Ohio RICO Complaint Filed to Stop School Construction Corruption

1851 Center Lawsuit alleges Strickland administration and OSFC placed union financial interests and remaining in office above fiscal responsibility in building schools.

COLUMBUS – Tax dollars have been wasted and continue to be at risk due to an unlawfully cozy relationship between the Strickland administration and labor unions, claim a group of Mansfield-area taxpayers. The residents today filed an Ohio Corrupt Activities Act complaint against Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Executive Director Richard Murray, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and others. The suit will demonstrate members of the Strickland administration, organized labor, and Murray used the OSFC and school building construction contracts to engage in pattern of corrupt activities expressly prohibited under Ohio’s RICO laws. [Read more…]

Victory: Gahanna Backs Down on High-Risk Loan Fund

October 18, 2010 – Taxpayer Victory: Gahanna Indefinitely Postpones Ill-Advised $375K High-Risk Venture Capital Loan Fund

Gahanna City Council indefinitely postponed a vote authorizing a city-backed $375,000 high-risk venture capital loan fund after the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law threatened legal action against the city.

Gahanna City Council had proposed an ordinance permitting the mayor to contract with the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) for the creation of a venture capital loan fund. The fund would issue high-interest and interest-only loans to local businesses and individuals considered high-risk by conventional lenders.

During a Sept. 7 council meeting, 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson advised city officials against the constitutionally prohibited plan. Thompson informed council members that the Ohio Constitution (Section 6, Article VII) prohibits the city from “raising money for or loaning its credit to any private company, corporation or association.” Further, according to Ohio Supreme Court precedent, this constitutional provision is intended to protect taxpayers from the risks associated with the failure of a private project.

After Thompson’s presentation, council members decided to postpone a vote on the ordinance by two weeks while they review the consequences of the impending legal challenge. Council members’ decision to permanently drop the proposal is a significant victory for Gahanna residents, whose tax dollars will not be put a risk under this ill-conceived proposal.

The venture capital fund would have:

  • Used tax dollars to fund private enterprise;
  • Issued loans to individuals who lack conventional collateral or posed a high risk and may have been turned down by conventional lenders;
  • Issued loans at high interest rates of up to 12 percent; and
  • Allowed loans to be repaid on an interest-only basis.

In addition, the scuttled ordinance would have allowed the city to recover funds from defaulted loans by seizing an individual’s personal property, including “vehicles, personal items, antiques, collectibles jewelry, or livestock.”

 

 

 

 

October 13, 2010: ThisWeek Community News, Mayor Asks to Postpone Loan Fund

Merrill v. State of Ohio Department of Natural Resources

 

September 14, 2011 – Ohio Supreme Court Protects Property Rights

The court held that the State of Ohio extends to the natural shoreline, which is “the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.” The court reiterated its role as a protector of private property rights against state incursions and reminded the state that private property rights are expressly protected in the Ohio Constitution.

October 1, 2010 – The Ohio AG’s Land-Grab on the Lake

The 1851 Center filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Ohio to stop Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray’s redefinition of property rights along Lake Erie.

The AG and several left-wing environmental interest groups now claim that because the State of Ohio owns the waters of Lake Erie, it also owns the beaches of Lake Erie. However, property owners along the lake have deeds that demonstrate their ownership, have paid taxes on the land for years, and were previously told (by the state) that they owned the land. The state is proceeding under the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which says it owns navigable waters and wild animals in Ohio. This is the first time Ohio’s politicians have attempted to extend the doctrine to dry land.

Both state and federal courts have supported the residents’ legal position. However, Attorney General Cordray has appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Ohio, despite being told by lower courts that he lacks standing to pursue the matter, since he has no client in the case.

“Ohioans have a constitutional right to acquire, possess, use and dispose of their private property in a way that does not harm others. Lake Erie property owners have owned this land since Ohio became a state. Only now, with dollar signs in its eyes, does the political class claim that it has always owned the property, and that lakefront owners must actually lease it back from the state,” 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson said in the court filing.

