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Ohio Sports

Fresh arms: Playoff teams all featuring new starting QBs

By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
Bryce Young was mostly a spectator for Alabama’s march to the College Football Playoffs last season. Ditto for Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
DJ Uiagalelei was a superb fill-in when Clemson needed him most. Notre Dame’s Jack Coan was at a different school altogether.
All four teams from last season’s playoffs sent its starting quarterback on to the NFL, ushering in successors trying to carry their teams into contention again. And they’re all ranked in the preseason top 10 so it doesn’t seem far-fetched heading into the foursome’s first games as the fulltime starter.
They don’t get to settle into their new roles with cupcakes either.
Defending national champion Alabama is preseason No. 1 heading into Saturday’s opener against No. 14 Miami in Atlanta. No. 3 Clemson faces fifth-ranked Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Stroud and No. 4 Ohio State are visiting Minnesota Thursday night. Coan and the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish play at Florida State on Sunday.
The Crimson Tide have turned to the much-ballyhooed Young, whose last few successors have set high bars on their way to the NFL. Not even Tua Tagovailoa arrived in Tuscaloosa with as much anticipation as Young, a 6-foot, 194-pounder who’s built more like Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray than Trevor Lawrence.
“Bryce is a young guy but he doesn’t act like it,” Alabama offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. said. “He has a lot of character and he carries himself pretty well so I think the rest of the team respects that and respects him and his play.
“So it’s really good to see our quarterback take that leadership role just like how Mac (Jones) did last year and I think the team is pretty much under his wing and following him.”
Clemson’s Uiagalelei, successor to No. 1 overall pick Lawrence, did nothing to diminish the buzz or expectations in his two starting chances last season.
Ohio State is also going with the youth movement in picking the redshirt freshman Stroud to replace Justin Fields. Notre Dame is turning to the more seasoned Coan, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin.
They all have big arms to fill. Fields and Alabama’s Jones were also first-rounders while the New Orleans Saints picked Notre Dame’s Ian Book in the fourth round.
Young was the nation’s top-rated dual threat quarterback coming out of high school and No. 2 overall, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He was mostly relegated to mopup duties as a freshman.
Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t usually rave about his newly anointed quarterbacks until they’ve got some wins under their belts. Saban, however, does like how Young has handled the job even with a number of other new starters around him.
“Bryce has a really good knowledge of the offense,” Saban said. “He’s a really bright guy. He makes good choices and decisions. He has a really good feel in the pocket. And he’s played really, really well.”
Uiagalelei had the best chance among the new guys to flash his potential last season while Lawrence was sidelined with COVID-19. He directed the largest comeback in Memorial Stadium when he led the Tigers back from an 18-point deficit against Boston College in his starting debut.
Then, his 439 yards against Notre Dame were the third-most in school history.
After that, it was back to waiting his turn behind Lawrence.
“D.J. probably could have started at about 125 schools, realistically, but he chose to come to Clemson,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “He wanted to, to grow and develop and he wanted to learn from Trevor and I think that speaks volumes about his mentality and his long-term goals and just his maturity.”
The most experienced of the foursome is Notre Dame’s Coan. He started 18 games for Wisconsin in 2018 and 2019, before missing last season following foot surgery.
Coan won the competition to replace Book, whose 30 wins as starting quarterback is a Notre Dame record.
“He set a very high standard for the quarterbacks here, and I’m looking to follow him and be like him,” Coan said.
None of the contenders to replace Fields at Ohio State has thrown a pass in a college game.
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Stroud from Rancho Cucamonga, California is a pro-style quarterback with a strong arm and a quick, compact release. He isn’t quite as mobile as Fields but Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said “he’s shown us all the things that we needed to see” leading up to the Minnesota game.
Winning the job is just Step 1. Now, the trick is to hold onto it.
“I think he knows that this is just an opportunity,” Day said of Stroud. “It’s not an accomplishment, it’s an opportunity, and I think he looked at it like that. Now we got to go about the business of going to put it on the field.”
Stroud beat out fellow second-year freshman Jack Miller III and true freshman Kyle McCord. He said competition is “just the culture of ‘fight’ and the culture of Ohio State.”
“It makes you so much better,” Stroud said before fall camp. “At the end of the day, if you don’t have anybody pushing you, you’re not going to get better at anything. So I definitely think that competition and somebody on your heels is the best way to get better.” ___ Associated Press writers Pete Iacobelli, Mitch Stacy and John Fineran contributed to this report.
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Ohio Sports

