Special Prosecutor Requested In Fund Dispute

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A special prosecutor will play a role in resolving a matter of fund control between the Athens County Prosecutor and the Athens County Auditor.

Prosecutor Keller Blackburn says he requested the appointment after county commissioners asked his opinion on the status of Law Enforcement Trust Fund and Mandatory Drug Fine Fund money.
Blackburn says his office requested on January 10 that Auditor Jill Thompson transfer the money from the county treasury to an outside bank account, because the county prosecutor and sheriff are supposed to control the funds.
"These are law enforcement funds and not taxpayer dollars, so this money does not come from any tax that's generated.  It comes from either forfeitures or mandatory fines and it's supposed to be spent in a specific way," said Blackburn.  Those specific ways include drug buys, witness protection, reward money and requests for special prosecutors, he explained. Under the current setup, the auditor has to sign off on requests to use the funds, which can compromise on-going investigations, says Blackburn.
County commissioners Tuesday questioned the validity of a 1992 Ohio Attorney General opinion which stated the funds belong in the control county prosecutors and sheriffs. 
Blackburn says he has also requested and received current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's review of the 1992 opinion, which was that the '92 opinion is valid.
Former Fairfield County Prosecutor David Landefeld will now advise the commissioners and the auditor on the matter.
Blackburn says it is up to Landefeld whether to pursue legal action. Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson could not be reached for comment.