By Frank Lewis
Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost was in Portsmouth Thursday morning to meet with the Scioto County prosecution and law enforcement team, giving them a chance to discuss issues within the county and city including
“I’m stopping at a few cities along the river,” Yost old the Daily Times. “The politicians in Columbus tend to stay in Columbus. I figured it’s time to get out and talk to some real people.”
Yost said he and Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn have been friends for a lot of years.
“We were prosecutors together back in the day. He still is, obviously,” Yost said. “I wanted to catch up and see how things are going here in Scioto County.”
Yost talked about the county’s recent recovery from their fiscal emergency status imposed by Yost’s office.
“I’m very pleased about the progress that is being made financially,” Yost said. “The county looks like they’re staying solid. The city is making some progress and we’re hopeful there that they’re going to make it around the corner.”
Yost referred to area law enforcement as the team that is fighting the heroin epidemic. He discussed that subject with Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini and Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware.
“I am just so encouraged by what I heard here and they way they’re working together,” Yost said.
Yost said the area has taken important steps toward decreasing the drug problems and he credits the local law enforcement, prosecution and court system with taking a hard-line approach.
“One of the things we saw was when the pill mills closed there was a migration to heroin,” Yost said. “That wasn’t a good thing but as the reputation has gotten out that Portsmouth isn’t a great place to come and play for out-of-towners and that the judges here give some serious sentences. It sounds like the curve is starting to turn in the right direction.”
“About five or six years ago we had a guy stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and as the trooper approached the vehicle, this guy who was from Columbus said – ‘Please tell me I’m not in Scioto County,’” Kuhn said. “That’s what we want to hear. That’s what we talked about 10 years ago, we wanted this to be a hard place to do business.”
Kuhn said, despite some of the challenges Scioto County prosecution and law enforcement has had when it comes to drug suppliers from places such as Columbus, Dayton and Detroit, people in those cities are overheard on jail phone calls saying – “You didn’t get stopped in Lucasville did you?”
Kuhn said in order for the criminal justice system to work everyone has to do his or her part.
“Law enforcement – state, local and federal – prosecution – state and federal – the judges, probation officers, parole officers, everyone’s got to step up to the plate and do their job,” Kuhn said. “If everyone’s working hard at what they’re doing the system works pretty good. It’s not perfect. It never will be perfect. But it works pretty good.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.