A high school student in Covington has been suspended for a class-clown staple — a dick joke.
On Jan. 20 the Messenger, the official newspaper serving the Catholic Diocese of Covington, ran the story "Rally Invites Youth to Explore Vocations," describing an event designed to "remind the young adults that God is calling each of them to a certain vocation in life." The writer, Assistant Editor Laura Keener, noted that entering a religious order isn't the only vocation for a Catholic youth, quoting a number of students attending the rally about their options. One student, Jack Meholf, said he was inspired by one of the speakers, Father Richard Wurth, and plans to look into the priesthood.
"He talked about how he used to 'play' priest as a child, and I did, too," Meholf said.
Some of Meholf's friends — perhaps Pat McGroin, Ben Dover and Dick Hurtz — also might be considering the priesthood as their future career, though none were interviewed for the article.
The Messenger staff responsible for writing and editing copy before it went into print didn't catch the joke, but the hundreds of readers who inundated Bishop Roger Foys' office with phone calls and e-mails didn't miss it.
A retraction appears in the Feb. 3 edition stating, "...a high school student interviewed for the front-page article about the Vocation Rally misidentified himself. School official subsequently identified his true identity. The Messenger regrets the error."
Keener didn't have anything to say when asked about the story, and efforts to confirm a reported five-day suspension for Meholf's alter ego failed when officials at St. Henry District High School refused to comment. The big question now is whether or not punishment will include writing 1,000 times, "I will never Jack Meholf again."
Complaint Authority Down but Not Out
Mayor Mark Mallory characterizes the Citizen Complaint Authority (CCA), one of the 38 city boards and commissions currently with vacant positions, as "a very important board." The body that investigates citizen complaints against the Cincinnati Police Department was unable to meet in January because it didn't have a quorum, according to a CCA staffer. What's being done to remedy that?
Lorrie Platt, an existing board member, was reappointed to the CCA board and will serve her second term until Jan. 23, 2008. Seats vacated by Nancy Minson and Sandra Butler, however, have yet to be filled. Mallory's communications director, Jason Barron, says resumes are being collected and "the mess" of vacancies inherited by the new administration is being sorted out "as quickly as possible."
Interim Executive Director Kenneth Glenn is also waiting to learn his fate as the city conducts a search to fill the top position vacated by Wendell France in November 2005.
"They are in the process of seeking bids for the search firm to do the director's search," Barron says. "There's no firm timeline on it."
France cautions against hiring an outsider, noting that Glenn is not only capable of doing the job but is essential to keeping the CCA on track after its rocky beginning (see "An Official Oversight," issue of Jan. 18-24).
"I know that (Mallory) has mentioned doing an outside search for my replacement," France says. "I never had a chance to talk to the mayor, but I would probably not do that (hire someone from the outside). I think that group he has there has matured together. There was a lot of relationship building and capacity building that just took a lot of personal capital from people, so I would probably just stay the course and try to support the agency both in public dialogue and fiscally. And I think that he can't go wrong there."
The board/staff partnership functioned liked a well-oiled machine on Feb. 6 when the CCA reviewed and processed 18 cases, including the January backlog. Among those was complaint No. 05336, a charge of improper use of force against Officer Thomas Rackley, who used a Taser during an arrest last fall. In addition to attempting to introduce more evidence, Rackley referred back to December testimony offered by then-Fraternal Order of Police President Harry Roberts (see "More Gun Use by Police?," issue of Dec. 12-18, 2005).
"Sergeant Roberts was also correct that every officer in this department is watching this case very closely," Rackley told the CCA board. "If this is allowed to stand, (Cincinnati officers) are going to hesitate to pull the Taser. However, this is not going to make them use force but hesitate to use any force in a situation calling for it. This will get an officer hurt or killed."
Robert Siegel, CCA board chair, expressed his concern that additional evidence was being presented five months after the complaint was filed. Acknowledging that it takes time to collect data, he said the vote was already delayed by the board's review of video from Rackley's police cruiser. He then called for a vote.
The board voted unanimously to support the police department's internal finding that a use of force did occur. Rackley now faces further discipline, including possible suspension.
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