Dayton Daily News reporters in 2021 provided oversight of government spending, spurred reforms and aid for crime victims, exposed environmental concerns, helped parents understand how schools were keeping children safe, revealed challenges and opportunities for the local economy, addressed racial inequities, and held public officials accountable.
Support from our subscribers made this work possible.
The Dayton Daily News will continue to report on how local agencies are spending tens of millions of dollars in rental assistance funds, whether residents in need are getting help, and the outcome of the federal investigation.
2. DeWine’s ties to company at center of corruption scandal
A Dayton Daily News investigation this year revealed the utility companies’ at the center of a massive statehouse corruption scandal had ties to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
The newspaper reported that Akron-based FirstEnergy and FirstEnergy Solutions donated more than $1 million to nonprofit groups and political campaigns since 2017 to help elect DeWine.
The Dayton Daily News examined multiple campaign finance and IRS records to uncover the amount of the energy companies’ support for DeWine’s election efforts.
Federal prosecutors in July charged FirstEnergy with fraud and the company agreed to pay $230 million to avoid prosecution. As part of the deal, FirstEnergy acknowledged it paid millions of dollars to former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder through Householder’s alleged 501(c)(4) in return for a $1.3 billion energy bailout bill that was passed into law.
DeWine has not been named as a subject of the investigation, and the governor’s spokesman said he has supported the importance of energy long before FirstEnergy supported his 2018 campaign.
The FirstEnergy bribery case is the largest in state history, with Householder and his allies accused of accepting $61 million through dark money groups in exchange for passing and defending legislation benefitting FirstEnergy.
The victims of a Montgomery County Municipal Court probation officer received restitution payments after a Dayton Daily News investigation found the payments were misplaced by the court.
The newspaper’s investigation found lax oversight by area courts allowed restitution money first to be stolen by the probation officer, then misplaced for more than a year. The court administrator apologized to the victims owed money.
The newspaper also reported that the probation officer, a former employee of the court, was sentenced to three weeks of probation as punishment for his crime, a term that the local public defender called “unusual.”
After the city of Dayton assisted some residents of an 18-unit apartment building to find temporary housing because of alleged unsafe conditions, the Dayton Daily News found a history of issues with the property management.
The Dayton Daily News reviewed hundreds of real estate, financial and court records, and interviewed Dayton and Milwaukee officials, tenants, the property manager and his attorneys.
The newspaper found that the company that had recently sold the apartment building owned other properties in Dayton with maintenance problems and had connections to properties in Milwaukee that allegedly racked up thousands of code violations. The property manager denied wrongdoing, said he improved his properties and that the allegations in Milwaukee were bogus.
Dayton Daily News reporters in 2021 dug into what obstacles existed to getting the region’s economy back on track after the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The newspaper revealed that the pandemic worsened a preexisting lack of affordable, quality child care and left a shortage of workers.
The Dayton Daily News interviewed dozens of child care experts, business leaders, educators, politicians and parents and analyzed reams of reports and data to study the child care crisis and explore possible solutions as part of our Path Forward initiative.
Our investigation found broad consensus that child care and preschool are crucial to families, children, businesses and the economy, and that it is time for solutions to be put into place to fix long-standing problems with affordability, access, quality and low pay for child care workers and preschool teachers.
Area employers struggled in 2021 to fill jobs as the economy improved from the pandemic-induced recession.
The Dayton Daily News interviewed 18 local and national career and human resources experts, companies, business leaders and job seekers about staffing shortages. Some said the biggest problem is a shortage of qualified applicants. Others say good candidates are ignored or offered inadequate pay, and many people who need jobs still struggled with access to affordable child care and fear of catching COVID-19 at work.
Records also show crews at the Dayton International Airport disposed of firefighting foam multiple times — including accidental spills — in recent years, discharges which followed guidelines in place at the time but which introduced PFAS chemicals into the environment.
A report from a government and business panel assembled because of concerns about these issues found the area’s water quality is very good, but recommends extensive monitoring for the chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. The chemicals are the most immediate threat to the Buried Valley Aquifer, where the majority of communities on the region get their drinking water, the report says.
Every year, the Dayton Daily News creates a searchable database of area public employee salaries in the interest of government transparency and as a service to our readers.
Our Payroll Project this year found that local government pay swelled last year for the people making the highest wages — more than $100,000 a year — because of the global pandemic, social unrest and staffing shortages.
Our reporters obtained and analyzed payroll data for 29 local counties, cities, townships and other governments, such as the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority and Dayton Metro Library.
Another Payroll Project investigation raised concerns about potential conflict of interest among area coroners, as the elected coroners of Montgomery, Warren and Clark counties all had side jobs for other counites that their offices do business with. The coroners said these arrangements happen because of a lack of forensic pathologists and places that can do autopsies.
11. Air Force paid $549M for planes sold for scrap
As U.S. leaders orchestrated a controversial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan this year, the Dayton Daily News investigated how Wright-Patterson Air Force Base official were involved in the Air Force buying planes for the Afghan Air Force that were later scrapped.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says Wright-Patt officials were involved in awarding the contract for the G222 transport planes, ending it and investigating what went wrong.
U.S. taxpayers spent $549 million on the aircraft, most of which were junked a few years later at a scrap value of $40,257. A federal watchdog agency concluded that no one was held accountable for that waste.
The contractor involved disputed the findings of the special inspector general’s report, calling it a faulty analysis and saying that it worked diligently to make the program successful.