Memorials to victims of the mass shooting on August 4 have begun to shrink in the Oregon District and some business owners would like to have them removed. Many people continued to visit the memorials during the Friday lunch hour. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Corruption, mass shooter, water safety: Our investigative stories of 2019

It was a momentous 2019 in the Dayton region, with a mass shooter killing nine people in the Oregon District in August, Memorial Day tornadoes wreaking havoc across multiple counties and a federal investigation of public corruption unveiled in April.

Dayton Daily News investigations touched all of those major events and more. Here is some of our best work.

Mass shooter

The Daily News uncovered multiple red flags in past behavior and comments by Connor Betts, the 24-year-old Bellbrook man who opened fire in the Oregon District on Aug. 4. Betts was shot to death by police after killing nine people, including his sister, and wounding multiple others.

RELATED: A 30-second reign of terror: Videos, reports show how the Oregon District mass shooting unfolded

The newspaper found that Betts had been removed from a school bus by police in high school because he had a created a hit list of classmates he wanted to kill, he held a knife near someone’s throat and he talked about the possibility of opening fire inside Timothy’s bar on Brown Street.

RELATED: Dayton Shooting: Oregon District gunman left decade of red flags

The Daily News, WHIO-TV and multiple other news organizations are currently fighting in court for the release of Betts’ Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school records. The office of Ohio Attorney General David Yost filed a friend-of-the-court brief this month supporting the news organization’s efforts.

During the shooting Betts wore body armor and used a 100-round drum ammunition magazine that a friend allegedly purchased for him.

The shooting has led to calls for the state to improve background checks and crack down on high capacity ammunition magazine and assault-style weapons. Gun legislation is pending in the Ohio legislature.

RELATED: “Do something” demand after Dayton shooting fuels support for Ohio gun law change

The newspaper also found that the state is spending millions to protect students from mass shooters but there is little transparency on how the money is being spent and how effective it is.

RELATED: Stopping the next shooter: Local schools fortify and add security

Dayton public corruption

Seven people were indicted in a long-term federal investigation of public corruption in the Dayton region announced in April. The allegations mostly involve public contracting, particularly the city of Dayton programs that give preference to disadvantaged companies. The Daily News investigations raised questions about oversight of those problems and lack of safeguards to make sure that the programs are not abused.

RELATED: City investigating after corruption charges allege contracting fraud in Dayton

Former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie (right) sits down for an exclusive interview with WHIO anchor Letitia Perry and Dayton Daily News reporter Lynn Hulsey about his guilty plea on a mail fraud charge stemming from a federal public corruption investigation.
Photo: Staff Writer

The newspaper investigated the wide reach of the federal investigation and also found that some of those indicted faced financial problems. The newspaper also looked at what the city of Dayton is doing to tighten its procedures and policies.

RELATED: Indictments prompt city of Dayton to strengthen anti-fraud efforts

Those indicted include former Dayton City Commissioner Joey D. Williams, who pleaded guilty to a single count of corruptly soliciting a bribe, and former state lawmaker Clayton Luckie, who was sentenced to prison for mail fraud.

RELATED: Convicted former Dayton lawmaker wants Trump to pardon him

Awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to various charges are former city employee RoShawn Winburn, former Trotwood Mayor Joyce Sutton Cameron and Dayton businessmen Steve Rauch and Brian Higgins. Sutton Cameron’s husband, James Cameron, 81, of Trotwood, was indicted but has not yet appeared in court.

RELATED: Three new indictments expand Dayton public corruption probe

Water problems

A water main break in one of the city of Dayton’s water lines located in the embankment of the Great Miami River caused a widespread boil advisory and the loss of 150 million gallons of treated water. Even thought the water main that broke was relatively new, experts said the incident pointed to weaknesses in aging water systems. The city has spent about $100 million over the last nine years updating it water system.

RELATED: ‘Nearly catastrophic’ break a glimpse of vulnerabilities to area’s water

The newspaper’s investigations revealed that the city, Montgomery County and a contractor were arguing over who was responsible for the break, which the city said was related to work being done on the Keowee Street bridge replacement project. The county and its contractor dispute that.

Free water distribution continued at The Foodbank in Dayton on Friday as the City entered its second day of a boil advisory after a water main break on Wednesday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

RELATED: Dayton blames county contractor for February water outage

Another county-wide boil advisory lasted three days after power outages caused by the June tornadoes led to a loss of water pressure, raising questions about the need for and cost of expensive backup systems.

RELATED: City: ‘We do not need’ more generators for water system, would cost $45M

They city used borrowed generators to get the water system back online,

PFAS contamination of water

Debate heated up over the presence of of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in public water supplies. Officials believe the substance got into city of Dayton and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base groundwater because it was in foam used in firefighter training both on base and at a nearby city training site. City wells where it was detected were shut down and Wright-Patt installed a filter to remove PFAS from water, but debate continues over what levels of the chemical are safe.

RELATED: Contaminants in Dayton water above what some states consider safe

The Mad River flows past the City of Dayton’s Ottawa water treatment plant on the east side of Dayton. Tests indicated that PFAS were present in the drinking water in 2018 even after some contaminated wells were shut down last year. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

The newspaper found that levels in Dayton’s drinking water are well below current federal advisory guidelines but have tested at or above limits established or proposed by other U.S. states. City officials say the water is safe and protected.

