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Cincinnati’s former top cop, ACLU lawyer weigh in on proposal to legalize pot

Cincinnati attorney Scott Greenwood, the general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, and former police chief Tom Streicher today endorsed a proposal to amend the Ohio Constitution to legalize marijuana.

The two are partners in Greenwood Streicher LLC, a consulting company that focuses on government accountability and policing solutions.

Neither is an investor in the 10 companies that would be awarded marijuana farms if the proposal makes it onto the Nov. 3 ballot and wins the approval of voters, according to ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee leading the effort.

“Both Tom Streicher and Scott Greenwood have spent their careers working to make Ohio a safer, more just state,” said Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio. “They’ve looked critically at our amendment, and with today’s endorsement, they’ve taken a strong stand against Ohio’s failed marijuana prohibition.”

The proposal would legalize marijuana for medical use by adults and children who have parental permission as well as for personal use by Ohioans 21 or older.

Greenwood said Ohio’s pot laws discriminate based on race.

“Black Ohioans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white Ohioans, even though both groups use marijuana at the same rate,” Greenwood said. “Justice is not applied evenly in our state. But with ResponsibleOhio’s amendment, we have the chance to make desperately needed change.”

Streicher, who was chief of the Cincinnati Police Department 1999-2011, said Ohio’s marijuana laws don’t work.

“Law enforcement should instead be able to spend their time and their resources cracking down on the real criminals,” Streicher said. “ResponsibleOhio’s amendment will do just that, paving the way for a better, safer future for our children and grandchildren.”

To fund the $20 million campaign, 10 investment groups ponied up $2 million apiece. Each company has budgeted an additional $2 million to cover land acquisition and other needs that might arise after Election Day.

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MDS Energy raising $100M fund

An Armstrong County oil and gas exploration company is raising one of the biggest energy funds yet in southwestern Pennsylvania — and it may be a very different kind of venture. Kittanning-based MDS Energy Partners LP has a goal of $100 million, according to the company’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

MDS stands for Michael D. Snyder, CEO of MDS Energy Development, which last fall began drilling its first horizontal Marcellus Shale wells. The company has about 50 vertical shale wells.

MDS declined comment.

Charles Schliebs. Enlarge

Charles Schliebs.

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But because the Investment Company Act Section 3(c)(9) box checked on the Form D filing, it appears to be a royalty fund. Royalty funds raise money in the down cycles of oil and gas and purchase interests from holders that would like some liquidity.

“As the market turns up, these funds can do very well,” said Charlie Schliebs, managing director of investment banking firm Stone Pier Capital Advisors who is heavily involved in the oil and gas industry but not involved in this fund. “There are many royalty funds, but none formed around here of which we are aware. Funds formed elsewhere around the country have been active here when prices took earlier dips, but this prolonged dip is an opportunity, and I am sure that MDS believes it is well positioned in terms of access to royalty interest holders in this region. It’s only since 2008 that this area has been big-time oil and gas and all kinds of things are new here that are typical in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado and New Mexico.”

How receptive investors will be to an energy-related fund is tough to call. In January, McMurray-based Ridgetop Capital raised a $200 million fund to purchase mineral rights and real estate in the Marcellus and Utica shales, a higher amount than originally anticipated because a U.S.-based international energy fund became an investor.

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​Mindful mentoring of corporate leaders

The authors emphasize the need for a clear agreement about the mentoring relationship, including the extent to which the chair of the board may receive reports about the progress of the arrangement. In addition, details such as how often mentors and mentees will interact, having an agenda before these conversations, and action items for the mentee to complete before the next conversation.

There are several benefits to these relationships. For instance new CEOs have a safe place to discuss difficult issues that the mentor has likely confronted or can examine from a different viewpoint. Furthermore, creating the structure to best support mentoring relationships also provides the CEO with knowledge that she has set aside time and space to give more thought to a particular issue.

As the dean of a law school, I find that one of the most challenging aspects of leadership has been learning to not react or answer questions that require more information. Instead, I’ve learned to remain patient so that I can think on and talk through the issue with a mentor who has served as a law school dean. Knowing that I have a phone appointment with one of my mentors allows me to reserve that time and mental space to consider challenges thoughtfully and with the benefit of another’s wisdom.

I have found great value in this approach, and I believe that this form of mentorship can promote and cultivate mindful leadership in even the most challenging of circumstances.

Supporting these types of mentoring relationships is a wise corporate investment that can pay off in thoughtful approaches, greater productivity, and less turnover. While this may not be traditionally recognized as form of executive compensation, it is well-worth considering for companies concerned with balanced growth.

Article source: http://feeds.bizjournals.com/~r/industry_14/~3/hs27NXQ2zkk/mindful-mentoring-of-corporate-leaders.html

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Sommet Group chief’s sentencing delayed for third time

Sommet handled federal tax returns, payroll, 401(k) plans and health insurance for small businesses in Tennessee and other states. Federal authorities raided the company’s Cool Springs offices in 2010 and shut it down.

Federal prosecutors alleged Whitfield personally understated the wages Sommet paid on federal tax returns by nearly $80 million between late 2008 to early 2010, a sum that led to more than $16 million in unpaid federal taxes. They also argued Whitfield used Sommet client funds to prop up other businesses he owned, as well as pay for a house boat.

