MIAMI COUNTY — Incumbent and current Miami County Prosecutor Anthony Kendell will face Mel Kemmer, former Miami County Municipal Court judge for the county prosecutor’s seat on the Republican ballot during the March 15 primary.
In 2013, Kendell was appointed as Miami County Prosecutor after former county prosecutor Gary Nasal left office to fill the Miami County Municipal Court seat vacated by Kemmer. Kemmer retired as municipal judge in August 2012 during his second term on the bench. Nasal was appointed by Gov. John Kasich to take Kemmer’s seat.
On Oct. 31, Kemmer announced his plans to run against Kendell for county prosecutor. Both Kemmer and Kendell will appear on the Republican primary ballot on March 15.
Both candidates confirmed they would be attending the Leadership Troy “Meet the Candidates Night” at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Troy Junior High School. Both Kemmer and Kendell said they would also attend the Miami County Liberty Group meeting at the Concord Room at 845 W. Market St., Troy. The Liberty Group event will begin at 7 p.m Tuesday with a meet and greet an hour prior.
Below are excerpts from the interviews, which were conducted at the Troy Daily News offices.
MIAMI COUNTY PROSECUTOR ANTHONY “TONY” KENDELL
For additional information, visit www.reelectkendell.com
Q: Why should people vote for you as county prosecutor?
“During my experience over 20 years, I’ve achieved a record which demonstrates, on its simplest terms, success both in and out of the courtroom. During that period of time I’ve successfully prosecuted thousands of felony offenders and tried many jury trials, having lost only one of those trials. I attribute this success to hard work and actually having a heart for the victims and the community I serve. I have a work ethic that is second to none. I will compare my record both in and out of the courtroom with anyone.”
Q: What sets you apart from past county prosecutors?
“My work ethic and my heart for the victims. For example the (Bowen) murder trial two weeks ago. The best part of my professional life is when I get down in that conference room with the family and we are all able to take that in. That is a feeling I can’t even put into words. That’s what sets me a part.”
Q: What are your goals for your next term if elected?
Kendell said fighting the local heroin epidemic and child sex abuse crimes are his top priorities.
“Right now we are dealing with heroin epidemic, I would estimate that 80 percent of the cases that I see coming through right now have heroin at their epicenter. Frankly, most of the dealing that is going on is not in our county, so basically we have users and it’s affecting our community in a huge way.
Kendell said he has recently joined a coalition along with Miami County Sheriff Office Charles Cox and Chief Deputy Dave Duchak, (City of Troy) Fire Chief Matt Simmons, and local attorney Steven Justice to address the heroin issue in Miami County. Kendell said the group plans to recruit other community organizations including churches, schools, mental health and other organizations for their input.
“On the law enforcement side, we are reactive and we need to get in the front end of this if we are going to make a difference,” he said.
Kendell also said he also is concerned with the volume of child sexual abuse cases in Miami County.
“In my office, we can help educate teachers, counselors, parents and children themselves on what (signs) to look for. It’s a big problem. It’s not a problem that people want to think about, but the fact of the matter is that it is there. I’ve seen the havoc that it brings. With the onset of the Internet, it has become much more blatant.”
Q: What motivates you to want to serve the public as a county prosecutor?
“Judge Welbaum hired me and I watched my first jury trial 20 some years ago and I told him I would never be on the other side. This is what I want to do. I want to defend people who have been violated by criminals and I want to right wrongs … I understand and I appreciate (defendants) have rights, but I’m not going to be the one defending them. While I’m here doing this, I feel like I’m like making a difference and I feel good about it.”
Q: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine allocated more than $238,000 in Department of Justice funds to the Miami County Victim Witness Program. How do you plan on using these funds for the Prosecutor’s Office?
So far, Kendell said the office has restocked clothing for victims of violent and sex crimes. Kendell said funds will also help create a “soft interview room” that would be a child friendly area to conduct interviews for the county’s youngest victims. Kendell said it would be modeled after the Care House at Dayton Children’s Hospital.
“If you get (children) in the right environment, chances are you are going to be a lot more successful and it will be a lot less stressful on the child,” Kendell said.
Kendell said he also plans to use the funds for an informational seminar for teachers, counselors, social workers, court personnel and law enforcement. According to Kendell, the prosecutor’s office hosts a seminar each year for the community and law enforcement personnel.
Q: As the current county prosecutor, please address how your office handled the recent Miami County Sheriff’s Office investigation related to the handling of the county’s real estate deeds.
“It was brought to me originally and it was suggested to me by those who were concerned that I use my investigator (retired Piqua Police Department Detective Jim Taylor) that I have all the faith in the world in. He began investigating. As we got further into it, I decided that it was probably better that I appoint a special prosecutor. At that point, my investigator had done quite a bit of work. I suggested to the Champaign County Prosecutor (Kevin) Talebi that he get his best detective and have that person take on the work. After that I’m out of it. I can’t talk to him. I can’t suggest anything. After the fact, (Talebi said) that he didn’t have a (full-time) investigator on staff and he was satisfied with the work that was done by my investigator and that was his call. It’s not unusual to get into something and then decide that it would be better to appoint a special prosecutor.