Dalton embraces chance with Bears, knowing Fields behind him

By ANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Andy Dalton is embracing his opportunity with the Chicago Bears. He’s not too concerned prized rookie Justin Fields is right behind him.
“I’m focused on me and what I can do, helping this offense and helping this team,” he said Monday. “So, I’m looking forward to Week 1.”
The Bears are sticking with their plan to open the season with Dalton as their starting quarterback. They expect the three-time Pro Bowler to be the one staring down Aaron Donald when Chicago visits the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 12, with Fields in a backup role.
Not exactly a stunner.
The Bears have said since they signed Dalton to a one-year deal that he is their No. 1 quarterback. It didn’t change after they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft Fields with the No. 11 overall pick.
That move sent a surge of excitement through Chicago, energizing frustrated fans. Fields looked ready in the preseason, showing poise, squeezing passes into tight windows and extending plays with his mobility, even if he was doing it against backups.
“Going into OTAs we evaluated where they were,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Where’s Andy learning this offense? How quick can he? He aced that right away. Justin, where are you at with learning how to call the plays? That’s the start. He did a good job there. He got better when he came back in training camp. So he grew, he got better. Andy came into training camp, and the very first day in all our practices, he’s gotten better.”
The Bears are hoping for better results after going 8-8 in the regular season for the second straight year. They made the playoffs for the second time since Nagy took over in 2018, only to lose a wild-card game at New Orleans in convincing fashion.
They’re banking on Fields to develop in a way Mitchell Trubisky never did after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2017. They’re also counting on Dalton to perform better than Nick Foles last season and Mike Glennon in 2017. Glennon was signed that year to be a veteran bridge, only to be benched after four starts.
“Andy has to control Andy,” Nagy said. “Andy can’t control something that is out of his control, which is Justin. You know what I mean?”
Dalton has thrown for 33,764 yards, 218 touchdowns and 126 interceptions over nine seasons with Cincinnati and one with Dallas. He led the Bengals to the playoffs his first five seasons after they drafted him out of TCU in the second round in 2011, but never won a postseason game.
Dalton was released after Cincinnati drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in 2020. Now, he has another prized quarterback behind him, and the question is how long a leash the Bears will give the veteran, particularly if they struggle early on.
Fields is also more accomplished coming out of college than Trubisky was. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year each of his two seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia.
If Dalton is injured in the next two weeks and can’t play in the opener, Nagy said Fields would start. But for now, he’s leading the scout team.
Nagy said there are risks that come with starting a rookie as he adapts to the schemes and the speed of the game. There is also a fear that could create bad habits.
“Sometimes, if that happens, you could say, ‘Well it’s good that they learn from that,'” Nagy said. “And there’s some quarterbacks that have had that happen and there’s others where it just becomes bad and it can ruin them. So I think what you’re trying to find is OK, where’s that happy medium with them whether it’s Justin or somebody else.”
He said Fields is “trying to get better and better every day,” but still has room to grow.
Dalton signed with Dallas last year as a backup and wound up making nine starts after Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
“Knowing that I’m coming in to be the starter, I could be more myself going into this one rather than last one, where I kinda had to find my place,” Dalton said. “And it happened a little bit later in the process last year, too. There’s a lot of things that I can take from it that helped me transition.”
NOTES: Nagy said RB Tarik Cohen, recovering from a torn ACL, developed scar tissue and the Bears have no timetable on his return.
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Ohio Sports

Heupel names Michigan transfer Joe Milton Vols’ starting QB

By AL LESAR Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Josh Heupel has named Joe Milton as the Volunteers’ starting quarterback four days before the season opener against Bowling Green.
Milton, who arrived on campus this spring after three years at Michigan, beat out Harrison Bailey, who started three games for the Vols last season, and Hendon Hooker, who transferred from Virginia Tech in early January about 10 days before coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired.
“Joe, his grasp of our offense in a short amount of time, his growth in the middle portion of training camp, his physical attributes, decision-making, led us to put the ball into his hands,” Heupel said Monday.
The 6-foot-5, 244-pound Milton started five of the Wolverines’ six games last season. Heupel said Milton has run the No. 1 unit in practice the last 7-10 days leading up to game week.
Milton played in four games each of his first two seasons at Michigan. A strong-armed thrower also able to run, Milton was 80 of 141 for 1,077 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions in last year’s pandemic-truncated Big Ten season.
“Decision-making at the quarterback position is a must,” Heupel said. “Guys who make a consistently bad decision are going to get you beat. You have to put the ball in the right players’ hands at the right time.”
Runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2000 as a player at Oklahoma, Heupel has designed a prolific offense that averaged 544 yards and 43 points over the last three years at Central Florida. The design is for an up-tempo game that hinges on quick decisions by the quarterback.
Milton was not available Monday. Earlier in preseason camp, he talked about how the new Tennessee offense complemented his skills.
“You don’t have to be a robot on the field,” Milton said. “This offense lets me be who I am. Get out on the field, react and have fun.”
Cedric Tillman, likely one of Milton’s top receivers, is looking forward to what they can become.
“I saw me and Joe’s chemistry develop after the first week of camp,” Tillman said Monday. “Joe has a strong arm. As we go through the season, we’ll both get better.”
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Ohio Sports