Whitfield denied the charges that he skimmed money from business clients. In testimony, he argued a vengeful ex-business partner, a third-party administrator handling its health insurance claims, coupled with unsuccessful loan negotiations with banks, led to Sommet’s demise.

Whitfield’s ex-wife, Marsha Whitfield, and his father-in-law and business partner Edwin Todd, both entered plea agreements to lesser charges. Their sentencing has been postponed to June 25, according to filings with the court.

Brian Whitfield faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious counts. According to court documents, he is released on bond. A phone call to Strianse on Whitfield’s whereabouts was not immediately returned Thursday.

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Article source: http://feeds.bizjournals.com/~r/industry_14/~3/6D02C-eIcN8/sommet-groupexec-s-sentencing-pushed-for-third.html

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Saints owner Tom Benson’s turf battle could play out in San Antonio

While San Antonio waits on the Raiders to decide where they will play after the 2015-2016 season, the city will play host to a different NFL saga as federal judge David Ezra is expected to hear arguments on Tuesday regarding a family feud involving control of New Orleans Saints owner and Alamo City businessman Tom Benson’s assets.

In January, three members of Benson’s family — daughter Renee Benson and grandchildren Rita and Ryan LeBlanc — filed a lawsuit seeking to block the iconic entrepreneur from shifting control of the Saints and New Orleans’ NBA franchise, the Pelicans, along with other assets, to his wife, Gayle Benson, upon his death. Now, one of those petitioners, Renee Benson, is asking Ezra, a U.S. District Judge, to return the case to Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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In February, Rickhoff appointed a pair of temporary co-receivers, including former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, to manage the elder Benson’s trust. The case was later moved to federal court.

The petitioners claim in the lawsuit, filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, that Benson’s “health and mental capacity have significantly declined” and that he has “fallen under the undue influence of another.”

Benson issued a statement in February explaining that he was “extremely disappointed” that family members have challenged his competency and ability to manage his assets, adding that he is “making sound decisions.”

Article source: http://feeds.bizjournals.com/~r/industry_14/~3/aqRmLSlsB-M/saints-owner-tom-benson-s-turf-battle-could-play.html

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Attorney general’s lawsuit says Savers misled donors

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit Thursday against Savers Inc. accusing the nation’s largest thrift-store chain of misleading donors about how much of their contributions go to charity.

“Savers has seriously misled the public about the extent to which donated clothes and merchandise benefit the for-profit retailer vs. the charity,” Swanson said in a news release.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Savers, which has 15 Minnesota stores under the Savers, Unique Thrift and Valu Thrift names, said it’s making changes to address the concerns and “will prevail” against the lawsuit.

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Savers tells donors that proceeds go to charity, but Swanson said donations at some locations don’t benefit all the named charities, and that flat-rate contracts mean charities get 40 cents per pound of donated clothing, even for items like suits that could sell for $100.

Swanson went public with the allegations in November, and said Thursday that some charities stopped doing business with Savers after her office’s report.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Minnesota Attorney General’s office to take this action because we have made multiple attempts to work collaboratively on a resolution that benefits everyone involved,” Savers CEO Ken Alterman said in a prepared statement. “Our company has worked diligently to answer every question that was raised and have begun implementing operational changes to address the AG’s concerns.”

He continued: “Rather than allow these changes to take place and then evaluate their effect, the AG’s office has decided to file this lawsuit and put more than 25 years of positive community impact and millions of dollars in annual charitable funding at risk. The money we pay our charitable partners furthers medical research and supports veterans and their families across Minnesota. We take this mission seriously, and we now have no choice but to vigorously defend our business and we are confident that we will prevail.”

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State court rejects arena suit; one remains

Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez said he’d see a California Supreme Court decision rejecting a suit against the downtown arena as confirmation of the city’s approval of the project.

On the other hand, Kelly Smith, who represented the petitioners in the suit, said the issues raised by it remain even if the suit’s journey has come to an end.

“We’ll wait and see what happens when the cars start flowing downtown,” said Smith, on behalf of principal petitioner Adriana Saltonstall. The original suit, filed about a year ago, contended the city’s environmental review of the project didn’t take into account severe traffic impacts as well as noise, possible rioting by fans and other concerns.

The California Supreme Court rejected Wednesday, without comment, an appeal of previous rulings against the suit, including in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Sanchez said the city of Sacramento was pleased, if not surprised, by the outcome. Kelly, however, said there’s still strong feeling by Saltonstall and other petitioners about flaws with the arena project.

“The fact that it didn’t get a vote simmers with the citizens of Sacramento,” he said, of a proposed but failed effort to put the arena on the ballot. City leaders had said the project was not subject to a public vote otherwise.

By virtue of the court’s rejection, there’s now only one remaining suit against the project, by attorneys Patrick Soluri and Jeffrey Anderson.

That suit, which maintains the city paid a secret subsidy to the Kings’ owners to make the arena project come together, is set for trial next month.

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Article source: http://feeds.bizjournals.com/~r/industry_14/~3/OclY9PuOYdI/state-court-rejects-arena-suit-one-remains.html

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