Pictured: Left Steve Dettelbach, Right Dave Yost


The Politician v. The Prosecutor

Dave Yost v. Steve Dettelbach for Ohio Attorney General

By Scott Pullins


We should have had a clue that Dave Yost was trouble shortly after he was first appointed Delaware County Prosecutor in 2003.  But somehow most missed it.


Susan Hollenbach is a Delaware County Republican and from 1996 until 2003 she ran the very successful child support enforcement agency that was then under the Delaware County Prosecutor.  But that quickly changed after Dave Yost was appointed to the job.


According to the civil rights and wrongful termination complaint filed against Yost in federal court, shortly after taking office he stopped assigning child support work to most of the members of his legal staff and instead employed a novice attorney for all child support enforcement work.  As a result, child support collections plummeted during this time period at a whopping 70% rate.


At the same time, Yost continued to use federal and state funds to pay portions of the salaries of prosecutors who were no longer doing child support work in violation of state and federal law.  When Ms. Hollenbach confronted Dave Yost about these issues he went ballistic. He demanded that she not speak with the county commissioners about restructuring the office.


On November 10, 2003 Dave Yost caused Hollenbach to be suspended and at 4:40 pm he arranged for the issuance of a grand jury subpoena requiring her to turn over records in her possession by 10:00 pm the same day.  Two days later a special prosecutor was appointed and there was news coverage indicating that she was being investigated for theft in office. Later, a special audit was demanded of the state auditor of the child support enforcement agency.  Hollenbach was then terminated because she could not do her job because of these numerous investigations.


Susan Hollenbach filed suit in federal court.  The criminal investigation found no wrongdoing and the state audit, issued by Republican Betty Montgomery, cleared her in full.  


Delaware County Commissioners were forced to settle the federal lawsuit for $335,000 plus her attorney fees.  Additionally, they stated in writing that Ms. Hollenbach “did not engage in criminal conduct or wrongdoing.”


Dave Yost skated with little harm to his reputation.  David Pepper, however, his 2010 opponent for State Auditor, did try to make this an issue in a 30 second TV spot.  Here’s how the Columbus Dispatch described the issue:


The scandal referred to in the ad is an ugly dispute that Yost had with Delaware County’s former director of child-support enforcement, Susan Hollenbach, shortly after he became prosecutor in 2003. She became the target of trumped-up charges and was ultimately canned after refusing Yost’s demand that she authorize the use of child-support funds to pay a portion of the salaries of his assistant prosecutors. But Hollenbach refused, arguing that the funds could be used only if the employees were handling child-support enforcement cases, and except for one assistant prosecutor assigned to such work, they were not.


A criminal investigation and state employment probe cleared Hollenbach of wrongdoing, and Delaware County paid her $335,000 plus legal fees to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit.


Columbus Dispatch, October 31, 2010


We now see this same pattern of overreach and prosecutorial type abuse play out in the ECOT saga.  As we pointed out earlier, Yost issued a finding for recovery against ECOT vendors for commercials that criticized actions of the Ohio Department of Education.  


However, Yost’s actions on ECOT, like the Hollenbach matter before it, have no legal merit whatsoever.  In the ECOT commercials issue, no public money was used, and even if it were, it wouldn’t be illegal.  In fact it would be 100% legal.  


Likewise, Yost has referred his 2018 audit to both state and federal prosecutors, pretending that a crime may have been committed.  What crime that it may be, or who the guilty party is, was left unaddressed by Yost, in what looked like clumsy, transparent headline-grabbing.


Yost’s Democrat party opponent, Steven Dettelbach, is a more traditional prosecutor.  His first job after law school was serving as a law clerk for Reagan appointed federal judge Stanley Sporkin.  He next went to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice where he prosecuted several notable cases


He next worked in Maryland as an Assistant United States Attorney, then was detailed to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He then worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland and then became a partner with BakerHostetler. In 2009, he was appointed the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and served in that position until 2016.  


As a federal prosecutor, one of the most notable cases he handled was that of Democrat insider and lobbyist Nate Gray.  According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gray was convicted of overseeing a 14-year scheme in which he was paid by private companies, then bribed politicians in return for those companies getting lucrative public contracts in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Houston and New Orleans. Prosecutors said Gray's crimes cost taxpayers $9 million.


His office also went after Samuel Mullet, Sr. and his group of breakaway Amish.  Mr. Mullet and his followers were convicted and imprisoned for a bizarre series of crimes that struck fear into the Amish community when, according to the New York Times, they broke into homes, restrained men and women, and forcibly sheared their victims, sometimes with tools used to clip horse manes. This case received national news as the Amish Beard Cutting case.  


Dettelbach also helped negotiate the federal consent agreement with the Cleveland Police Department.  Cleveland police had been accused in a federal report of hundreds of improper use of force incidents, most notably the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy who was killed by police after brandishing a toy gun.  


In the race for Ohio Attorney General in 2018, it's appearing more and more to be a contest between a long time career politician and a long time career prosecutor