By Frank Lewis
Two Portsmouth attorneys will battle it out on election day for the position of Portsmouth City Solicitor. Current Solicitor John Haas will be challenged by Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows.
“I think that the whole prosecution element of the office, which is about half the day, with two of my assistants, and we have developed great relationships with the judges, the police, the sheriff’s office, the Highway Patrol,” Haas said. “And we work real close with (Scioto County Prosecutor) Mark Kuhn to kind of streamline some of the criminal cases we handle, especially the felonies.”
Haas said something that has come out of the solicitor’s office since taking that office has been the success of their conviction rate.
“On the criminal side of things I want just to continue to work closely with the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office and to continue to develop and keep our relations good with the local police agencies,” Haas said. “On the civil side, I have taken a big interest in the Civil Service Commission, making sure that as we move on into the future we hire well qualified people to fill a vacant position. There has been a number of employees leave through retirement and for other reasons, and those have not been replaced. So at some point in the future there’s going to be some hiring and we want to try to hire the best people we can get so that they can move up through the city’s departments.”
He said his office has been aggressive on the front end of contracts and employment issues that have come up to try to head off any issues before they become problems of litigation.
“My office works closely with the city manager to try to smooth out as much as possible and try to run the city more as a business,” Haas said.
Meadows is in private law practice in Portsmouth.
“Serving on City Council I notice things that I believe as City Solicitor, I could do better,” Meadows said. “Take the crimes we have in Portsmouth – I have 20 plus years of experience in all different kinds of law. One of those areas is criminal defense. I have done several criminal jury trials and, in fact, I’m in one now. That experience helps me understand what’s going on in the criminal justice process and it will give me the opportunity to work with the courts and with the county prosecutor’s office to try to get a control and try to come up with some solutions to tackle some of these crimes that usually happen in the city.”
Meadows said he believes most people would be amazed to know that according to jury questionnaires how many people have been victims of crimes.
Meadows said an area man charged with aggravated burglary received bond on his own recognizance out of Municipal Court, and while out on bond, was pulled over by authorities, and subsequently ran from the scene.
“That creates a risk of danger to the police officer and the public,” Meadows said. “As City Solicitor I’m going to make sure that we argue for people like that to stay in jail while their cases are pending. If they post a bond – that’s one thing – everybody’s entitled to bond, but not everybody is entitled to a signature bond and that’s an issue when something like that happens.”
In a letter to the citizens of Portsmouth, Meadows said – “As City Solicitor, I will work with the City Manager, City Council and each city department and employee to achieve the goal of making Portsmouth successful. All criminal cases will be prosecuted vigorously. Issues within the City, such as the drug problems, will be researched and the best course of action will be taken to resolve these issues.”
The two people who will go head-to-head for the Sixth Ward Council seat actually appeared to run as a team in the primary election when they challenged incumbent Councilman Jeff Kleha. Shawn Stratton will square off with Tom Lowe.
Stratton, who is an attorney, and his wife Sarah, have two children – a 10 year old and a four year old and another on the way.
“I’m just sort of tired of some of the stuff that’s being pushed out on the city,” Stratton said. “When I get elected I’m not going to take a salary because they keep passing expenses off on the people of the city. For a part time position I don’t believe an elected official should receive a salary for it.”
Stratton is taking a stand on other financial issues as well.
“I’ll never vote for or support any increases in taxes,” Stratton said. “The last tax increase was passed by 11 1/2 percent of the people of the city of Portsmouth. They had it during a May primary on a non-presidential election year, so, of course they got it to pass and there was no opposition to it except me and the Sixth Ward. It was defeated in the Sixth Ward. If there was opposition in other portions of the city it would have failed also.”
Stratton said he is also not going to allow increases in water and sanitation rates which he says is driving people out of the city.
“I’m going to come out today and say I think there should be no more (City Manager) Derek Allen,” Stratton said. “I think Derek Allen should resign from his position and leave the city of Portsmouth.”
Trent Williams is unopposed as City Auditor as is Steven Mowery who is seeking re-election to Municipal Court.
Stratton said he is serious about stopping the panhandlers in town.
“There are dozens of them around and it is against the law to go into traffic and impede traffic without asking for a permit,” Stratton said.
Part of the Sixth Ward is in Sciotoville and Stratton said some of the people feel like second-class citizens.
“They are treated that way by our city manager,” Stratton said. “When it came to this tax increase struggle, what was the first thing he said he was going to do? Derek Allen said he was going to close the fire station in Sciotoville. The people of Sciotoville were promised a cop 23 hours a day. Did they get it? no.”
Stratton said if Sciotoville was its own separate community it would immediately qualify for a new school.
“I’m not saying Sciotoville can be an independent city or village, but I’m saying it is something they want,” Strattons aid. “I think it’s a good idea. At least let’s look at it.”
Repeated attempts to reach Stratton’s opponent, Tom Lowe were unfruitful.
In the only other Wards up for votes, one person is running unopposed – Jo Ann Aeh is registered as a write-in candidate in the Second Ward and current Councilman James Kalb is the only name on the ballot in the Fourth Ward. Portsmouth Municipal Court Judge Steve Mowery is running unopposed for another term and Trent Williams is running unopposed for Portsmouth Auditor.
Two local liquor options are also on two Portsmouth ballots. One in Portsmouth 2-B and the other in Portsmouth 5-B. In 2-B Kroger is asking for Sunday sale of spirituous liquor between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight. In 5-B Sonora Mexican Grill is asking for sale of spirituous liquor and Sunday sale of spirituous liquor between the hours of 11 a.m. and midnight.
The election is to be held on Nov. 3, 2015 with polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.