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Dispatch Employees Offered Severance Offer Ahead of Potential Layoffs

614now Staff

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According to Tom Knox of Bizjournals, the Columbus Dispatch employees will again be faced with a troubling decision and an even murkier future ahead of more layoffs and severances.

The Dispatch which had around 800 workers at midyear sent out letters to employees on Tuesday with an Aug. 29th deadline to accept a severance offer.

The letter from GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis outlined that their performance has “improved and outperformed our industry peers.” Regardless, he expects to see a drop in revenue and looks to “align our expenses accordingly.” This is an alarming sentiment when one takes into account The Dispatch is likely one of GateHouse Media’s top publications outside of their largest market, Boston.

The severance package features one week of pay for every year on the job, up to 13 weeks. The employees who’ve been with the company for 20 or more years would get 17 weeks of pay. This is in comparison to an original severance package that was offered in August 2015 which was capped at 26 weeks. A dramatic difference but one should be aware that in Ohio, severance packages aren’t mandatory as we are an at-will employee state.

Following the initial cuts in August, GateHouse revealed plans to cut costs by $10M in the following two years.

All this news falls on the back of a rough past few years for The Dispatch & GateHouse Media in terms of stability.  This past year saw the original owners, The Wolfe family, selling the paper for $47M, an initial cut of 20+ newsroom employees, Editor Ben Marrison leaving and following that the copy and design being outsourced to Texas.

For the GateHouse Media, impending doom has been on the forecast since a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2013 which listed a debt of $1.3 billion. This was all prior to GateHouse’s purchase of The Columbus Dispatch at $47M. Since their bankruptcy, they’ve grown far larger – adding onto what was then a modest 78 daily newspapers in 21 states, according to the company’s website circa 2013.

The Dispatch wasn’t the only newspaper to be offered buyouts ahead of these potential layoffs and while we don’t know the others, GateHouse Media now claims to have over 520 “markets” across 35 states.

Photo via George Campbell
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Coronavirus

Franklin County requires mask, even if state order expires

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Even when the state mandate requiring facial covering expires, Franklin County residents will still need to mask up.

The Franklin County Board of Health released an emergency order on Tuesday that says regardless of the county’s COVID-19 emergency rating, the mask mandate will stay in effect for Franklin County residents until otherwise noted.

Gov. Mike DeWine said the state mandate requiring facial coverings for all counties at a Level 3 emergency would no longer be in place if local cases decreased, and Franklin County was downgraded in the state’s emergency rating accordingly.

However, this new order means that will no longer be the case–the county facial covering requirement now supersedes the state facial covering requirement.

This past Tuesday, the Columbus City Council passed an ordinance that would require a mask in most public settings or non-compliers will face a $25 fine. The new ordinance began with an executive order the Thursday prior, but at that time no fine was attached as a penalty for skipping the mask.

How do you feel about the handling of the mask mandates? Who should have the final say? Sound off below!

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Govt & Politics

Hate group discussion gives historical context to policing

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Current CPD screening process explained

Columbus City Councilmember and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee Shayla Favor held an informative and at times eye-opening public hearing regarding the expansion of hate group affiliation background checks. 

Although no legislation was announced during the discussion, the point of the meeting was to have educational and collaborative conversations with experts in the field of systematic racism, psychology, and policing. Favor did mention that legislation defining more strict background checks for police officers potentially in hate groups or possibly affiliating with those groups would be drafted by the end of the month.

At the time of publication, Columbus City Council couldn’t say if a Columbus police officer was affiliated with a hate group.

Two-plus hours of presentations held by those representing education (Dr. Judson L. Jefferies, an OSU professor in the Department of African American and African Studies), civil service (Amy DeLong, executive director of the Civil Service Commission), and police (Richard Blunt II, Safety Manager of the Background Investigations segment of the CPD) preceded public testimony.

During the discussion, bits of historical facts and information were inserted giving a more robust understanding to the context of the topic. For example, there are 1,000 to 1,100 hate groups in the United States that we’re able to identify, according to Jefferies. Jefferies also pointed out that there is less concern about the number of members, and more concern about the number of supporters. 