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2011 – Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio Supreme Court should rule soon on Lake Erie private v. public shoreline battle

September 23, 2010 – Maurice Thompson discusses the case on the Fred LeFebvre Show –

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September 20, 2010 1851 Center’s Amicus Brief

Federal Court Upholds Andover Township Residents’ Constitutional Rights

Andover Park

1851 Center Wins Injunction Against Andover Township Officials Who Blocked Constitution Day Rally

(COLUMBUS) Wednesday a federal court granted the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law a temporary injunction against Andover Township in Ashtabula County. The ruling is a victory for Andover Township residents who were previously blocked by township officials from celebrating Constitutional Day (Sept. 17) with a rally at a public park. [Read more…]

Slingluff v. Andover Twp.

 

The First Amendment clearly protects the right to gather on the public square, speak out in support of limited constitutional government, and critique the current state of affairs. The government’s action in this case, ironically, demonstrates the need for greater public understanding of Constitutional rights. One way to do that is through commemoration of Constitution Day.

September 10, 2010 – 1851 Center Files Federal Court Action to Defend First Amendment Rights

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today filed a complaint and temporary restraining order against Andover Township (Ashtabula County) in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The complaint charges that township trustees’ actions blocking a Constitution Day (Sept. 17) rally on Andover Public Square, by local residents, violated the First Amendment. The 1851 Center, a non-partisan public interest law firm, is representing residents Margaret L. Slingluff, Emily Kobialko and Scott Bankson, organizers of the “Andover Tea Party,” in the action.

Township officials informed the residents that speech at the Constitution Day rally could be of a “political nature,” and thus inappropriate for the public square.

The decision to deny access to the park was made in accordance with a township resolution allowing officials to determine public space usage “on a case by case basis,” and to ban speech that they deem too “political.” However, the park in question is a common gathering point for public events that often have far more political overtones. Officials made no inquiry as to the size of the rally, or other pertinent logistical concerns.

September 15, 2010: 1851 Center Wins Injunction Against Andover Township Officials Who Blocked Constitution Day Rally

A federal court granted the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law a temporary injunction against Andover Township in Ashtabula County. The ruling is a victory for Andover Township residents who were previously blocked by township officials from celebrating Constitutional Day (Sept. 17) with a rally at a public park.

The order was issued by Judge Donald C. Nugent.

The 1851 Center, a non-partisan public interest law firm, is representing residents Margaret L. Slingluff, Emily Kobialko and Scott Bankson, organizers of the “Andover Tea Party,” in the action.

Media

  • September 15, 2010: Fox News:  Tea Party Wins Fight
  • September 16, 2010: The Rush Limbaugh Show: 

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  • September 17, 2010: Beforeitnews.com: Constitution Day Too Political
  • Listen to Maurice Thompson on WTVN AM 610’s Dirk Thompson show: 

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Filings

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
Memo in support of Temporary Restraining Order
Andover Township letter to residents blocking the rally
Judge Nugent’s Order

COUNTY ELECTIONS BOARD FILES OEC COMPLAINT AGAINST BLOGGER WHO TARGETS ‘RINOS’

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A non-profit legal advocacy firm is asking the Ohio Elections Commission to dismiss a complaint from a county elections board that contends a blogger violated campaign finance laws with postings that, among other things, target “RINOs” – Republicans in Name Only.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law characterized a filing from the Geauga County Board of Elections against Edmund Corsi as “an apparent retaliatory action against an outspoken critic.” [Read more…]

(WBNS 10TV) Watchdog: Red Light Camera Law ‘Fundamentally Flawed’

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 6:00 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Some critics on Tuesday said that the city’s controversial red light camera program is fundamentally flawed and could be challenged in court.

The city said that the red light camera program is about safety, but 10 Investigates has discovered the camera system that helps spot red light violators may be based on a shaky law.

The cameras catch drivers breaking the law by running red lights. They also catch those who turn on red without stopping. The city’s system is also snaring some innocent drivers, 10 Investigates’ Paul Aker reported.

The city sent Lance Smith a $95 ticket for turning right on a red light. The city’s documents showed Columbus sent more than 15,000 similar tickets between January and April.

Smith said he was not guilty because he stopped.

“I was very upset, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said.

After reviewing the camera’s tape, a hearing officer agreed and said Smith did not break the law.

According to the law the city enacted to start its red light camera program, it is illegal to move past the stop bar whenever there is a steady red light.

The law does not make exceptions for right-hand turns, Aker reported.

