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Published: Monday, 2/11/2008

4 contenders seek Wood County prosecutor's seat

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - For the first time in more than a decade, Wood County voters will have their choice of candidates for county prosecutor - on the Republican ticket anyway.

Four Republicans are vying for the prosecutor's job March 4. No Democrats are running.

All four candidates are running their first political campaigns, although all have on-the-job experience: Paul Dobson and Linda Holmes in the county prosecutor's office and Matthew Reger and Mark Tolles in the Bowling Green city prosecutor's office.

The winner of the primary will replace Ray Fischer, who was appointed to the post in 2003 when Alan Mayberry was elected Wood County Common Pleas judge.

Mr. Fischer then ran unopposed for a four-year term in 2004, but chose not to run for a second term.

Ms. Holmes, 60, has spent 23 years as a county assistant prosecutor - first handling delinquency and child abuse cases in Juvenile Court and then moving to the civil division, which she has headed for 13 years.

"I have - as of March 1 - 24 years of on-the-job experience with leadership and experience in every area of office responsibility," Ms. Holmes said. "If I'm prosecutor, the transition will be almost seamless. I know all the county elected officials, all the township officials. I know all the employees. There really is no substitute for my experience."

As legal counsel for townships, Ms. Holmes has in the past found herself in unpopular situations - telling residents who opposed construction of large-scale dairy farms, for example, that the law does not permit townships to keep them out through zoning.

She said she was not unsympathetic to their concerns, but the law is the law.

"My philosophy is, I'm going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear," she said. "That's my job and that's the way I'd approach the prosecutor's office. I'm not going to shrink away from issues. I'd roll up my sleeves and get involved."

Mr. Dobson, 41, began his legal career prosecuting misdemeanor cases in Bowling Green Municipal Court and then worked as an county assistant prosecutor from 1996 to 1998. He spent four years in private corporate practice, rejoining the prosecutor's office in 2002.

As co-chief of the criminal division, he has prosecuted some of the county's most violent crimes and other felony offenses.

"The fact is, I'm the only experienced felony prosecutor," Mr. Dobson said. "I did it yesterday. I'm doing it today, and I'll do it tomorrow."

Last year, Mr. Dobson came under fire after a Bowling Green woman was murdered, and it was learned that the victim's mother, Kathy Newlove, had given Mr. Dobson a letter for Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey the month prior to the murder asking that he keep Craig Daniels, Jr., behind bars on menacing by stalking and resisting arrest charges.

She told of the abuse and fear her daughter, Alicia Castillon, had suffered at his hands.

Mr. Dobson never gave the letter to the judge, he said, because it talked about "punishment" for Castillon's former boyfriend and murderer, Daniels, and that is an issue for sentencing. Mr. Dobson said he argued in court to keep Daniels in jail, and he stands by his decision to withhold the letter - something he discussed at length with Ms. Newlove.

Daniels subsequently entered into a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid the death penalty but required him to spend his life in prison. Ms. Newlove, who favored life in prison so that her grandchildren would not have to testify at a trial, recently came out in support of Mr. Dobson's candidacy for prosecutor.

Mr. Reger, 40, has been the Bowling Green city prosecutor since 2000. He prosecutes misdemeanor and traffic offenses. He has written a number of ordinances for the city aimed at improving the quality of life in Bowling Green, including a nuisance party law that withstood a constitutional challenge in an appeals court.

He said if elected prosecutor, he plans to start a crime prevention program countywide that would have assistant prosecutors assigned to certain parts of the county where they would get to know the community and help address small problems before they become big ones.

While he has not prosecuted felony cases, Mr. Reger said proving a misdemeanor charge is "no different" from a felony because in both a prosecutor must prove the elements of a crime. "What you need as county prosecutor is someone who can administrate, delegate, and understand what professionalism is about," he said.

One of Mr. Reger's more high-profile cases was the 2005 conviction of then-Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick for drunken driving. He was criticized by some for not seeking more charges against the justice, such as fleeing and eluding for initially driving away from a Bowling Green police officer who approached her at a local gas station.

"I believe we did everything appropriately in that case," Mr. Reger said. "What that demonstrates was I was the head guy and I had to make a final decision and I did it, and I stand by the fact that she pled to the charges she was charged with and she was punished as anyone else in that same situation would've been."

Mr. Tolles, 50, was Bowling Green city prosecutor from 1992 to 2000 and was an assistant city prosecutor from 1989 to 1992 and from 2000 to 2004.

He has had a private law practice in Bowling Green since 1981, where he practices criminal, domestic relations, and some personal injury law.

"I think what's really important and how I'm different from the other candidates is I've seen it from the other side of the fence," Mr. Tolles said. "I've done defense work."

While Ms. Holmes said she would look at the possibility of adding an attorney in the civil division if she is elected, Mr. Tolles said he would examine the efficiency of the office, which seems to have "mushroomed" in the last decade.

"I'm concerned about the size of the office," Mr. Tolles said. "It's the largest law firm in the county. I'm not sure that necessarily it's the most efficient way to run an operation."

The prosecutor serves a four-year term and is paid $115,703 a year.

The race is the only contested primary on the local level, though Wood County voters will decide a 10-year, 1-mill operating levy for the Wood County Park District.

The levy would replace and increase a 0.7-mill operating levy approved by county voters in 1998.

The replacement levy would generate $2.8 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $35 a year.

In the Northwood Local School District, voters will decide an additional, 7.9-mill operating levy expected to generate about $994,000 a year for a continuing period.

The levy, which follows two defeats last year of a 5.9-mill request, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $215 a year.

Voters in the North Baltimore Schools are being asked to renew a five-year, 8-mill operating levy that generates about $450,000 a year.

And in Haskins, village voters will decide an additional, five-year, 3-mill levy for police protection.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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