized more than $1 million and 100 pounds of marijuana following an investigation into an interstate drug ring. The investigation began in 2015 when agents began tapping phones and conversations among the organization that consisted mostly of Palestinians. Court records say at least 200 pounds of marijuana was funneled into Cleveland each week. Three men have been charged.

Ohio State University fraternities resume recruitment after suspension
Most of Ohio State University’s fraternities have resumed recruiting new members after most activities were suspended in November. All social, recruitment and new member activities were suspended and 11 chapters were placed under investigation for Code of Conduct violations. All 36 chapters were required to submit a detailed plan and so far 31 have been approved to recruit, 19 can begin new-member activities and 10 can hold social events.

Solon fails to register violations bureau with Ohio Supreme Court
The city of Solon has failed to register a so-called "violations bureau" with the Ohio Supreme Court for 13 years. The violations bureau is part of a mayor’s court where people accused of traffic violations can plead guilty and pay fines. It is unclear if the city could face any penalties for not registering the bureau. Solon Mayor Eddy Kraus tells Cleveland.com the city will begin complying with the registration requirement.

Akron Civic director to receive Governor's Award for the Arts
The director of the Akron Civic Theatre has been selected to receive a Governor's Award for the Arts in the Art Administration category. Howard Parr is among the nine Ohioans selected by the Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation to receive awards in eight categories. Parr has been with the Civic Theatre since 1998 and has served as executive director since 2007.