He also mentioned that in the 1960s, police would post ads to recruit Southern-minded people to become police officers in Chicago and Los Angeles. Jefferies did acknowledge that being a police officer is the hardest job of any street bureaucrat because they see the worst of the human condition.

The current screening process of the CPD, as it pertains to hate group affiliation, was presented by Blunt. This is what it looks like::

  • Personal History Statement (PSH)—Undetected Acts
    • At any time in your life have you ever committed a hate crime?
    • Are you now, or have you ever been a member or associate of a criminal enterprise, street gang, or any group that advocates violence against individuals because of their race, religion, political affiliation, ethnic origin, nationality, gender, sexual preference, or disability?
    • Has any member of your family ever been a member of, or associated with any, street gang or organized criminal enterprise such as outlaw motorcycle groups, prison gangs, or tagging crews?
    • Do you have, or have you ever had, a tattoo signifying membership in, or affiliation with, a criminal enterprise, street gang, or any group that advocates violence against individuals because of their race, religion, political affiliation, ethnic origin, nationality, or gender.
  • Tattoo Policy 
    • Shall have no visible tattoos on the head, neck, or hands 
    • Shall have no tattoos that depict obscene, gang-related, extremist or otherwise offensive images, which may bring the Division into disrepute 
    • Visible and exposed tattoos are photographed
  • Polygraph Examination
    • Taken to an ID UNIT where they are fingerprinted and taken photographs of their visible and exposed tattoos
    • Pre-interview to meet with background investigator and go over PSH with candidate one more time
    • Taken to polygraph unit where they answer over 100 questions before being hooked up to a polygraph, some being:
      • To your knowledge, have you, your spouse, significant other, any member of your family, or close friends ever been associated with any subversive, radical, or terrorist organization, such as hate groups or gangs?
      • Have you ever posted offensive, derogatory, or racist material to social media?
    • Right before the polygraph, the candidate is given four documents called mind maps, which include falsifying information, illegal substance use, sex offenses, serious crimes (hate crimes, racially-motivated crimes, gang membership, terrorist sympathizer), and to tell the interviewee if anything comes to mind that the candidate hasn’t already discussed.
    • Once hooked up to the polygraph, they will be asked if they are concealing any of those crimes, and will come up with one of three results:
      • Deception indicated
      • No deception indicated
      • Inconclusive

With that being known, there are definitely improvements to be made in how the CPD does intensive background checks when it comes to hate group affiliation. By the end of July, the Columbus City Council hopes to have legislation drafted on hate-group screening.

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Crime

Increase in gun violence this past weekend causes city alarm

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After eight shootings this weekend Mayor Andrew J. Ginther gathered with city officials at the Point of Pride building on Monday afternoon to discuss the alarming uptick in neighborhood violence and how the city is going to address it.

The eight shootings over the weekend involved 10 people. Three people all under the age of 26 were murdered in the shootings, the youngest being 15-year-old Marcus Peters.

Since June 1, five teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 have been killed due to gun violence, while 14 others were critically injured.

The surge in gun violence includes a 77 percent increase in shots being blindly fired into residences, 78 percent of homicides due to firearms, and 67 homicides and 469 felonious assaults, which is a 125-percent increase in felonious assaults from 2019, in 2020.

“This problem belongs to each and every one of us, and we must bring all of our resources together to address what is happening in our community,” said Ginther.

Some of the suggestions that Ginther mentioned to solving gun violence issues in Columbus included finding productive opportunities for youth during this time and taking illegal guns off the streets.

Those in attendance at the press conference were Public Safety Director Ned Pettus; Police Chief Tom Quinlan; President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League Stephanie Hightower; Interim Director of Recreation and Parks Paul Rakosky; My Brother’s Keeper Program Manager and Department of Neighborhoods member Chris Suel; and Senior Pastor of City of Grace Church Michael Young. 

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