While our favorite Republican prosecutor, David Fornshell, was busy using his office to play politics for Kasich, the actual work of the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office was slipping through the cracks.
If Fornshell applies the same standard to his office as he does to critics of the Kasich Administration, he will start a criminal investigation into his own office. But we aren’t holding our breath.
Let us explain.
Fornshell, you may recall, is the part-time Republican Prosecutor who pursued weak criminal charges against a school superintendent who was critical of Kasich’s school funding plan. Fornshell’s investigation of the Superintendent was based on allegations that school resources were improperly used for political purposes when a letter sent home to students suggested that they should consider voting against Kasich because of the school funding plan.
When the investigation was stopped in return for an agreement by the superintendent to reimburse the school district for the costs of sending out the letter, Fornshell denied that he had received any political pressure. “Neither Governor Kasich, the Ohio Republican Party, the Warren County Republican Party, local legislators, nor any of their representatives had anything to do with my decision to initiate an investigation into this matter,” he said.
Turns out that may not be completely accurate.
According to a recent Dayton Daily News investigation, Fornshell received an initial email about the Franklin Schools matter from a Tea Party member. He announced that he was opening an investigation only AFTER speaking with multiple Ohio Republican Party staff members, including Political Director Dave Luketic. (Luketic is the former Kasich staffer named in the FBI complaint about the intimidation tactics used during the “Oust DeWine” effort. In that case, Luketic was accused of putting “relentless pressure” on at least one central committee member to drop out of the race so a more Kasich-friendly candidate could run.)
Interestingly, on the same day that Fornshell was communicating with Republican political staff and Tea Party members about a school superintendent’s letter to parents, his office was screwing up a pretty significant grand jury matter.
Specifically, while Fornshell was busy talking to the press about his politically-motivated investigation, Fornshell’s office issued an indictment on a felony rape case even though the grand jury voted not to indict. He blamed it on “human error.”
The suspect was eventually released from jail – after spending an extra few days locked up. Fornshell was quoted: “I’m not sure I’ll ever forget this case.” That’s big of him. We are pretty certain the young man who spent the extra days in jail feels the same way.
Here’s the thing. It’s not merely that Fornshell is apparently too busy pursuing politically motivated investigations to make sure that the basic work of the prosecutor’s office happens. We wouldn’t be bringing this to your attention for just that reason.
The real scandal is that Fornshell’s office possibly committed a crime, but Fornshell is apparently not opening a criminal investigation.
Last month, in neighboring Butler County, an assistant prosecutor was convicted of dereliction of duty for failing “to properly review grand jury voting sheets that resulted in a defective indictment being filed.” The assistant prosecutor received a suspended 90-day jail sentence, 12 months of unsupervised probation and 75 hours of community service to complete.
The facts of the conviction in Butler County seem surprisingly similar to what happened in Fornshell’s office – someone failed to review the grand jury voting sheets, resulting in an improper indictment.
Dereliction of duty by the assistant prosecutor who signed the indictment would seem to us a much more serious issue than the actions of the school superintendent. But we strongly suspect that Fornshell will not open a criminal investigation into his Republican staff, or ask the Attorney General’s Office to come in to conduct one. It’s like we said on February 17: “What’s the best way to avoid a criminal investigation in Ohio? Be a Republican.”