Lester sharp, Goldschmidt HR, Cardinals move up, beat Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jon Lester allowed one hit while pitching into the seventh inning, Paul Goldschmidt homered and the St. Louis Cardinals inched closer to the slumping Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild-card race with a 3-1 win Monday night.
The Cardinals closed within 2 1/2 games of Cincinnati for the second wild-card spot. San Diego is in between them.
The Reds have scored one run in each of their last three games — all losses — and have dropped five of their last seven games. Their top four hitters in the lineup combined to finish 0-for-14.
“We’re a good-hitting team,” said Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer, who got Cincinnati’s only two hits, including his career-high 12th home run. “Good hitting teams break out of slumps. There’s not much pressing among guys. We’ve faced some really, really good pitching the last five games.”
Lester (5-6), in his sixth start for St. Louis since being acquired from Washington on July 30, retired 16 consecutive batters after giving up his only hit, Farmer’s second-inning leadoff homer.
“Obviously, we all know what’s in front us,” Lester said. “We have a lot of games against these guys and the (Central-leading) Brewers coming up. To pitch well is a great feeling. To do it against a team that you’re trying to chase down is even better.”
The veteran left-hander walked two and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings, earning his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts with the Cardinals.
Right fielder Dylan Carlson, who contributed a sliding catch of Joey Votto’s flyball in short right-center field in the fourth, described Lester’s work as “awesome.”
“He had his game face on, and he had the stuff to match the strong intensity he brought to the game,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “He changed speeds well and had the good curveball in play. He kept then off-balance. He had them a little out front. He was tremendous to get into the seventh.”
T.J. McFarland allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings and Luis Garcia got the last out of the eighth before Giovanny Gallegos pitched the ninth for his third save.
The Cardinals needed just two batters to grab a 2-0 lead. Luis Castillo (7-14) walked Tommy Edman, the reigning NL Player of the Week, to lead off the game. Goldschmidt followed with an opposite-field homer to right, his 22nd of the season and 11th in 41 career games at Great American Ball Park.
“Luis got a little to much of the plate to a good hitter,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Other than that, he was outstanding.”
St. Louis added a run in the sixth when Carlson doubled and later scored on Tyler O’Neill’s dribbler up the third base line.
Farmer’s homer was his 12th of the season, adding to his single-season career high. He snapped a 0-for-14 slump.
Castillo lasted six innings, giving up five hits and three runs with two walks and eight strikeouts. He has lost four of his last five starts after three straight wins.
SOUVENIR TIME
A young fan leaned over the seat in front of him with his black glove to catch Farmer’s home run on the fly and was rewarded with high-fives from the fans near him.
VOTTO ON VERGE
Votto needs one home run to reach 324 in his career and tie Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for second on Cincinnati’s career homer list. Johnny Bench leads with 389.
TRAINER’S ROOM
Reds: RHP Brad Brach (right shoulder impingement) began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville on Monday. He’s been on the injured list since Aug. 8.
UP NEXT
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (0-1) is scheduled to make his fourth start of the season and second since returning from his second stint on the injured list (right forearm).
Reds: RHP Sonny Gray (6-6) has strung together a season-high 13 consecutive scoreless innings over his last two starts.
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Ohio Sports