Former Miami County Municipal Judge Mel Kemmer
Mr. Kemmer can be reached via email at [email protected]
Q: Why are you the best person to vote for as county prosecutor?
“I think I have the best experience — a broad, diverse experience. I practiced law for 26 years … In the private sector, I’ve represented people in just about any kind of legal problem a person can have — financial, domestic, business — you name it. Some of my public service years and things I’ve done there, (is) excellent preparation for what the county prosecutor does. When most people think about the county prosecutor, they think, well he’s the guy who tries the criminal cases and that’s certainly part of the job, but it is probably less than half the job.
I’ve presided over and participated in thousands of criminal cases, but in addition to that, the county prosecutor represents the board of elections, county commissioners, 12 boards of township trustees and so on and so forth. Those people need representation and need advice. The kinds of things I’ve done in my professional life has prepared me to be in a position to help those folks out.
Kemmer noted his 21 years as law director experience would help to advise public entities on annexation, labor problems and other civil issues. Kemmer said he felt that the civil service side of the prosecutor’s office was being neglected by the current administration.
Kemmer said he would balance the criminal and civil duties as prosecutor by being more accessible at the office itself.
“The prosecutor’s office is so complex and the responsibilities are so diverse that you can’t run that office from home with a cell phone,” Kemmer said. “I would certainly do the full day’s work for that full day’s pay.”
Q: What sets you apart from past county prosecutors?
My experience has been so broad that I think that helps me bring a lot to the party and helps set me a part from what we’ve been used to.
Q: What are your goals for your next term if elected?
“I would like to restore confidence in the prosecutor’s office in terms of the competency of the advice and the timeliness of it. I’d continue to vigorously prosecute criminal cases. (I would) be attuned to new programs, to new technologies and new ways of doing the job.”
If elected, Kemmer said he would also look at ways to reduce transportation costs for the county regarding post-conviction motions and shuttling prisoners back and forth to the county’s facilities.
“If there are ways of using technology to protect the defendant’s rights and make sure those are protected, but at the same time, take advantage of the technology to avoid the expense and the risk involved — that bears looking into, I’m sure it’s been looked into, but I’m open to that,” Kemmer said.
Q: What motivates you to serve the public a a county prosecutor?
“Despite being retired, I still had a lot of contact with folks in local government. I began hearing more and more of the sort of dissatisfaction and some of the things they were complaining about and one thought just led to another and I thought ‘I’m needed here.’ I just felt like with my background and my experience, I could restore the confidence that has been lost.”
Q: The Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine allocated more than $238,000 in Department of Justice funds to the Miami County Victim Witness Program. How do you plan on using these funds for the Prosecutor’s Office?
“We would want to certainly continue the things that have worked and to assess things that don’t work. I’d place emphasis on things that do (work) and look for new opportunities. Victims’ rights are a very important issue. That, in a sense, is the pulse of the community on whether they feel like justice has been done.
You would have to look at a whole variety of things to see where that money could best be most cost effectively used to create the most bang for your buck.”
Q: Please provide a statement regarding a sexual harassment complaint filed with the Miami County Prosecutor’s office during your service as Miami County Municipal Court Judge. According to a public records request, a clerk of courts employee filed a complaint that alleged that you tapped her on the bottom with paperwork in the clerk’s office on Dec. 21, 2006. According to the records request, the employee also noted several incidents of what she believed were inappropriate comments and uncomfortable interactions with you preceding the formal complaint and had four supporting statements from other employees.
When I first took the bench, one of the reasons why I ran for that position was there were real issues in the way that court was being run. So one of the things I wanted to do was to clean that mess up. Well, you don’t undertake to do that without making some enemies. That’s what happened. Some of these instances were blown out of proportion. I emphasize that these were allegations that were made. A couple of the people who made these complaints, later privately to me, told me that they recanted it and felt like they were being pressured into making these complaints. The Supreme Court of Ohio investigated, found no basis for any further action on their part. I continued for years and years afterwards with no problems. The Supreme Court continued to send me as a visiting judge to all different manners of courts … if they thought there were some serious issue there they would have never have done that.”
Kemmer said the issue was an effort at that time to intimidate him.
“It didn’t work then and it sure as hell isn’t going to work now,” he said.
Kemmer said the issue was now “ancient history” and declined to reveal who he believed was behind the motivation and the allegations.
Kemmer said he met with the group of employees in question, except for the city employee who filed a supporting statement, and cleared the situation up with staff who were believed to be involved.
“I said to them, if I had ever made anyone feel uncomfortable, I apologize. I’m confident I didn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable, but in case I did, it was never intended.”
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews