Pelee Island school stands in silence during strike

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 6

PELEE ISLAND, ONT. — Across Ontario, 126,000 striking teachers are picketing in public squares and chanting slogans about government unfairness.

But here on Pelee Island – the tiny Lake Erie isle that houses 250 people, a few thousand pheasants, and one lonely school – silence is golden.

“It’s best we be left alone,” said Ron Tiessen, curator of the Heritage Centre Museum here. “I want you to understand, we’re not unfriendly people. Any other subject, we’d say come over and have a beer.”

Mr. Tiessen is married to one of the island’s three teachers, none of whom are willing to talk to the press about the provincewide strike that has shut down the Pelee Island Public School, a three-room schoolhouse on the island’s north edge.

Normally, 35 are students here, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Older children make the 1.5-hour trip to the mainland every week to attend Kingsville High School. But none have gone to school since Friday, the last session before Ontario’s teachers went on strike Monday, shutting down school for 2.1 million children.

On the island, teachers sent extra work home with students on Friday, in the hopes that students might keep up with their studies throughout the strike. As a result, fifth-grader Nathan Stankov, 10, spent his Tuesday working on multiplying three and four-digit numbers. But when he was done, Nathan helped his parents with their daily work. His mother, Vicki, delivers the mail – it takes a little over an hour – and his dad, Shane, is releasing pheasants for the gaggle of hunters who will invade the island this week for the annual hunt.

As might be expected, Nathan doesn’t seem to be missing school much.

But while children find ways to spend their free time, other residents worry about how the strike will affect the island’s educational system. And most don’t want to talk about it.

Labor conflicts can ruffle feathers in any community, but on the island, where the biggest tourist attractions are a boulder, some grooves in the ground, and the ruins of the second oldest Canadian lighthouse in Lake Erie, many are afraid that any comment could anger a significant part of the island’s population.

The strike is a response to proposed government changes that would centralize the structure of Ontario’s educational system. But some parents here feel that the island is treated poorly by the provincial government.

The Pelee school, which used to have its own school district, is run by the mainland-based Essex County Board of Education. Government officials are trying to unite the districts of Essex and neighboring Windsor County, which some say might make the island’s needs seem even less important to government.

“They don’t give diddly squat about little towns like us,” said Tammy Williams, whose son Nathaniel is in kindergarten at the school. “They don’t hear us now. We’re the forgotten school.”

If, as the government proposes, Ontario’s educational system becomes more centralized, Ms. Williams fears places like Pelee Island will become even more ignored.

“If this was Windsor or Kingsville or Leamington, that probably would have been taken care of immediately.”

Ms. Williams recently moved back to Pelee, where she grew up, in part because of the small size of the school. In Windsor, where Na thaniel used to live, “he’d be in a class with 35 kids. Here, he’s getting one-on-one attention every day. It’s the best place there is for kids like him.”

Ms. Williams, who predicts the strike will last until Christmas, said the island’s small size shouldn’t stop people from speaking their minds on the strike. “I can’t believe they won’t talk,” she said. “This is our kid’s future that they’re talking about. The government is messing with the future, with tomorrow’s prime minister.”

Airport complaint calls take persistence

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Jim Hartung says he wants to hear citizens’ complaints about excessive noise at Toledo Express Airport.

He promises a “receptive ear” to the concerns of the airport’s neighbors, and asks them to “call us anytime.”

All you have to do, says the president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, is dial 243-8251.

And let it ring five times.

And listen to 88 words of instructions.

And press Star.

And press 2.

And listen to more instructions.

And spell out the first four letters of “Hartung” – 4278.

And listen to more instructions.

And listen to a message from Mr. Hartung.

And then, after 134 seconds of punching numbers and listening attentively to disembodied voices – well, then you can speak your mind.

To a machine.

For more than three-quarters of every week, the only “receptive ear” you’ll get on the line at the port authority is electronic.

And Mr. Hartung – who pledged “an open door” to complaints in an advertisement in Thursday’s Blade – says that’s acceptable to him.

“The ‘call anytime’ is more of a symbolic opening to our receptiveness, our availability, our desire to listen,” he said yesterday. “It doesn’t mean that there’s someone sitting by the phone 24 hours a day.”

The ad, in the form of “An Open Letter to Area Residents,” ran in the Neighbors West and Neighbors South sections of The Blade, which are distributed to subscribers and newsracks near the airport.

It acknowledged the complaints families near the airport have about the jet noise they hear every morning before dawn.

“Noise is an unwelcome but inevitable by-product of a thriving airport,” the letter read.

A group of airport neighbors has filed a lawsuit against the port authority, saying the agency never held public hearings required by state law before making the airport a hub for Burlington Air Express, an air cargo company.

Ohio law states clearly that port authorities must hold public hearings before adopting or changing the master plans of its facilities, including airports. And local port authority officials concede they have not held such public hearings.

The residents living near Toledo Express argue that predawn flights from Burlington – recently renamed BAX Global, Inc. – are the major producer of noise pollution at the airport and have lowered the values of their properties.

While the lawsuit proceeds through the court system, a concerned citizen trying to reach Mr. Hartung with a complaint can do so by spelling out the first four letters of the port president’s last name on the voice mail system.

But typing P-O-U-R to reach Port Authority board chairman Jim Poure will only get you an error message. That’s because Mr. Poure doesn’t have a voice mailbox on the system, even though he also signed the “open letter” published in The Blade.

Punching in V-A-N-L in an attempt to reach airport director Mark VanLoh leads to the same error message.

Mr. Hartung said neither Mr. VanLoh nor Mr. Poure has offices in the Port Authority’s downtown headquarters, where the voice mail system for the listed phone number is located.

And if a resident had an immediate concern and tried to reach a port authority official at home, he might run into trouble. Both Mr. Hartung and Mr. VanLoh have unlisted phone numbers, as do 4 of the 13 board members.

The port authority would be willing to examine the possibility of hiring an answering service to replace or add onto the voice mail system.

“We’ve never said no to anything without giving it due deliberation,” he said. “We’d need to weigh all of our options.”

Mr. Hartung said he encouraged anyone to leave a message in his personal voice mailbox outside normal working hours. But as of last night, the Port Authority had not received any calls, day or night, about the issues raised by the ad since its publication.

Issue 2 attracts serious money; Supporters winning race for donations

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — With a statewide referendum on workers’ compensation law going before the voters in only 11 days, supporters of Issue 2 have far outraised and outspent their opponents.

Through Oct. 15, Keep Ohio Working – a business-backed committee that supports the issue’s passage – had raised more than $4.8 million and spent $3.2 million.

The Committee to Stop Corporate Attacks on Injured Workers – the name of the labor-lawyer coalition that fueled the petition drive to put Issue 2 on the ballot and is the issue’s major opponent – had raised only $2.3 million and spent $1.2 million.

Campaign finance reports, filed by yesterday’s deadline, show that fund-raising for Issue 2 has been a battle between highly funded special interest groups – large corporations and insurers supporting the issue, trial lawyers and labor unions opposing it.

If passed, Issue 2 would limit employees’ eligibility for certain types of compensation for workplace injuries.

A bill enacting those changes was passed by the General Assembly this summer, but labor groups gathered enough signatures on petitions to force a referendum on the measure, the first in Ohio since 1939.

Corporations giving to Keep Ohio Working are a “who’s who” of the state’s businesses.

Chrysler, Goodyear, Nationwide Insurance, B.F. Goodrich, and The Limited each gave $100,000 to the campaign.

Kroger, Rubbermaid, Mead, AEP, and Honda each gave more than $25,000.

The two largest donations came from pro-business groups.

The largest single donation, by far, was made by the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, which gave $500,000.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in two donations, gave a total of $350,000.

From the Toledo area, the biggest donor supporting Issue 2 was Dana Corp., which gave $50,000. Cooper Tire & Rubber, of Findlay, gave $10,000 and The Andersons, Inc., of Maumee, gave $5,000.

Nearly all of the largest givers to the issue’s opposition were labor unions or trial lawyers.

The largest contributor was the Ohio AFL-CIO, which gave a total of almost $688,000 in 13 separate donations.

The Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers gave $97,500, and individual lawyers from as far away as Seattle and Rhode Island gave thousands more.

Among Toledo donors, United Auto Workers Local 12 gave $33,720.

The law firm of Fell, Marcus, and Koder gave $12,000.

Voinovich to be quiet on Toledo mayoral race

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 18

COLUMBUS — Governor Voinovich will be in Toledo tomorrow to talk about economic development, but not about the unexpectedly tight race for mayor.

Only 11 days before the election, the governor will address a meeting of area development officials at SeaGate Convention Centre. But even with little-known Republican challenger Nick Wichowski edging ahead of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in one poll, the state’s top Republican will not do any campaigning in the race, his press secretary, Mike Dawson, said.

“I can tell you for sure that we’re not doing anything on the mayor’s race,” Mr. Dawson said.

The governor will meet with representatives of Toledo Regional Growth Partnership, Inc., the Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Development Association, and the city to discuss recent projects aimed at bringing industry to the region. Mayor Finkbeiner is scheduled to attend.

Wes Fahrbach, the governor’s regional development representative in Toledo, said the idea for the meeting came after Chrysler’s July 28 announcement that it would invest $1.2 billion in two Toledo Jeep plants. He originally hoped to meet with the governor in September, he said, but Mr. Voinovich’s schedule did not allow it. A few weeks ago, the governor agreed to tomorrow’s meeting, Mr. Fahrbach said.

The decision to schedule the meeting this week “had nothing to do with” politics or the mayor’s race, he added. “We want this to be more of a northwest Ohio deal than a Toledo-only deal.”

Jim Brennan, Lucas County Republican chairman, said he did not know about the governor’s visit until he was told about it by The Blade yesterday.

“I must be truthful and speak with a high degree of regret,” Mr. Brennan said. “I didn’t know until five minutes ago that the governor was going to be in town.”

Mr. Brennan said the party had no plans for fund-raising efforts or joint appearances with Mr. Voinovich and Mr. Wichowski.

When asked if he would try to arrange some sort of campaign activity with the governor’s office, he replied simply: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Mr. Dawson said the governor rarely involves himself in local races. Mr. Voinovich has not endorsed a candidate in Toledo’s mayoral campaign, he said, and there is no plan to make an endorsement.

More binding marriage sought; Ohio proposal tries to put damper on many divorces

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

COLUMBUS — For now, it’s still “I do.”

But lovestruck Ohioans soon may have the option of saying, “I really, really do.”

That’s the hope of state Rep. Ron Young (R., Painesville), co-sponsor of a bill to create a more binding kind of marriage – a “covenant marriage” that would make it much more difficult for a couple to divorce.

The Ohio House held its first hearing yesterday on the measure supported by many Christian conservatives and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Young said the new level of marriage is needed to strengthen the institution of the family, which he said has been ripped apart by rampant divorce.

“I feel very strongly that it’s simply wrong that marriage, the most important of contracts, is the easiest for us to enter and exit,” Mr. Young told the House Civil and Commercial Law committee. “We can’t build a society on shifting sands.”

The bill is modeled after a law that took effect Aug. 15 in Louisiana, the only state with such a statute.

A couple entering into a covenant marriage would be required to undergo premarital counseling emphasizing that the decision to marry is a lifelong commitment. And if trouble began to brew in their relationship, many of the grounds for divorce acceptable in a normal marriage would not apply.

For example, under law, a husband or wife wanting a divorce can receive one after a year’s separation. And if both want their marriage to end, they can apply for a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility and receive one within months.

If someone in a covenant marriage would want a divorce, however, and could not prove the spouse is a bigamist, an adulterer, or cruel and abusive, the couple would have to separate for two years while receiving mandatory marital counseling before being able to apply for a divorce.

The proposed legislation would remove incompatibility, habitual drunkenness, and “gross neglect of duty” as acceptable grounds for divorce in covenant marriages.

A covenant couple would not even be able to use a spouse’s imprisonment as a justification for divorce, even for murder convictions, unless the imprisoned party would be serving 10 or more years. Currently, imprisonment of any length can be grounds for a divorce.

Mr. Young said these rules are a reaction to the soaring divorce rate, which rose 35 per cent in Ohio between 1971 and 1990. Young people in divorced households are much more likely to be poor and commit crimes than those in two-parent families, he said.

“Families are where we raise the next generation of good, solid, healthy citizens,” Mr. Young said. “We can’t do that without good, solid, healthy families.”

Rep. Peter Jones (D., Shaker Heights), while saying he did not mind the idea of “super-sizing” marriages, questioned whether removing alcoholism or prison terms under 10 years from the list of acceptable grounds might be going too far.

Mr. Young said that habitual drunkenness or five-year prison terms are obstacles a dedicated couple can overcome. “I feel that those are the types of things we would want to work out in counseling,” he said.

Forcing couples to choose between the two levels of marriage might cause some disagreements between prospective mates, Mr. Young conceded. But any arguments the law might cause between boyfriends and girlfriends are healthier than those it might prevent between husbands and wives, he said.

“Many, because of the premarital counseling, might decide not to marry,” he said. “That would be a good thing.”

Several other representatives had reservations about the bill, even while saying they support the motivation behind it. Rep. David Hartley (D., Springfield) said limiting grounds for divorce might encourage divorce-seeking spouses to fabricate charges of child abuse or adultery against their husbands or wives. And Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Barberton) said the bill could trap wives in oppressive relationships.

“Unfortunately, bad marriages happen to people, people with the highest hopes at the start,” she said to Mr. Young. “This bill has the potential to lock people in. Even though your intentions are good, there will be some very bad results if this passes.”

Yvette Davis, a Columbus attorney and self-described evangelical Christian, was one of a number of citizens who testified in favor of the bill. She said the way her own marriage ended was far too easy, and that laws like Mr. Young’s would make it tougher.

“Dissolution was so easy, the process itself almost lacked trauma,” she said.

Rick Turner of Toledo testified about his own ongoing divorce, which he said might have been avoided if he had received premarital counseling that made him think about his concept of marriage.

“I think things might have been different had someone required me to sit down and talk to someone about marriage,” said Mr. Turner, who has been married for 12 years. “We need to raise the standard.”

The most emotional testimony yesterday was given by Jeanette Weigel, who is going through what she believes is a preventable divorce.

“I believe our marriage could have been saved if proper counseling would have been encouraged and enforced by the court,” she said haltingly, choking back tears.

She then introduced her 11-year-old son Chris, who, reading a handwritten statement from notebook paper, told the committee that “my future, and other kids’ future, is in your hands.”

If the bill passes, currently married couples would have a one-year window after the bill’s enactment to convert their own unions to covenants, and Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin (R., Aurora) said that might cause some intermarriage strife in otherwise healthy relationships.

“Can you imagine it might cause trouble if one spouse wanted to convert and the other didn’t?” she asked.

Mr. Young has 11 co-sponsors in the House, including four from the Toledo area: Jack Ford (D., Toledo), John Garcia (R., Toledo), Richard Hodges (R., Swanton), and Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon).

If Ohio proves to be anything like Louisiana, prospective mates might not be lining up to choose a covenant marriage, even if Mr. Young’s bill passes.

In the two months that they’ve been available in Louisiana, covenant marriages haven’t proven very popular. In Lafayette Parish [County], an urban center in south Louisiana, the clerk of court’s office has issued only six covenant marriage licenses, deputy clerk Jane Benoit said. During that same period, she estimates the parish has issued about 250 standard licenses.