“I think it’s faulty, that system is faulty,” Smith said.

Critics of the law agreed.

Ohio law states it is OK to turn right on red, unless signs are posted that prohibit right turns.

There are no such signs at intersections with the red light cameras, Aker reported.

Columbus’ 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a Libertarian-oriented constitutional watchdog, said the law is unconstitutional and is prepared to fight it in court.

“There is a viable challenge,” said the center’s spokesman, Maurice Thompson. “We’ll support that attorney with legal research and legal briefing and make sure that the people of Ohio are ultimately able to limit their government and to keep a little bit of their own money in their pocket.”

Public safety officials said the red light cameras are legal, but agreed that the laws surrounding them need some work.

View the original story here.

Judge sets charter school precedent

Public districts can no longer stop competitors from moving in to old buildings

BY KIMBALL PERRY • Cincinnati Enquirer • June 1, 2010

CINCINNATI — For the first time, a Hamilton County judge has allowed an exclusive exception to property deed restrictions that could help thwart attempts by public school districts to block school children — and the public money that accompanies them — from going to charter schools across the country.

Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled last week the Cincinnati Public School district cannot prevent Roger Conners from opening a charter school at the old Roosevelt School at 1550 Tremont Street after he bought the building from the district. That ruling came even though the deed on the building carried a clause — that Conners knew about — prohibiting the building from ever again being used for a school.

“There has never been a court in Ohio or the country that has decided to void a deed restriction … as it relates to charter schools,” said Scott Phillips, attorney for Cincinnati Public Schools.

The ruling is ominous for school districts across the state, especially those in major metropolitan areas which no longer can use similar deed restrictions to try to keep charter schools from opening, Maurice Thompson, Conners’ attorney, said Friday.

That’s because the issue largely is about money.

“It’s done to suppress the growth of charter schools in Cincinnati,” said Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a private, nonprofit public policy law firm with a goal of preventing government abuses.

Each student who leaves Cincinnati Public Schools for a charter school takes with him or her about $5,700 in public education money to the new school.

Thompson noted about 7,000 Cincinnati students attend charter schools, taking with them about $40 million in state money that previously went to the public schools.

Conners and others bought the building — one of nine the district auctioned off last year because they were dilapidated — for $30,000. His group noted at the time the building would be used for commercial purposes.

Shortly after the sale was complete, Conners told the public school district he planned to open a charter school — publicly financed, privately operated schools that operate independently of and compete with traditional districts — in the building.

Cincinnati Public Schools sued.

Conners argued, and Ruehlman agreed, the district’s deed restrictions violated public policy.

Thompson said it was akin to selling your house and putting a clause in the deed noting the house can’t be sold to a person of a specific race.

“Cincinnati (school district) can’t enforce this restriction, now or in the future,” Thompson said.

Other school districts have tried similar deed restrictions to limit the growth of charter schools and their drain of the public money, Thompson said. Ruehlman’s ruling, he added, ends that.

“This is actually a big issue across the state,” Thompson said, “because they are all losing money to charter schools.”

Phillips noted the “public policy exception” cited by the judge is “rarely used” and shouldn’t have been in this case. It is “highly likely” the district will appeal Ruehlman’s decision, Phillips said Friday.

Conners’ school, the Theodore Roosevelt School, has 12 classrooms and will be for kindergarten through 12th grade. It will focus on an individualized technology-based program.

Already, it has 45 students enrolled and plans to have 150 by the time school opens in mid-August, Thompson said. It has 35 employees, including 18 teachers.

Conners has spent about $100,000 to renovate the unused building and win a zoning change that allows for the building to become — again — a school.

Court: Cincinnati Public Schools Violated State Law

Judge Rules CPS Deed Restrictions Against Charter and Private Schools Illegal

Columbus – Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter schools and private schools violates state law, yesterday ruled Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman. The judge issued the ruling immediately from the bench. [Read more…]

Cincinnati Public Schools Forfeit State Construction Funding, State Legislator Says

1851 Center Sued CPS Over Handling of Charter Schools

Columbus – State Representative Kris Jordan, a member of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, yesterday notified commission director Richard Murray that Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has forfeited its statutory right to project funding because of repeated violations of state charter schools provisions. [Read more…]