Chase for golf’s $15 million bonus ends at Tour Championship

By The Associated Press undefined
PGA TOUR
TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Site: Atlanta.
Course: East Lake. Yardage: 7,346. Par: 70.
Prize money: $60 million. Winner’s share: $15 million.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30-7 p.m. (NBC); Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
Defending champion: Dustin Johnson.
FedEx Cup leader: Patrick Cantlay.
Last week: Patrick Cantlay won the BMW Championship.
Notes: In the third year of its current format, Cantlay as the No. 1 seed will start the tournament at 10-under par with a two-shot lead over Tony Finau. Bryson DeChambeau will start three shots behind, followed by Jon Rahm (6 under) and Cameron Smith (5 under). It goes in groups of fives after that, with the last five players to get in starting at even par. … Seven players who reached the Tour Championship did not win a tournament this season. … Phil Mickelson is the only major champion this season who did not reach the FedEx Cup finale. He barely got into the BMW Championship and then tied for last. … This is the final week of competition before Steve Stricker announces his six captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup. … Patrick Reed started the postseason at No. 22, didn’t play the opening two events because of health issues and narrowly made it to East Lake as the No. 30 seed. … Sam Burns and Erik van Rooyen are the only players in the 30-man field who are at the Tour Championship for the first time. … The 30 players who reached East Lake are exempt into the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open next year.
Next tournament: Fortinet Championship to start new season on Sept. 16-19.
Online: https://www.pgatour.com/content/pgatour.html
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LPGA TOUR
SOLHEIM CUP
Site: Toledo, Ohio.
Course: Inverness Club. Yardage: 6,903. Par: 72.
Television: Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 12:30-2:30 p.m. (NBC), 2:30-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to noon (Golf Channel), noon to 1:30 p.m. (NBC), 1:30-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Monday, noon to 6 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Defending champion: Europe.
Series: United States leads, 10-6.
Captains: Catriona Matthew (Europe), Pat Hurst (United States).
Notes: Catriona Matthew will try to become the first European captain to win consecutive Solheim Cup competitions. … Since the Solheim Cup began in 1990, Europe’s only victory on American soil was in 2013 at Colorado Golf Club. … The Americans have three Solheim Cup rookies in Mina Harigae, Jennifer Kupcho and Yealimi Noh. … Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas have played in every Solheim Cup since 2013, making them the most experienced American players at Inverness. Women’s British Open champion Anna Nordqvist is playing in her seventh Solheim Cup. … Finland (Matilda Castren) and Ireland (Leona Maguire) are represented in the Solheim Cup for the first time. … Each team has a reigning major champion — Nelly Korda (Women’s PGA) for the United States, Nordqvist for Europe. … Major champions at Inverness Club include Paul Azinger (1993 PGA), Bob Tway (1986 PGA), Hale Irwin (1979 U.S. Open) and Ted Ray (1920 U.S. Open).
Next time: Finca Cortesin in Spain in 2023.
Online: https://www.lpga.com/
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EUROPEAN TOUR
DS AUTOMOBILES ITALIAN OPEN
Site: Rome.
Course: Marco Simone GC. Yardage: 7,268. Par: 71.
Prize money: 3 million euros. Winner’s share: 500,000 euros.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, 4-6 a.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay); Monday, 3-5 a.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay).
Defending champion: Ross McGowan.
Race to Dubai leader: Collin Morikawa.
Last week: Rasmus Hojgaard won the Omega European Masters.
Notes: Marco Simone was selected to host the next Ryder Cup in Europe, in 2023. It last hosted the Italian Open in 1994 and since has been changed. … Europe has two tournaments remaining before nine players from a tour points list and world ranking points list qualify for the Ryder Cup team. Padraig Harrington then will announce his three captain’s picks. … Sergio Garcia reached the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, giving him another chance to add to his world ranking points. … The field includes the biggest two stars from the last European victory in the Ryder Cup, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. Fleetwood is set for the 2021 team. … Bernd Wiesberger also is playing. He needs a good week to move into the top four in the European points side of the Ryder Cup. … The tournament dates to 1925. The first 72-hole event was in 1935 and won by Percy Alliss. … Francesco Molinari has won his national open twice. … The lone American to win the Italian Open was Billy Casper in 1975.
Next week: BMW PGA Championship.
Online: https://www.europeantour.com/european-tour/
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KORN FERRY TOUR
KORN FERRY TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Site: Newburgh, Indiana.
Course: Victoria National GC. Yardage: 7,242. Par: 72.
Prize money: $1 million. Winner’s share: $180,000.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m. to noon (Golf Channel); Saturday, 8-10 p.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay); Sunday, 7-9 p.m. (Golf Channel-tape delay).
Defending champion: Brandon Wu.
Points leader: Stephan Jaeger.
Last week: Adam Svensson won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
Next week: End of season.
Online: https://www.pgatour.com/korn-ferry-tour.html
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PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
Last week: Joe Durant won The Ally Challenge.
Next week: Ascension Charity Classic.
Charles Schwab Cup leader: Jerry Kelly.
Online: https://www.pgatour.com/champions.html
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OTHER TOURS
Japan Golf Tour: Fujisankei Classic, Fujizakura CC, Yamanashi, Japan. Defending champion: Rikuya Hoshino. Online: https://www.jgto.org/
Challenge Tour: British Challenge, The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, England. Defending champion: New event. Online: https://www.europeantour.com/challenge-tour/
USGA: U.S. Senior Amateur, Country Club of Deroit, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Defending champion: Bob Royak. Online: https://www.usga.org/
Legends Tour: Legends Open de France, Golf de Saint-Cloud, Paris. Defending champion: New event. Online: https://www.legendstour.com/
Japan LPGA: Golf5 Ladies, Yokkaichi Liberty GC, Mie, Japan. Defending champion: Sakura Koiwai. Online: https://www.lpga.or.jp/en
Korean LPGA: KG Daily Ladies Open, Sunning Point CC, Gyeonggi, South Korea. Defending champion: Seo Jin Park. Online: https://www.klpga.co.kr/
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Ohio Headlines

GOP Justice Pat DeWine leaves race for Ohio chief justice

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine said Tuesday he’s dropping out of the race for chief justice and will focus on being reelected to his current seat.
DeWine, 52, is a Republican and the son of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine. A former county and appeals court judge, he was elected to his first six-year term on the high court in 2016 and is up for reelection next year.
The court’s current make-up is a 4-3 GOP majority, and Pat DeWine said in a statement he believed the best way to preserve that majority was for him to run for his own seat.
Current GOP Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor can’t run again because of age limits; she turned 70 this month, the age after which judges may not run.
Pat DeWine’s announcement narrows the field to fellow Justice Sharon Kennedy, a Republican, and fellow Justice Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat.
Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms. Though they previously ran without party labels, a Republican proposal approved earlier this summer requires party affiliations of the chief justice and associate justice candidates to be listed in the general election.

