Ohio man pleads guilty to scamming storm victims

A man accused of ripping off storm victims in Ohio and Kentucky has pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Joshua Salyers entered the guilty pleas in Hamilton County court in southern Ohio Tuesday. He admitted stealing more than $43,000 from the victims. DeWine spokesman Mark Moretti said the 39-year-old Salyers ran a storm damage restoration business and took money from homeowners in Butler, Hamilton and Stark counties in Ohio and in Campbell County, Ky., to repair their homes after storms in 2010 and in 2011. But Moretti said Salyers never began the work and refused to refund the money.

Appeals court removes key civil service protection

A federal appeals court ruling that has taken key civil service protection away from government employees involved in national security work will have far-reaching implications, advocates for federal workers say.

Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy group, said Tuesday that the appeals court has given agencies "a blank check to cancel all government accountability in civil service law."

In a 2-1 decision Friday involving two Defense Department employees, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the Merit Systems Protection Board is prohibited from reviewing dismissals and demotions of government employees who hold "noncritical sensitive" positions, regardless of whether those jobs require access to classified information.

The dissenting judge in the case said the decision "effectively nullifies" the 1978 civil service law. Advocates for federal workers point out that federal employees in "noncritical sensitive" jobs work at many federal agencies, making the impact of the ruling government-wide.

NC regulators hire law firm to probe Duke Energy

North Carolina utilities regulators said Wednesday they have hired a former federal prosecutor with experience digging into corporate affairs to reveal whether regulators were misled ahead of a takeover that created America's largest electric company.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission said it has hired Anton Valukas and the Jenner & Block law firm, which he heads in Chicago. The ex-prosecutor and his firm are tasked with investigating what happened before regulators approved Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. taking over Raleigh-based Progress Energy Inc.

State law allows the costs associated with the utilities commission's investigation to be charged to Duke Energy and its shareholders rather than allowing the company to pass them along to its 3.2 million North Carolina customers.

A Duke Energy spokesman said the company was cooperating with regulators in their investigation.

The company on Wednesday separately sought to begin passing along to Carolinas energy consumers the first $89 million of $650 million in merger-related savings promised over the next five years. If that is approved, the average residential customer in North Carolina and South Carolina could save between 80 cents and 92 cents a month beginning in September.

Court overturns $1M award against U of M, Smith

The Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned a $1 million award against the University of Minnesota and men's basketball coach Tubby Smith over the hiring of an assistant coach.

Jimmy Williams quit his job as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State in 2007 because he believed Smith had hiring authority when he offered him an assistant coaching job. Minnesota later withdrew the offer because Williams had NCAA rules violations during a previous stint as an assistant for the Golden Gophers more than 20 years ago.

Williams sued, and a Hennepin County jury and the state appeals court sided with him. But the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed those decisions, saying Williams was not entitled to protection against negligent misrepresentations from Smith about his hiring authority.

County's court records found in open recycling bin

Court administrators in Madison County say they'll do a better job of disposing of public records after court documents turned up in an open recycling bin.

The Alton Telegraph reports that one of its reporters responding to a tip found hundreds of the court records plainly visible in the container outside the county's complex in Wood River.

The records showed names of victims, including minors, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, detailed accounts of why an order of protection was needed and Social Security numbers.

Madison County Interim Circuit Clerk Judy Nelson says a hauler who waited a couple of weeks to cart off the documents won't be used again. Nelson says the records instead will be disposed of immediately.

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