And in neighboring rural Acadia Parish, not one of about 100 licenses issued in the last two months has been for a covenant marriage, deputy clerk Angie Reed said.

“If the marriage doesn’t work out, it just doesn’t work out,” said Pamela Kibodeaux of Rayne, La., who was married for the first time in August and chose not to have a covenant marriage. “If you’re not happy, it’s not up to the government to say when it’s over. It’s up to us.”

Limits on teen drivers pass state committee

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

COLUMBUS — Ohio is one step closer to keeping inexperienced teen drivers off the road.

A conference committee yesterday reached a compromise on Senate Bill 35, which would make teenagers wait until age 18 to get a full-fledged driver’s license, while allowing them limited access to wheels at 15 1/2.

Ohio law states that any 16-year-old who can pass the state test can get a license.

“We’ve done something today that will save lives in Ohio,” said state Sen. Bruce Johnson (R., Columbus), the bill’s sponsor. He is running for city attorney here.

The bill had been approved earlier this year in different forms by the House and Senate. The conference committee ironed out the chambers’ differences.

The measure must be approved by both chambers in its new form. The Senate will consider it Tuesday.

Under the proposal, teens would be able to receive a temporary driving permit when they are 15 1/2. They would have to log 50 hours of driving time with an adult, at least 10 of those at night, and wait six months before applying for a probationary driver’s license.

The probationary license would be good until age 18, but would be more easily revoked or suspended than an adult’s license. For example, three moving violations within the two-year probationary period would result in a one-year suspension.

The bill has been supported by auto safety groups like AAA, who say that inexperienced teenagers are among the biggest threats on the road.

Last year, 293 teenagers were killed in Ohio in traffic accidents. Car crashes are the leading cause of death nationwide for people in the 15 to 24 age range.

The major sticking point in negotiations was a restriction on nighttime driving for teens. The Senate version of the bill banned drivers under age 18 from being on the roads between midnight and 5 a.m. A House committee removed that language before passing the bill in June.

The conference committee’s compromise allows temporary permit holders to drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. if a parent or legal guardian is in the vehicle.

It allows exceptions for work or school functions and for emergencies.

Mike Dawson, spokesman for Governor Voinovich, said the governor supports the concepts behind the bill but will wait for the General Assembly to vote on the final version to decide whether to sign it.

Issue expanding judges’ power to deny bail defended, attacked

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

Some say it would protect Ohio’s citizens from the state’s worst criminals. Others say it would take away their most basic rights.

On Nov. 4, voters will pass judgment on Issue 1, which would amend the state Constitution and give judges the power to hold accused felons without bail if they believe they likely are guilty and could pose a danger to others.

Under the Ohio Constitution, only those accused of death-penalty offenses can be held without bail. The issue’s supporters say it would protect the public by keeping violent criminals off the streets.

“There are judges who want to deny bail to a dangerous criminal, but can’t,” state Sen. Robert Latta (R., Bowling Green) said. “Issue 1 would give those judges another tool to protect the public.”

But opponents say the proposed amendment would violate an individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It asks a judge to determine if an individual probably committed a crime before the trial even begins, they say.

“We have a basic constitutional right to be presumed innocent,” state Sen. Linda Furney (D., Toledo) said. “This bill panders to people’s fears about crime, but doesn’t get us anything.”

Proponents argue that the few citizens affected by Issue 1 would be dangerous criminals who should be locked up.

“There are people who have stepped out of municipal court here who should be be hind bars,” said John Weglian, chief of the special units division of the Lucas County prosecutor’s office.

Harland Britz, northwest Ohio general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, disagreed. “I don’t think judges are letting dangerous criminals out on the streets now,” he said. “This is a political move to appease certain politicians who believe the country is soft on crime.

“Meanwhile jails are bursting at the seams. We’re not soft on crime. It’s astonishing.”

If judges are worried about letting dangerous criminals loose, they can simply set a high bail.

“For a lot of people who commit crimes,” Mr. Britz said, “setting $100,000 for bail is the same thing as no bail at all.”

Federal courts are already allowed to consider whether suspects are a threat to the public when determining bail, and Mr. Latta said he wanted Ohio judges to have the same authority their federal counterparts do.

The constitutional provision that guarantees bail in all but capital cases dates back to 1851. Mr. Weglian said the nature of criminal activity has changed substantially since then.

“Now, at least a third of the cases we handle now involve attempts to intimidate witnesses or victims,” he said. “Even 10, 15 years ago, I’d be surprised if that happened in one of 20 cases.”

But Chris Link, the ACLU’s executive director in Ohio, said instances of witness tampering or intimidation are crimes in and of themselves and should be prosecuted separately.

Giving judges the power to elim inate bail puts too much authority in their hands, Ms. Link said. She pointed to a case in 1990 when an Ohio woman burned a flag and was charged with inciting a riot, a felony. Ms. Link said the judge in the case wanted to withhold bail in that case because of her own political opposition to flag burning.

The judge was unable to do so because of the state’s Constitution’s guarantee of bail, but if Issue 1 is passed, withholding bail in such a case would be legal, Ms. Link said.

Federal courts can keep felony defendants without bail, but Mr. Britz said that, under federal law, all nondrug-related defendants are automatically presumed not to be dangerous. Prosecutors must prove them to be a threat before bail can be withheld.

Under Ohio’s proposed amendment, he said, the rules are much looser.

“The language is extremely vague,” Mr. Britz said. “That gives the judge almost unlimited discretion to deny bail in these cases.”

But Mr. Latta said he had enough faith in Ohio’s judiciary to give judges that power.

“Our judges are responsible to the electorate and are going to have enough common sense to interpret this language in the way it was written,” he said.

Obituary: Kathleen Ashley

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 24

WASHINGTON — Kathleen Ashley, the wife of former Congressman Thomas Ludlow Ashley, died yesterday of heart failure in George Washington University Hospital here. She was 65.

She was born in Birmingham, Ala., where her father, Charles Lucey, was a reporter. Mr. Lucey spent his life working as a journalist for papers around the country, including the Toledo News-Bee. He eventually became the Washington correspondent for the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers, and Mrs. Ashley grew up in and spent most of her life in the capital.

Mrs. Ashley attended Trinity College in Washington, then went on to Georgetown University for law school, receiving her degree in 1960. There, she studied under famed Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams.

Her son, Meredith Ashley, remembered her as an extremely bright, involved woman.

“Not many women had their law degrees in 1960,” he said.

She met Mr. Ashley when she was his legislative assistant in Washington in 1962. They were married in August, 1967.

As a congressman’s wife, Mrs. Ashley traveled around the world, visiting China in 1980 when formal diplomatic relations with the United States were opened and traveling extensively in South America.

“I don’t think there’s a continent she missed,” her son said.

Mr. and Mrs. Ashley agreed on most political issues, but not on all. “We were aware of the differences, and generally avoided those,” Mr. Ashley said.

But more than politics, she loved spending time with her family.

“She never missed a ballgame, home or away,” her son Meredith said. “Football, baseball, basketball – it always helped that she was in the stands.”

She was very active in her Catholic faith, particularly in the church at Trinity College. She also enjoyed playing bridge and reading a good crime novel.

Surviving are her husband, Thomas Ludlow Ashley; sons, Meredith and Mark; three sisters, and four brothers.

There will be no visitation. A memorial Mass will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Annunciation Church, Washington.

Horseplay turns into tragedy; Stepfather’s gun goes off, killing South Toledo youth

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

A 13-year-old South Toledo boy was shot dead by his stepfather yesterday afternoon, after a loaded gun they were playing with went off in the youth’s face, police said.

Gregory McNally was pronounced dead at Medical College Hospital at 4:07 p.m., a half-hour after the shooting at his home at 849 South Detroit Ave., near Arlington Avenue.

