In a previous column, I explained the ''epic fail'' of our county commissioners delaying their approval of the court consolidation. After the commissioners finally approved consolidation, Judge Thomas Campbell and the Supreme Court attempted to get a bill passed in the General Assembly that would turn this idea into a reality and save our county more than $150,000 per year.
Despite that projected savings, our local state representatives proceeded to kill the consolidation proposal because it was not in the best interests of the Trumbull County Democrat Party.
First, State Sen. Capri Cafaro and State Rep. Tom Letson questioned publicly whether consolidation would save the money Judge Campbell said it would save, even though the Supreme Court had studied and verified Judge Campbell's figures. Likewise, the Ohio Legislative Service issued a financial impact statement on the proposal which stated it would save between $159,000 and $227,000 annually.
Ironically, Letson complained that there wasn't enough time in the legislative calendar to review the idea. Perhaps he should have expressed that concern to his fellow Democrats, Commissioners Daniel Polivka, Frank Fuda and Paul Heltzel, when they were delaying the issue in the first place.
A bill supported by the Supreme Court was introduced by State Rep. Casey Kozlowski to consolidate the Eastern and Central district courts. During the hearing on this bill in the judiciary committee of the house, Letson asked what the Supreme Court thought of a similar bill that, unbeknownst to anyone in that room, he and State Rep. Sean O'Brien had quietly introduced that morning.
The representative for the Supreme Court told Letson that the court did not support his and O'Brien's bill, House Bill 556.
Ultimately, the contents of Koslowski's bill were added to a bill already pending in the Senate, consolidating courts in the Sandusky area. The amended bill, HB 433, passed the Senate unanimously. In spite of her earlier statements, Cafaro voted for the bill and even spoke in favor of the consolidation. I'm not sure if Cafaro voted for the bill because she knew what was going to happen next or if she was just being ''capricious.''
The amended bill was sent back to the House for a concurrence vote the same day it passed the Senate, but a vote never happened that day. Letson and O'Brien convinced all of their Democrat colleagues to oppose the bill and informed the House leadership of their intention. The Democrat boycott of the bill left it seven votes shy of the required two-thirds majority necessary to pass.
Since that time, O'Brien and Letson have claimed they would have consented to the consolidation of the courts as contained in their bill. In a letter to the editor of the Tribune, O'Brien implied that their bill was first by saying that the language of HB 433 mirrored their bill. In fact, their bill was introduced after Koslowski's bill.
The truth is, O'Brien and Letson never intended for either bill to be passed. Their bill was instead a method of covering themselves to make it look like they favored consolidation when in fact they did not. Their bill shortened the term of Judge Campbell, a Republican, by three years.
By the way, the election for this judicial office is supposed to be non-partisan. They knew their bill was not supported by the Supreme Court and that Republicans in the General Assembly would not pass it. Several offers were made to Letson and O'Brien to reach a compromise, including reducing Judge Campbell's current term by one year. They flatly refused because they opposed consolidation completely. They have never offered amendments to the Republicans' bill nor have they asked for hearings on their own bill to my knowledge.
On Aug. 6, in a North West Neighborhood Association meeting that I attended, Letson was questioned about the consolidation. He attempted to first blame the Republicans for not supporting his bill. He also claimed he was never given the opportunity to vote on the amendment to HB 433 so no one could say that he voted against it.
Letson seemed to conveniently leave out a few facts. First, he voted against Koslowski's bill in the judiciary committee. Second, the original vote on the bill with the amendment did not occur as originally scheduled because of his and his Democrat colleagues' announcement to the Speaker of their intentions to vote no. Eventually, when a concurrence vote occurred on the amendment consolidating Trumbull County's courts, Letson voted no.
A half-truth is a whole lie.
So our representatives, when given an opportunity to save the taxpayers of our county a great deal of money, delayed, denied and ultimately tried to deceive us. They put partisanship over the people. We need to remember this when we vote in November.
Yoder is a Farmington resident.