Friday, April 15, 2011

$5 million of terror grant was misused by the Ohio Association of Chief's of Police

$5 million of terror grant was misused by police chiefs groug

Dublin-based organization must return money

Friday, April 15, 2011  03:06 AM


An eight-month federal Homeland Security audit has confirmed that the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police mismanaged and misspent almost $5 million in federal grants designed to develop a statewide police network to help fight terrorism and other crime.

Questionable expenses included sending 20 Ohio police officials to Turkey and more than $800,000 in bonuses paid to the executive director of the Dublin-based association.
While the Ohio Local Law Enforcement Information Sharing Network is in operation today, and has been credited with helping statewide police agencies fight crime, its cost has been questioned.
The nonprofit association received about $21 million in Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program grants from 2004 to 2006. Almost a quarter of that must now be returned to the federal government, even though it has been spent.

Advertising and program and membership fees remain existing sources of revenue for the group.
According to the report, released to the Ohio Department of Public Safety this week, more than $4.8 million in expenditures "were unallowable because they were unrelated to the grant activity, misclassified, outside the period of performance, or not supported by receipts or invoices."

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency, which was responsible for monitoring how the federal money was spent, was found "severely lacking" in its record-keeping and oversight, according to the audit.
The Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state EMA and has ultimate authority over the project, is responsible for returning the money if it can't justify the expenditures within the next three months.
"We're going to try to work with the OACP and try to find records to mitigate some of this," said Joe Andrews, department spokesman. "They didn't document it properly, and we didn't police it properly."
Andrews did not know how much of the spending could be verified.
About $227,000 was improperly used to send the Ohio police officials to Turkey to learn about terrorism. More than $180,000 was misspent on slick books and brochures about the project, award plaques and lapel pins that were not related to the grant objective. And more than $800,000 was given to the association's executive director in bonuses that were "unreasonable, unallowable, and inconsistent with grant guidance," according to the federal audit. In addition, of 832 timesheets required to verify salaries and wages during the three grant years, only 85 were documented.

The chiefs association, made up of police officials from departments across the state, was run by a professional association manager, Todd Wurschmidt, and a board of directors, mostly police chiefs.
Wurschmidt's website states the money he brought in "demonstrates Dr. Wurschmidt's fundraising prowess." He could not be reached for comment.

The federal government's analysis agrees with a similar study by local accounting firm Crowe Howath, retained by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency after questions arose in 2005 about questionable spending.

"We are going to work very closely to make an answer to this report," said OACP board president and Ada Police Chief Michael A. Harnishfeger. "That's the most prudent thing we can do right now."
Harnishfeger said all vendors have been compensated for work performed after the federal money stopped flowing into the association.

The ordeal has been trying for the association, but the network's value has been worth it, he said.
"For the first time ever, local law enforcement is able to share internal reports on very important matters that they previously were unable to share."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jury rules in ATV death case

Jury rules in ATV death case
6:35 PM, Mar. 21, 2011    

Written by

LEBANON - Warren County’s largest civil lawsuit – a wrongful-death case seeking $20 million – ended with a mixed verdict that means no money will be awarded to the parents of a dead 10-year-old girl. After deliberating about 12 hours, a Warren County jury Monday declared an all-terrrain vehicle was defective, as John and Tammie Sand of Lebanon had claimed. But the jury decided the ATV was not the “proximate cause” of the death of the Sands’ daughter, Ellie, after she went riding on a Yamaha Rhino 660 ATV in 2007.

Yamaha issued a news release declaring the verdict a victory: “This verdict in favor of Yamaha marks the sixth time overall that a jury has rejected plaintiffs’ claims regarding the Rhino.”

The company is facing hundreds of lawsuits similar to this one across the nation, though many have been consolidated into group actions filed in federal courts, said Michael Roberts, a lawyer for the Sands.
He said the jury’s verdict wasn’t a total victory for the manufacturer.
“It’s significant that a jury found the product defective despite Yamaha’s extensive arguments to the contrary,” Roberts said. “The jury concluded that ‘Your product’s defective, Yamaha, but we think that Nils’ driving was more defective,’” referring to Nils McElroy, the 21-year-old Midland, Ohio, man who was driving the ATV. 

McElroy pleaded guilty to a negligence charge of vehicular homicide. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

While pleased with the “defective” ruling, the Sands’ are “disappointed that people who had no knowledge of the defect were more responsible for Ellie’s death,” Roberts said. 

Ellie was the front passenger on the ATV on Oct. 27, 2007, when it flipped and pinned her to the ground during a church picnic in Oregonia. None of the five occupants wore helmets; it was uncertain whether Ellie wore a seat belt.

“Drivers and passengers should at all times wear helmets, protective gear and the vehicle’s three-point seat belts,” the company said, calling the Rhino “a safe and useful off-road vehicle when driven responsibly.”

“The testimony and evidence during the trial showed that this tragic incident had nothing to do with the design of the product, and underscores the importance of following the safety recommendations on our products and in the owner’s manual,” the company’s news release said.
Meanwhile, Ellie’s parents remain committed to work with industry groups and the Consumer Product Safety Commission “to get this thing fixed,” Roberts said.

Since Yamaha made some changes in the vehicle’s design, including widening its wheel base, there had been no deaths reported on the revamped Rhino, Roberts said. But on earlier models, there were at least 1,300 reported injuries and 95 deaths, Roberts said. Evidence rules prevented jurors from knowing about the deaths that happened after Ellie’s. She was the 28th person to die after riding a Rhino, Roberts said.

“Evidence rules were applied properly by the judge but it’s just unfortunate that the jury didn’t get to know everything,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he and his clients are exploring whether they have any other options, including an appeal. At one point during the trial, Judge James Flannery chastized Yamaha for using a private court reporter to provide transcripts to the company’s witnesses, despite a “separation of witnesses order” designed to prevent witnesses’ testimony from being affected by other witnesses’ statements, Roberts said.