A few things to discuss today…
The law and the courts
I have mentioned before that it’s easy for anyone to quote the law, but a full understanding of the law can only be determined when precedents and previous judicial rulings are taken into account.
Such was the case last week when Juvenile and Probate Judge Kevin Greer said he was leaning toward ruling that the civil charges brought against Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings are moot, because his research found that an elected official can only be removed from office during the term in which the alleged offense was committed. Judge Greer’s opinion is based on a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1970 which is still considered the guiding decision on the subject.
That’s why caution is needed when just quoting Ohio Revised Code or other laws, and then reaching a conclusion based on a simple reading. Precedent and high court interpretations from over the years must be factored into any effort to understand the law.
Judge Greer has not made a final ruling on the matter, which will presumably come on Jan 4 after Fred Beery for the prosecution and James Boulger for the defense have filed arguments on the subject. Of course, even if the civil case is dismissed, a criminal investigation is still in progress over the mayor receiving a $500 vacant building rebate and allegedly dumping personal trash into a city trash dumpster.
Foster kids and drugs
The rising cost of foster care has the potential to be a bona fide emergency for Highland County government.
Somehow, county commissioners found about $1 million in unencumbered funds from various county offices at the end of the year to cobble together a transfer of more than $800,000 to pay bills related to foster care.
So while a pat on the back is deserved for the county offices that had money left over to return to commissioners, it doesn’t change the fact that the rising cost of foster care is a dilemma with no quick solution, and it will soon threaten commissioners’ ability to allocate funds to county offices in the amounts really needed for them to function properly.
The rise in foster children is directly related to the drug problem, which is the root of almost all cases of all types that end up in local courts. Until we, as a society, begin to tackle heroin and meth with a war-like attitude, we will continue to be on the losing side, and all the ills that spring from it will continue to worsen.
I did a story in October 2011 when new sentencing guidelines went into effect based on Ohio House Bill 86. The story noted that one result of the bill would be that people convicted of drug trafficking were likely to be walking the streets instead of a prison yard. “In effect, it shifts responsibility for rehabilitation and confinement away from the state and on to Ohio’s 88 counties, many of which — like Highland County — are already strapped for cash,” the story reported.
I interviewed a number of local judicial and law enforcement officials for the story. Then-sheriff Ron Ward said at the time, “A lot of these bills are designed to assist the state, but they pass along the burden to local governments. We have no one to pass it on to.” Ward said one of the changes in the law – raising the threshold of felony theft from $500 to $1,000 – could have a negative impact on the fight again heroin and other forms of drug abuse.
In essence, the law was designed to keep more people out of prison to save money. The result is that more people are out of prison, but many of them are costing us even more, both financially and through ruined lives, by continuing to ply their poison drug trade on our streets.
On the mend
I really appreciate everyone’s comments and advice about our Great Dane, Bela, after a recent column describing the therapeutic effect of a visit from the grandchildren on her health and spirits. Seems like everyone I’ve run into has asked about the old girl, and it’s really interesting and heartwarming to hear everyone’s stories about their own pets.
Special thanks to Keith Chambers for suggesting a line of treatment that worked on his own beloved aging dog, and yes, Bela seems to have bounced back quite a bit in recent weeks.
Good job to VFW Post 9094 and the Highland County Honor Guard for its brief but important wreath ceremony at the Highland County Veterans Memorial a couple of weeks ago. The turnout was sparse, but the sentiment was real. As we celebrate the holidays, it’s important to remember one of our greatest gifts – the freedom we have thanks to those who sacrificed their service and in some cases their lives.
Fighting rate hikes
Keeping water and sewer bills under control is always a challenge in every community. For two years in a row, Hillsboro City Council approved a recommendation by the Hastings administration to place a moratorium on rate hikes that were previously scheduled, saving residents a considerable amount of money.
It was nice to see that the county commissioners recently agreed to keep sewer rates at Rocky Fork Lake the same next year as this year. The commissioners credited Prosecutor Anneka Collins’ efforts to collect delinquent sewer fees and taxes as a big reason they were able to forego a rate hike. Good work to all involved for finding ways to help people keep more of their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.