Police said young McNally’s stepfather, John J. Walters, Jr., 50, was playing a game in which he “pretended to hold the stepson hostage,” Detective Jesse Villarreal said.

“The stepdad and the victim were playing around in the son’s bedroom,” Detective Villarreal said. “I don’t know why they were playing with a gun. They were evidently goofing around.”

Detective Villarreal said Mr. Walters believed that the gun was unloaded. Only one shot was fired, and it struck young McNally in the face.

Mr. Walters went into shock at the scene and was taken to MCO. He was listed in fair condition last night.

Detective Villarreal said an autopsy will be performed today, after which police will talk with the Lucas County prosecutor to discuss which, if any, charges will be filed.

Police found 11 handguns in the home. Most were kept in a safe, police said, but the safe was open when they arrived.

Mr. Walters is a security guard for Toledo Edison, police said.

Three other family members – the boy’s mother, sister, and the sister’s child – were in the house during the shooting.

Police have not yet taken a full statement from the stepfather, but he told officers at the scene that he did not know what caused the gun to go off.

Mr. Walters has been married to the boy’s mother for about a year, police said, and family members said he had a close relationship with his stepson.

The boy referred to Mr. Walters as “Dad,” the detective said.

The two had played with guns before without incident, family members told police.

A neighbor, Thomas Beach, said Mr. Walters had lived in the house about 20 years, and that the rest of the family had moved in within the last couple of years.

Culpability of site owners argued in crack-house cases

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 22

COLUMBUS –The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a Toledo case that could expand a prosecutor’s power to shut down crack houses.

But attorneys for the buildings’ owners said the state is trying to violate their clients’ property rights.

The case involves three Toledo buildings – located at 1137 1/2 North Erie St., 1315 Ironwood Ave., and 953 Butler St. – police have said were used by drug dealers in 1994 and 1995 to sell crack cocaine.

The state sought injunctions against the landlords of the three buildings that could have meant that the buildings would be padlocked shut or forfeited entirely.

But the buildings’ three landlords said they had no idea their properties were being used for that purpose. State law requires that, in order for an injunction to be placed on a building in cases like these, a landlord must know about the criminal activity and let it go on without alerting authorities.

As a result, trial courts and appeal courts in the three cases found that, since the landlords had no knowledge of the drug activity, an injunction against them could not be issued. The state appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Bert Puligandla, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said the government should not be required to prove a landlord knew about drug activity before an injunction can be filed.

While he called his proposal “admittedly harsh,” Mr. Puligandla said it was needed to fight the problem of crack cocaine in Ohio’s central cities.

“So the ends justify the means?” Justice Andy Douglas asked. “So because we have that problem, we should eliminate the Fourth Amendment, eliminate trial by jury?”

Justice Evelyn Stratton noted that several of the individuals involved in drug activity had been arrested and at least one landowner had begun eviction proceedings against the tenants. “Why, then, do landowners have to suffer additional penalty?” she asked.

“An injunction gives landowners incentive to monitor their properties more closely,” Mr. Puligandla responded.

“But she’s a little old lady!” Justice Stratton replied, referring to Mary Rezcallah, one of the property owners.

Mr. Puligandla said landlords must be responsible for knowing about the illegal actions of their tenants. “We have to expect more than collecting the rent once a month,” he said.

Wesley Miller, attorney for one of the defendants, Teresa Boardman, said expecting landlords to know the everyday dealings of tenants is excessive.

“We cannot put our homeowners and landowners in a position where they’re doing surveillance on the streets, or trying to do criminal background checks on prospective tenants,” Mr. Miller said. “Law enforcement should do that.”

In 1994, Mrs. Boardman’s property on Butler Street was padlocked by the county prosecutor’s office as a crack house. Ten months later, the house was returned to her after Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge William Skow found there was not a “sliver of evidence” that Mrs. Boardman had knowledge of drug activity in the house.

The Supreme Court gave no indication when it would rule.