In September a state-wide PFAS testing program was announced.

Ohio Parole Board

Daily News stories about the Ohio Parole Board prompted Gov. Mike DeWine to order reviews and reforms. The newspaper investigated issues raised by former state lawmaker Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, who resigned and said the board was dysfunctional and operated like a “secret society.”

RELATED: Ohio Parole Board member quits, calls agency toxic and secretive

Following the newspaper stories, DeWine and Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Annette Chambers-Smith made changes in board training and make-up and added transparency measures.

RELATED: 12-person board responsible for nearly 9,000 inmates operates largely in the dark

When Raymond Walters Jr was accused of a crime spree that left two six-year-old girls dead, the Daily News asked what went wrong with Walters’ post-release supervision. Again, DeWine ordered a review and shared its results first with the newspaper.

The Ohio Parole Board, which is appointed by the state prisons director, has absolute discretion over the release of thousands of inmates.
Photo: Staff Writer

The newspaper also had an exclusive interview with James Earl Young, a Dayton man who received DeWine’s first pardon and covered DeWine’s plan to offer an expedited pardon project in Ohio.

RELATED: Dayton man pardoned by DeWine says ‘Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing’

Dayton School spending

As the city of Dayton schools struggled to improve student performance the Daily News took a hard look at spending. The newspaper found the district does not have a clear plan for spending $30 million budgeted to repair relatively new school buildings.

RELATED: Dayton schools debates $30 million maintenance bill

Some board members criticized the lack of clarity, objecting to borrowing money for repairs without more specific information.

When the newspaper requested more details the school district produced a one-page document listing planned spending totals in 14 general categories but no indication of what buildings would need the repairs.

The final steel beam of the new Wogaman school on Germantown Street was hoisted into place in January 2006. Nearly 14 years later, Dayton Public Schools officials are weighing how much to spend for maintenance on their relatively new schools. PHOTO BY JAN UNDERWOOD
Photo: Staff Writer

The newspaper also revealed in March that the district was projected to have a nearly $100 million surplus but there was no consensus on what to do with it.

RELATED: How Dayton Public Schools spends a quarter-billion per year

The school board in June released a three-year, $60 million plan to boost student performance by bringing back high school busing, improving staff pay, adding mental health counselors and making other improvements.

RELATED: Dayton schools pick key areas to invest tens of millions

Nursing homes

After an increase in the number of nursing homes in the region that received the lowest federal government rating for staffing a Daily News investigation found that those with the lowest ratings tended to also perform worse in health inspections.

RELATED: DDN Investigation: Low staffing at some area nursing homes causes problems

The nursing home industry struggles to fill jobs and some resort to using outside agencies to fill jobs. The investigation also found that some nursing homes managed to keep quality up and get higher ratings even though they struggled with staffing shortages.

Ombudsman Beverly Baltes visits local nursing or senior care centers to help mediate resident and patient complaints and concerns. The Ombudsman’s office has no regulatory authority but can often prevent state enforcement by working with facility mangers, residents and patients. Here, Baltes checks to make certain that resident/client rights are posted. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

Youth suicide

Youth suicide is on the rise and a Daily News investigation found the need for more consistent screening of teens and adolescents for mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. There also needs to be more training on what risk factors and warning signs to look for and on how to talk about suicide with youth.

RELATED: How Dayton region can stop record increase in teen suicides

Experts said suicide prevention needs to be more proactive and comprehensive and should address the root causes of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Miami Luken

Top officials of now-closed Springboro pharmaceutical distributor Miami-Luken were indicted the federal government in 2019 and accused of shipping millions of opioid pills to West Virginia while ignoring signs that the drugs were being diverted and abused.

The case is pending in federal court against Miami-Luken, its former president Anthony Rattini and compliance officer James Barclay, and two West Virginia pharmacists. All pleaded not guilty to one count each of conspiring to distribute controlled substances.

Miami-Luken,announced that it is closing following mounting lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis. The lawsuits state the Springboro pharmaceutical distributor should have alerted authorities over large orders of prescription painkillers. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

A newspaper investigation found documents and data showing that the company exceeded thresholds it sent for shipping pills to the pharmacies and continued shipping the pills even after becoming aware of multiple red-flags.

RELATED: Miami-Luken case raises questions of who is responsible for opioid crisis

Human Trafficking 

After a missing 14-year-old girl was found with a man in Springboro the newspaper looked at the problem of human trafficking and the role internet sites play in helping traffickers lure vulnerable victims.

RELATED: Springboro case shines light on human trafficking

A 14-year-old Florida girl was rescued from this park in Springboro in a case turned over to a human trafficking task force. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
Photo: Staff Writer

There were 242 human trafficking investigations leading to 80 arrests and 61 successful criminal convictions in the state in 2018, the investigation found.

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey

Officials push to reverse declines at Dayton International Airport

Ex-Trotwood mayor pleads not guilty in federal court

County leaders question success claims after coroner's official resigns

How these cities are fighting blight, putting more homes on the market

How $2.6M will help Dayton entrepreneurs build ‘innovation economy’

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