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Ohio Headlines

USPS has shorted some workers’ pay for years, CPI finds

By ALEXIS FERNANDEZ CAMPBELL The Center for Public Integrity
Nancy Campos’ back ached as she loaded more than 100 Amazon packages onto her truck. The 59-year-old grandmother, a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, had worked 13 days in a row without a lunch break, and now she was delivering on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to keep up with a never-ending flow of boxes.
At the end of her shift that January day, Campos filled out her time sheet. Then she took a picture of it — for proof.
“I knew what was going to happen,” said Campos, who delivers mail in Midland, Texas, “because it happens every pay period.”
Two weeks later, when she checked her paystub in the payroll system, she said she was missing six hours of overtime pay. That added up to about $201 in lost wages — a week’s worth of groceries.
Postal workers across the country share her frustration.
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This story was provided to The Associated Press by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington, D.C.
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The Postal Service regularly cheats mail carriers out of their pay, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. Managers at hundreds of post offices around the country have illegally underpaid hourly workers for years, arbitrators and federal investigators have found.
Private arbitration records tell part of the story. From 2010 to 2019, at least 250 managers in 60 post offices were caught changing mail carriers’ time cards to show them working fewer hours, resulting in unpaid wages, according to a batch of arbitration award summaries obtained by Public Integrity for cases filed by one of the three major postal unions.
Supervisors found to be cheating were rarely disciplined — often receiving only a warning or more training. In four cities, arbitration documents show, post office managers continued to alter time cards after promising union leaders they would stop.
Since 2005, meanwhile, the Postal Service has been cited by the federal government 1,150 times for underpaying letter carriers and other employees, including one case that involved 164 violations, according to Labor Department data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The agency determined that those workers lost about $659,000 in pay. But it allowed the Postal Service to pay back less than half after negotiations with the agency — a common practice at the Labor Department. About 19% of the cases did not indicate whether the Postal Service paid back employees.
These findings point to widespread wage theft at the iconic quasi-governmental institution. Yet they offer only a partial view of the problem. Not captured are any arbitration cases filed by other postal unions or wage theft grievances settled before reaching arbitration.
Cases keep cropping up as the Postal Service struggles to pay off $188 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities, accrued largely because federal law requires it to prepay retiree healthcare and pension benefits. The agency has cut nearly 142,000 jobs since 2007, and in March 2020, it needed a $10 billion emergency loan from Congress to help pay its bills.
Mail carriers say their supervisors face intense pressure to keep overtime costs down. At the same time, pandemic-fueled spikes in online ordering are overwhelming mail carriers with packages. And they can’t count on getting paid for all their work.
A spokesperson for the Postal Service, David Partenheimer, said the agency does not condone supervisors making unsupported timecard adjustments and takes such allegations seriously.
“This position is messaged to the postal workforce directly from postal leaders, including the Vice President, Delivery Operations, who periodically reissues policies regarding appropriate timecard administration for supervisors,” Partenheimer wrote in an email to Public Integrity. He declined to comment on specific cases.
Campos said the agency still owes her thousands of dollars for two other wage theft grievances they settled before she discovered the missing overtime pay in January. She said her boss promised to pay her back for working the holiday but never did.
“I just had it. Enough is enough,” said Campos, who shared copies of her timesheets and pay stubs with Public Integrity. “We are depending on that money. When you get shorted, it’s the most horrible feeling.”
A systemic problem
Every morning, Campos and thousands of other mail carriers across the United States swipe their badges at a local post office to clock in for work. They sort mail for their routes, check undelivered items and load up their trucks. They swipe their badge a few more times when they begin and end their delivery route and other tasks, and once again when they’re done for the day.
All of this is supposed to happen within an eight-hour shift for most carriers. That’s because the Postal Service doesn’t want to pay overtime, which is 50% extra per hour under federal law. The inspector general has repeatedly admonished the post office for spending billions of dollars in overtime each year and has urged managers to cut back.
But mail carriers say it’s impossible to get back in time. After all, the Postal Service is notoriously short-staffed at a time when carriers are delivering a record number of packages. In 2019 alone, they delivered 1.5 billion items for Amazon — nearly a third of the online retailer’s packages.
That means carriers log a lot of extra hours. And it’s not uncommon for managers to go into the system and delete some of them. Sometimes their changes show carriers ending their shifts earlier or taking an unpaid lunch break, according to Public Integrity’s review of private arbitration decisions maintained by the National Association of Letter Carriers, a labor union with nearly 290,000 members — about 45% of the agency’s total workforce.
In most of these cases, managers did not submit the required paperwork to explain the changes or notify the affected employee. Other times, supervisors just told carriers to clock out after eight hours and keep working without pay.
That happened regularly to Maverick Tran and some of his colleagues in San Jose, California, according to a 2019 decision by an independent arbitrator.
Tran told the arbitrator — who acts like a judge in this type of legal dispute — that two supervisors often told him to manually clock out at 6 p.m. if he was running late while delivering the mail.
“I still haven’t unloaded my truck or empty out anything, but I would be off the clock,” he said during a closed-door hearing at the main San Jose post office.
