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Dignity was thrown aside during officials’ quarrel

July 1, 2012
Morning Journal News

Two days before tabloid talk show host Jerry Springer came to town to help the Democrats, two Republican county officials - Commissioner Mike Halleck and Common Pleas Court Judge Ashley Pike - appeared to be auditioning for a spot on Springer's controversial TV show.

Springer, who is also a former Cincinnati mayor, was in East Liverpool Friday for a "Get Out and Vote" rally hosted by the county Democratic Party.

Unlike the Springer show, there was no need for bouncers, no chairs were thrown and there were no obscenities or course language that required bleeping. However, the barbs and insults exchanged by Halleck and Pike at Wednesday's county commission meeting did little to preserve the dignified behavior expected of either officeholder.

The dispute began over the policy for issuing magnetic swipe security cards used by employees to enter through the rear courthouse entrance on the west side of the building. The rear entrance is the one closest to the parking lot.

The original policy required the administrative judge, officeholder and chief of courthouse security to approve any applications for a swipe card, which were limited to county employees who work in the courthouse. Halleck changed the policy this year, with approval authority given to the county sheriff, the officeholder and commissioners.

Then Pike issued a court order reinstating the original policy, causing the showdown over who has the final say over courthouse security.

The real issue is whether the former security policy violated state law. Commissioners say by passing the new policy they are merely bringing the county into compliance with state law, which states the sheriff is responsible for courthouse security, "under the direction and control of commissioners," although the judges retain authority over their courtrooms.

The law appears to be on commissioners' side, but Halleck could have extended Pike the professional courtesy of informing the judge before changing the policy.

Commissioners also could have shown professional courtesy by allowing Pike to make his comments prior to their passing the policy at Wednesday's meeting, rather than after the decision was already made.

Pike, on the other hand, shouldn't have taken the excessive step of issuing a court order to reinstate the original policy.

Now commissioners have taken steps to hire an attorney, should the need arise, to let a judge decide who is right.

We just hope Halleck and Pike can mend the rift and continue to work together for the good of the county and without wasting taxpayer dollars on a needless lawsuit.



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