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EASTERN HILLS

JOURNAL

Your Community Press newspaper serving Columbia Township, Columbia-Tusculum, Fairfax, Hyde Park, Madisonville, Mariemont, Mt. Lookout, Oakley, Terrace Park

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2017

Forest Hills school employees accused of sexting, on leave One of three resigns; investigation continues

$1.00

BECAUSE COMMUNITY MATTERS

Ohio River Trail

REACHES DEAD END

Hannah Sparling hsparling@enquirer.com

The three Forest Hills Local Schools employees put on leave this week are accused of sending explicit sexual messages to each other – some apparently during school hours and using school accounts and devices. Director of Business Operations Ray Johnson turned in his resignation Oct. 2. Treasurer Rick Toepfer and Administrative Assistant Beth Brulport are on paid leave pending the final outcome of a district investigation. Forest Hills officials announced the investigation Oct. 2, following a fivehour executive session of the school board Saturday, but would not say specifically what they were looking into. District documents provided in response to an Enquirer public records request shed more light. The documents contain emails and text messages that include graphic depictions of sex between Brulport and Toepfer and between Brulport and Johnson. Many of the messages were sent using work cellphones or work email accounts. Some of the messages date to 2014. Forest Hills officials have known about the misconduct for a while. In June, a man who said he had a relationship with Brulport sent an email to district officials, highlighting communication between Brulport and Johnson. He threatened to take the case to reporters “if everyone involved is not fired.” Toepfer had no discipline in his file prior to Oct. 2, but Brulport was first disciplined for inappropriate conversations in February 2016. At that point, she was reprimanded for having frequent, inappropriate personal conversations during the workday. She was placed on leave in June, after the email regarding her communication with Johnson, and has been on and off leave several times since then. Johnson was suspended for three See SEXTING, Page 2A

Forest Hills is generally viewed as among the best districts in the area. THE ENQUIRER/FORREST SELLERS

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A man rides his bicycle recently near the Ohio River Trail trailhead at Wilmer Avenue and Airport Road near Lunken Airport. THE ENQUIRER/CARRIE COCHRAN

Cincinnati bails on East Side section, leaving big gap in 50-mile path Carrie Blackmore Smith csmith@enquirer.com

“It’s like getting a cast off your arm and then breaking your leg.” That’s how Anderson Township Trustee Josh Gerth describes a decision by Cincinnati to cancel a long-planned section of bike and hike trail, which would have connected the township to Cincinnati’s network of trails. Five years ago, the Ohio-KentuckyIndiana Regional Council of Governments earmarked $4 million in federal dollars for Cincinnati to complete a 2.2mile gap in the Ohio River Trail along Kellogg Avenue through the city neighborhood of California. For roughly 20 years, partners on the Ohio River Trail have envisioned a roughly 50-mile trail along the river, stretching from Aurora in the west through Hamilton County, Cincinnati and Clermont County before ending in New Richmond. Several sections of the trail are complete. Cincinnati agreed in 2012 to pay the required 20 percent local match – $800,000 – for the trail along Kellogg from Salem to Sutton roads at the border of Anderson Township, where the township’s 1.4-mile section begins. Cincinnati leaders now say they don’t have the money for the city’s share of the project, which was scheduled to begin construction next summer. It’s a rare move to cancel a project that has federal support, said Andy Reser, manager of transportation programming at OKI, the metropolitan planning agency.

“If the leaders of our community are going to continue to tout that we are a Tristate regional partnership, Cincinnati USA, then they need to start acting like it.” JOSH GERTH Anderson Township Trustee

“We don’t like to see this happen,” Reser said. “When Cincinnati can’t use it, it looks bad on us that we didn’t fulfill this project.” Michael Moore, Cincinnati’s director of transportation and planning, said the decision was not made lightly. Cincinnati’s capital budget is “very constrained, even more so than when we applied for the funding in 2009,” Moore said. Some spending had to be cut and “presently, the city has prioritized the Wasson Way and Ohio River Trail West projects,” Moore said. Wasson Way is a 4.1-mile multi-use trail under construction and will eventually run from the Evanston neighborhood, near Xavier University, to the Mount Lookout/Linwood neighborhoods. Wasson has had financial hurdles getting going, despite strong community support. The project is estimated to cost

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between $14 million and $20 million. The city last year bought the tract of land needed for the trail for $11.8 million. Ohio River Trail West is a planned 28mile bike and hike trail that would connect Downtown’s Smale Riverfront Park to Shawnee Lookout in North Bend along the city’s West Side riverfront neighborhoods. Cincinnati has secured at least $1.3 million for this project, which would help communities that have been “underserved in terms of recreation and trail opportunities,” according to a recent grant application related to the project. The change disappointed officials in Anderson Township, Gerth said, and not only because the East Side leg of the project has been about a decade in the making. “I’m not here to debate whether or not the city has the money,” Gerth wrote on his Facebook page. “I’ll take them at their word that they do not.” Gerth’s bigger issue is that “the city made a unilateral decision to cut the funding without informing Anderson Township, Great Parks (of Hamilton County), or Hamilton County; all of whom, no doubt, would’ve banded together to figure out how to solve this funding problem.” Moore said the city would welcome financial aid from other sources. The section of the Ohio River Trail along Kellogg is “a critical regional connection,” because of its proximity to the 75-mile Little Miami Trail, said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails, an See BIKE TRAIL, Page 2A

Vol. 37 No. 38 © 2017 The Community Press ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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