A co-worker said managers would regularly clock him out themselves before he returned to the station. Another carrier said they instructed him to punch out before the end of his shift to avoid “unauthorized overtime.”
One of those co-workers, Rafael Zambrano-Lay, said he was so scared about returning to his post office past 6 p.m. that he would skip meals, forego rest breaks and run while carrying mail to customers’ homes.
Zambrano-Lay did not respond to a request for comment and Tran declined to discuss the case.
Their union representative told the arbitrator that nearly every supervisor in San Jose’s 12 post offices had improperly manipulated employee hours each week for at least three years. In an eight-month period in 2017, the union found that these unauthorized changes shorted mail carriers out of 77 regular hours and 1,864 overtime hours, collectively costing them anywhere from $52,000 to $90,000 in lost wages.
In the arbitration hearing, a Postal Service representative did not explain why managers changed carriers’ time cards. He said the behavior was not widespread.
Nancy Hutt, the arbitrator, disagreed. After reviewing time cards for 240 mail carriers in San Jose, Hutt said she grew alarmed. The data “reflects a widespread practice by management of willfully and repetitively deleting and altering time records of Letter Carriers,” she wrote in her decision.
Other arbitrators expressed similar shock when reviewing such allegations.
“Heinous,” an arbitrator in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in 2018 when presented with evidence that a manager deleted carriers’ work hours. “It’s an act, in my view, on the same level as theft.”
In Boston, arbitrator Katherine Morgan called the pattern of wage theft “systemic” and “egregious.” In a 2019 decision, she described the time card changes as serious federal offenses “which cannot be treated lightly, and which could lead to fines and even imprisonment.”
In all, arbitrators found that postal managers in at least nine states illegally altered mail carriers’ time cards in recent years, cheating more than 900 mail carriers out of pay. They ordered the Postal Service to stop falsifying time cards and pay back employees they cheated.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Jennifer Williams, a former mail carrier in the Atlanta area. “This is a government job. Nobody should go to work and wonder if they’re going to get paid.”
Williams, 36, said co-workers warned her to keep track of her hours when she was hired as a mail carrier in February 2020. She said she didn’t get her first paycheck and had to file a grievance with the union to get paid. When her second paycheck arrived, Williams said, she was missing five hours of overtime. Another supervisor told Williams that her boss had deleted the hours, according to a lawsuit she filed against the Postal Service in federal court.
When she brought up the missing overtime to her boss on the phone, she said her boss berated her. A few days later, Williams said the mail truck she was driving broke down and she was fired for not finishing her route. She sued in September 2020, claiming she was illegally fired for complaining about wage theft.
“I was really upset because I was depending on working at the post office to keep myself afloat,” said Williams, who said she had to take a low-paid job at a filter factory after she was fired.
Partenheimer, the Postal Service spokesperson, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But in court records, lawyers for the agency denied that a supervisor deleted Williams’ overtime hours or that she was fired for complaining about missing pay. Both parties settled the case in June, with the Postal Service agreeing to pay Williams $2,356 in damages and $3,143 in attorney’s fees.
Williams said she misses working for the post office. She once viewed the agency the same way thousands of other Black Americans have before her: as a stable job with good benefits and decent pay.
The Postal Service has long been one of the largest employers of African Americans in the United States. During the civil rights era, it was a place where Black workers could advance their careers without as many barriers as the private sector, said Frederick Gooding, an African American studies professor at Texas Christian University.
“The (Postal Service) was in many ways a beacon of hope and opportunity,” said Gooding, author of the book “American Dream Deferred: Black Federal Workers in Washington, D.C., 1941-1981.”
To this day, Black workers are overrepresented in the Postal Service. Though 12% of the overall U.S. workforce, they make up 19% of the agency’s mail carriers, 38% of its clerks and 31% of its mail handlers. Asians also represent a larger-than-average share of the postal workforce.
Wage theft within the agency might disproportionately harm these workers, but that’s unclear. Arbitration documents and Labor Department records don’t track each employee’s race or ethnicity. Yet the repeated paycheck theft tests the notion that the Postal Service is a desirable place to work.
“I would never have expected this from the post office,” said Campos, the Texas mail carrier. “This used to be an honorable job.”
Campos, who has worked as a carrier for three years, says she filed three grievances against her supervisors for unpaid work. They have since settled the complaints, she said, and management agreed to pay her a yet-to-be determined amount, including the extra hours she worked when delivering an “overburdened route” — a long one that regularly takes more time to finish than it’s supposed to.
Several of her co-workers are also waiting to be paid for similar reasons, she said, but she suspects that no one will be punished for ripping them off.
The arbitrator in the San Jose case told the Postal Service to pay employees what they’re owed. Tran, Zambrano-Lay and other carriers sued the agency in federal court a few months later. They want cash damages in addition to back pay. As of February, the Postal Service had paid back employees in that case a total of $570,000, attorneys for both sides reported to the court.
Accountability is rare
About two dozen employees gathered for a tense meeting at a San Antonio post office in February 2019. The station manager, Ruben Vela, was agitated. He told them that union outsiders were arriving to cause trouble.
When union steward Steven Ramirez showed up, Vela got in his face and berated him in front of everyone at the meeting, a witness said.
Ramirez had discovered that Vela and at least one other supervisor regularly deleted 25 employees’ work hours over a period of two years, according to an arbitration decision from later that year. In some cases, the arbitrator found, the other supervisor forged an employee’s initials approving the changes.
