Ohio News Briefs

Elected auditor charged in threat to ex-employer

YOUNGSTOWN (AP) — Authorities say an elected Northeast Ohio city auditor has been indicted in federal court for sending his former employer an envelope containing white powder in November 2014.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland announced Wednesday that 37-year-old Anthony Natale (NAY-tuhl) is charged with conveying false information related to use of a weapon of mass destruction. Natale took office as Warren city auditor in January.

An FBI affidavit says an envelope containing health insurance documents for Natale and white powder was mailed to a Youngstown area copying machine business that had fired Natale the previous month. The business was evacuated and a hazardous materials team responded. Tests showed the powder was harmless.

Court records don’t indicate if Natale has an attorney. A message left at his city office wasn’t immediately returned.

Lobbyist leads telehealth panel at White House

COLUMBUS (AP) — The president of the Ohio Telecom Association is leading a panel discussion in Washington on promising practices for improving access to health care in America’s rural areas.

Charley Moses was among presenters at the White House event Wednesday. His panel explores efforts to extend care to high-need rural families and communities through telehealth technology.

Moses’ association began discussions last fall with members of the growing telehealth industry at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Technology Showcase. Telecom and health care industry leaders met there to discuss their changing businesses and the growing reliance on robust broadband networks to deliver quality health care, particularly in remote areas.

The White House event features remarks and collaborative sessions with Obama administration and national telecom officials for state and local government leaders, academics and community practitioners.

Lawsuit seeks to end tax on feminine hygiene products

COLUMBUS (AP) — A lawsuit recently filed in Ohio is demanding the state stop collecting sales tax on feminine hygiene products because it says the tax discriminates against women.

The suit seeking class-action status was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims against the state on behalf of four Cleveland-area women who argue the tax on products including tampons violates equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.

“It really is unequal protection and discriminatory,” said Sandra Kelly, a Cleveland lawyer involved in the lawsuit. “I can’t imagine something else that is medically necessary for women that is taxed.”

The complaint argues that with women spending an average of approximately $70 per year on feminine hygiene products, “a tax on tampons and pads is a tax on women.” The suit estimates that the state brings in $11 million annually by taxing the products. It seeks to refund at least $66 million to female consumers across Ohio.

Rep. Greta Johnson, an Akron Democrat, called the products “a medical necessity — not a luxury item.” Many medical items are untaxed in the state.

Two bills are currently circulating in the House of Representatives that would end the tax. One of the bills also seeks to add non-prescription drugs and disposable baby diapers to the list of products exempt from the sales tax.

“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” President Barack Obama said of the “tampon tax” earlier this year. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”

The defendant, the Ohio Department of Taxation, declined to comment on pending litigation.

State warns employers of tax scam

COLUMBUS (AP) — State officials are warning Ohio employers about a scheme involving emails sent from people posing as company officials to request confidential payroll data.

The state’s taxation department said Monday that payroll and human resources offices at various companies nationwide — including some in Ohio — have recently received emails requesting the data. The messages appear to come from the CEO or other top executives.

The taxation department says scammers use payroll and W-2 information to file fraudulent tax returns.

Officials say more than 30 companies, including three in Ohio, have fallen for the scam, resulting in the theft of tax information for thousands of current and former employees.

Ohio’s attorney general says his office has seen a jump in reports of IRS impostor scams since March 1.