Oooops, Wrong Again

Channel 19 blows yet another story.

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White Noise
Unable to go more than a week without embarrassing themselves, those cute little guys at Channel 19 blew another story last week.

When the station got wind of a major shakeup at The Plain Dealer, a Channel 19 camera crew hustled over to PD headquarters. The big scoop: Columnists Connie Schultz, Tom Feran, and Bill Livingston were all getting the ax. But as is its custom, 19 never bothered to verify the story -- which, of course, was wrong. Instead, its report took Schultz and Editor Doug Clifton to task for not commenting on its faulty tip. In fact, the report was so thin that the station interviewed its own anchor, Sharon Reed, because she had once been interviewed by Schultz.

"I thought, 'You can't be serious -- there's no story here,'" says Schultz. "And then I remembered, that never deters them."

Morons 'r' us
A year ago, a man in Akron's Thomastown neighborhood beat up his girlfriend and threatened to kill her. By the time police arrived, the man had fled.

Officers Erik Keenan and Nicholas Herstich searched the neighborhood. About a block away, they saw Roy West wearing clothes that fit the suspect's description. West was the wrong guy, but he ran anyway, hightailing it to the home of his friend, Lance Mathis.

Mathis was on his front porch when he saw West running toward him, the two officers on his heels. They ran into the house and closed the door. Herstich kicked it in. Once inside, he saw "golf-ball-sized" clumps of marijuana lying around, and the place smelled like a clambake of the nonaquatic variety. West had led the cops directly to Mathis's weed operation.

After a brief scuffle, West was handcuffed. Herstich used his sighting of the marijuana to get a search warrant. When he went back inside, he found Mathis, also rumored to be a Rhodes scholar, hiding under plastic bags filled with pot. Mathis was charged with trafficking and possession. West was hit for assaulting an officer and obstructing official business.

In March, Summit County Judge Burnham Unruh ruled the search illegal, decreeing that Herstich should not have kicked in the door because "he was not in hot pursuit." Apparently he found the officers not good-looking enough to be technically described as "hot." And since Herstich's entry was illegal, nothing that happened after that -- West's tussle with the cop, Mathis's disappearing act under bags of weed -- could be used in court.

Two weeks ago, Judge Beth Whitmore overruled Unruh, saying that even though the officers weren't that hot in the visual sense, sprinting after suspects is generally considered "hot pursuit." And since the cops thought they were chasing a guy who had threatened to kill someone, there was no way they could back off.

The two morons are now awaiting new trial dates.

Maybe we shoulda . . .
Buried in a recent Plain Dealer story about huge Cleveland schools budget cuts was a curious news flash: The district, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the newspaper, is talking with its bus drivers' union about outsourcing busing to a private company.

You might say Frank Burdell was a bit surprised. He's the president of the bus drivers' union, and he says the district never mentioned that it was about to whack 500 drivers' jobs. "Never, ever once did they ever propose outsourcing or privatizing," Burdell says.

Of course not. While outsourcing busing is growing trendy among public schools -- a third of all districts now use private companies to shuttle kids -- it's a trend that's not popular among unions. That's because the biggest private companies, such as Canada's Laidlaw and the U.K.'s First Student, have been known to resist unions. And in the long run, outsourcing doesn't save that much money.

The idea was originally pitched by the Council of Great City Schools, a Washington D.C. nonprofit, whose audit of the district led it to slash the jobs of 125 drivers last fall. And with the district's deficit nearing the magnitude of Snoop Dogg's weed budget, "Everything is on the table," spokesman Alan Seifullah says.

Somebody might want to tell the drivers.

Innovation is job one
Speaking of the schools, the district moved this week to combat its estimated $25 million deficit for next year by secretly approving the following money-raising/cost-saving initiatives:

· School lunch prices will be bumped to $19.95 plus gratuity.

· The district will launch its own parlay game for Senate League basketball.

· 10 percent of schoolyard dope sales will henceforth be earmarked for new playground equipment.

· Study-hall pool tables will offer competitive half-hour rates.

· Staff meetings will be moved to VFW Post 1056's "Vegas Night."

· Extracurricular programs will be replaced with screenings of Pimp My Ride.

· Schools will offer an optional $5-a-day Homework Deferment Program.

Celebrity Renner
The latest issue of Cleveland Magazine names Scene staff writer James Renner as one of the city's 30 most interesting people.

This was especially surprising to his colleagues, since Renner recently came in 48th in a vote for the 50 most interesting people in our office.

The distinction puts Renner in the elite company of a NASA engineer and some eight-year-old kid who cured cancer.

What makes Renner so special? He once met Stephen King. Take that, cancer kid!

Renner celebrated making the list by shrugging his shoulders and trying to bum a cig.

As crude as it gets
From Toledo comes a cautionary tale for Ohio environmentalists: Everything you do can and will be used against you in what passes around here for a court of law.

Last summer, Ohio Citizen Action conducted a health survey of East Toledo residents living near a Sunoco refinery. The group hoped the results -- such as 60 percent of respondents complaining of headaches and almost one-third suffering from asthma, shortness of breath, and fatigue -- would persuade Lucas County to launch its own study.

But Sunoco turned the tables. In defending a suit brought by area residents, the company's attorney demanded that Citizen Action turn over every scrap of paper pertaining to its survey, including the names and medical histories of respondents. Citizen Action refused; participants had been told that their personal info would be kept confidential. But a Lucas County judge sided with Sunoco.

In a letter to the court, Citizen Action offered to provide the results of the survey; a list of the streets on which respondents live; and copies of the questionnaires with names and addresses blanked out. But none of that was good enough, leading Citizen Action to believe that Sunoco is just trying to intimidate residents.

To rub more salt into the wound, Sunoco attorney Louis Tosi -- of the firm Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Tosi -- has also demanded that Citizen Action pay his fees and provide the soul of a virgin.

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