Employees who were at the 2019 meeting later said that Vela described the time card changes as a “simple mistake.”
Public Integrity was unable to reach Vela for comment.
Kirk Fraser, one of the mail carriers at the meeting, said he was devastated, according to the arbitration document. He called the practice an “immoral and egregious” breach of trust.
“Clearly, falsifying dozens of (USPS) forms does not equate to a simple mistake, but rather something that was done deliberately,” he told the arbitrator, according to the decision. He and some of his co-workers said they didn’t understand why Vela wasn’t fired.
Instead, the Postal Service said in arbitration that Vela was temporarily restricted from accessing the time card system until he could retake training on the proper way to handle time card changes. The agency told the arbitrator that they had paid back the employees.
Union representatives Richard Gould and Adam Reyna were incensed with the light rebuke. They asked the arbitrator to order the Postal Service to ban Vela from supervising letter carriers.
“This kind of thievery would have resulted in the immediate removal if perpetrated by a letter carrier, but inexplicably the Postal Service appears to have taken the position that (its) supervisors should be somehow held to a lower standard than the craft employees they manage,” the union representatives stated.
The Postal Service representative argued that any further punishment would impact the supervisor’s career and rob him of “due process.” The arbitrator decided not to mandate harsher discipline, agreeing with that argument.
A similar scene has played out in several closed-door hearings across the country. The Postal Service will acknowledge the unlawful time card changes and agree to pay back workers. A union advocate then asks an arbitrator to sanction the supervisors involved. The arbitrators say they can’t under the contract, ordering supervisors to take training instead.
That doesn’t always make a difference. A union representative begged an arbitrator in Chicago to take action after supervisors were found deleting employee work hours at all 11 offices in the city. Internal mediators had already ordered those supervisors to stop multiple times, but they wouldn’t.
“Cease and desist orders have not been effective in convincing Chicago Management to enforce the prohibition against stealing time,” the union advocate argued, according to the December 2020 decision. The arbitrator said she didn’t have the authority to mandate monetary penalties, and instead required post office leaders to meet with supervisors and tell them to stop. She also told the Postal Service to let the union do periodic time card reviews.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, declined to comment on individual cases and said the union addresses time card fraud through the grievance-arbitration system and in the courts.
“Meanwhile, we are constantly monitoring these situations to make sure USPS complies with arbitration decisions and grievance settlements,” he said in a statement to Public Integrity.
In a September 2019 newsletter, Rolando lamented that one of the biggest problems facing the Postal Service is “a toxic workplace culture that tolerates abuse and wage/time theft.”
One rural mail carrier in North Carolina compared the Postal Service to a “bank robber.”
“It just seems like the post office is above the law,” said the employee, who asked that he not be identified out of fear of retaliation from his supervisors. “They pretty much do anything they want.”
The Postal Service knows it has a problem
Postal Service leaders are well aware that many supervisors have been caught cheating employees. The agency’s inspector general — its independent watchdog — has audited time records at dozens of post offices over the years.
In a 2009 letter to Rep. Paul Hodes, the inspector general’s office confirmed complaints that supervisors at three New Hampshire post offices were changing time cards, underpaying employees by nearly $30,000. A year later, the office found more than 160 suspicious changes during a year-long audit of three post offices in Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire. At least 75 of the changes were not properly documented. Auditors said the Postal Service did not have adequate systems in place to make sure supervisors aren’t shorting employees.
“As a result, we could not determine with certainty the reasons supervisors altered time and attendance records,” the lead auditor wrote.
The agency watchdog recommended that the Postal Service train all supervisors periodically, create another layer of approval for each time card change and do its own periodic audits.
Dean Granholm, then the Postal Service’s head of delivery and operations, agreed to follow the recommendations.
But the wage theft didn’t stop. In 2018, the inspector general alerted postal leaders that more than 100 supervisors in the Boston area had changed time records, deleting hundreds of work hours from 814 postal employees over a period of two years. The auditors reviewed a sampling of 199 changes and found that the majority of them were improperly documented.
Granholm no longer works for the agency and did not respond to a request for comment.
Finally the inspector general looked at the problem on a national level. During a six-month period in 2019, auditors discovered that managers had deleted more than 46,000 work hours from employees across the country. Investigators then examined records at seven post offices in Illinois, Florida and the Washington, D.C., region, finding that 86% of time card changes shorted employees’ pay without proper documentation.
The inspector general made similar recommendations to those from previous audits: talk to supervisors about the time card rules and establish a process to periodically review such changes. The Postal Service agreed to do it.
Mail carriers who spoke to Public Integrity say they believe supervisors keep docking their hours because managers’ annual pay raises depend on keeping overtime spending down. Union stewards and lawyers made the same claims in legal records. The Postal Service would not say whether it does in fact link pay raises to overtime spending.
Mail carriers say the wage theft will continue unless the Postal Service punishes managers doing it.
In the meantime, some carriers take pictures of their time sheets or write down their hours in a notebook. One of the unions developed a mobile app to help with that.
Campos refuses to quit her job, despite it all.
“I’ve invested so much. I don’t want to leave,” she said. “I am 59 years old. Who do you think is going to hire me?”
___
Alexia Fernández Campbell is a senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

Categories
Ohio Headlines

Ex-death row inmate to get $1M for wrongful imprisonment

CLEVELAND (AP) — A former death row inmate who was wrongly imprisoned for two decades will receive a $1 million payment from the state.
The Ohio Controlling Board voted unanimously Monday to make the award to Joe D’Ambrosio. The money will come from the state’s wrongful imprisonment fund, which is part of a 2019 change in the law that allows people freed from prison because of police or prosecutorial misconduct to be eligible for compensation for serving prison time.
D’Ambrosio’s attorney, Terry Gilbert, told Cleveland.com that the payment was “a major victory” that will allow his client to “move forward in his life and feel that he received some form of justice from the state of Ohio.”
The board’s decision comes about two months after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley dropped an appeal opposing a judge’s ruling that D’Ambrosio was wrongly imprisoned but urged state officials not to compensate him. A spokesman for O’Malley said Monday that his office was working on a comment.
D’Ambrosio, a North Royalton resident, was released without conditions in 2010 after a judge determined that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have exonerated him at his 1989 trial. He had been accused of kidnapping and killing 19-year-old Anthony Klann, who was found dead in a Cleveland park in 1988.
After dropping the wrongful imprisonment appeal in June, O’Malley said he did not want the state to compensate D’Ambrosio because he believes witness testimony during the trial showed that D’Ambrosio is guilty. A witness had testified that he saw D’Ambrosio and two other men with Klann before the killing.
County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Russo ruled in 2012 that D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted but the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the judge’s decision two years later based on precedent that said the prosecutorial misconduct had to have happened after the person was sentenced instead of during the trial stages.

Categories
Ohio Headlines

Opening arguments made in Akron arson suspect’s murder trial

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Opening arguments have been made in the latest trial of a man accused of killing nine people in separate arson fires in his Akron neighborhood.
Stanley Ford, 62, could be sentenced to death if convicted on multiple aggravated murder charges. He is accused of killing a couple in 2016 and two adults and five children in 2017 .
Summit County prosecutors told jurors Monday that they will use surveillance video footage, security alarm records and the testimony of neighbors to show Ford was responsible. They have said he set the fires because of disputes with his neighbors, but defense attorney Scott Rilley said Ford cannot be identified in the surveillance videos and added that other potential suspects were identified.
Jurors on Monday also visited the neighborhood where the fires occurred. Testimony in the case is due to start Tuesday.
Ford’s initial trial began in March 2020. After a week of testimony and several delays, Summit County Judge Christine Croce declared a mistrial the following June at the request of Ford’s attorneys, who cited concerns about Ford’s ability to get a fair trial during the coronavirus pandemic.

Categories
Ohio Headlines

Court sets another execution date despite unofficial pause

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday set a 2025 execution date for a man convicted of killing a police informant 25 years ago to keep her from testifying against him in a drug case.
The court’s decision in the case of death row inmate Timothy Coleman comes even as an unofficial execution moratorium continues in Ohio, which has been unable to find needed lethal drugs. It’s the second time this month the court has set an execution date despite the moratorium.
The court sided with the Clark County prosecutor, which requested an execution date with all of Coleman’s state and federal appeals ended. The court scheduled the execution for Oct. 30, 2025.
Coleman, 52, was convicted of the 1996 fatal shooting of Melinda Stevens, a confidential informant for the Springfield police department. Prosecutors alleged Coleman acknowledged his crime to different people he was housed with in jail and prison following his arrest.
Coleman’s attorneys opposed the request, arguing that Coleman was unfairly targeted as a Black man by overzealous prosecutors during the 1990s war on drugs. They say another man, who is white, has confessed to the crime and that that man’s claims have never been investigated.
That alternate suspect’s “status as a criminal who supposedly tells a lot of lies evidently makes his evidence unworthy of the courts’ time and attention,” Timothy Sweeney, an attorney for Coleman, said in a June filing. “But courts must take witnesses as they find them, and must at least try to be consistent and fair.”
Coleman’s lawyers also say there were many other suspects because of Steven’s informant activities.
One of the court’s justices, Michael Donnelly, said he was troubled by the fact Coleman’s innocence claims haven’t been heard. But he voted in favor of setting the execution date, acknowledging that the only matter before the court was whether Coleman had exhausted his appeals.
Earlier this month, the court set a July 2025 execution date for Samuel Moreland, who killed five people, including three children, in Dayton in 1985.
It’s unclear when, if ever, Ohio will carry out another execution. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said last year that because of Ohio’s difficulty finding drugs for executions, lethal injection is no longer an option, and lawmakers must choose a different method of capital punishment before any inmates can be put to death.
Pending bipartisan bills in the House and Senate would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. Although such bills have been introduced multiple times over the years, more Republicans are signing on, citing the cost to taxpayers of lengthy appeals, the state’s ability to find lethal drugs, and the concern that an innocent person could be executed.
House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Jeffrey LaRue isn’t ruling out the possibility that the House bill could be approved by his committee.
“I’ll just be interested to hear the arguments on both sides of where folks stand on that issue,” LaRue, a central Ohio Republican, told Gongwer News Service.
The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018, when Ohio put to death Robert Van Hook for killing David Self in Cincinnati in 1985.