Editor’s note: This election preview is based on candidate night presentations, questionnaires completed by candidates and interviews/discussions with each candidate.
Two Republicans with experience in the Miami County prosecutor’s office - incumbent Anthony “Tony” Kendell and retired judge Mel Kemmer – are facing off in the March 15 primary for the prosecuting attorney’s job.
Kendell, who has worked in the office more than 20 years and has been prosecutor almost three years, said he takes pride in the work he and his staff are doing.
Kemmer, who retired as a judge in said he is running to return to public service but also to address concerns he said he’s hearing about how the office is being run.
The term of office is for four years.
Occupation: Attorney, former Municipal Court judge
Previous political experience: Twice elected judge of Miami County Municipal Court, Bethel schools board of education, county Republican Central Committee Precinct Committeeman.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, The Ohio State University; Juris Doctor Degree, University of Dayton School of Law
Family: Married to Mary Beth Kemmer; two sons; four grandchildren
Mel Kemmer said a desire to help people solve their problems led him to the legal profession, and continues today.
Kemmer’s almost 40 years of public service has included working under two county prosecutors (James Livingston and Jeff Welbaum) as an assistant prosecutor and twice being elected Municipal Court judge.
The Troy resident retired early as judge in August because of changes in the Public Employees Retirement System that he said would have had a “devastating effect” on his retirement benefits.
“Financially, it was a proverbial ‘no brainer’ but, emotionally, I wasn’t really ready,” he said of retirement. “I have a real desire and even a need to help people solve their problems and I have done that for going on 38 years. It doesn’t matter if it is domestic, criminal, business, financial. I would bring that to all phases of the office whether talking to a board of township trustees about an issue or the death of a baby or anything in-between.”
Kemmer’s retirement led to former prosecutor Gary Nasal’s appointment to the Municipal Court followed by Kendell’s appointment by county Republicans to the prosecutor’s seat.
Kemmer said concerns he was hearing about an alleged lack of confidence in the prosecutor’s office for being slow in providing legal opinions and Kendell allegedly being out of the office and difficult to reach helped convince him to run. He said he wouldn’t identify those airing concerns because they continue to work with the office but cited one letter from the board of elections expressing concern about legal opinions.
“I felt like. ‘I am needed here.’ Based on my experience, long and as broad as it is, I thought that would be the right thing to do,” he said.
Kemmer said he offers a broad range of legal experiences needed for the job.
“The most visible function of the prosecutor’s office is trying criminal cases, and I will vigorously prosecute crime in this county,” he said. Kemmer said he believes he has more experience in “the myriad civil matters” with which the office has to deal such as the board of elections, commissioners, children’s services and township trustees, among others.
The greatest need facing the office is for someone to administer its operations, Kemmer said. “I wouldn’t rule out personally trying cases. On the other hand, I think the biggest need in that office right now is someone to run it,” he said.
“Tony says he has a passion for trying criminal cases. At least at the beginning, I would want to make sure that office is structured so that it will maximize its possibility of success on both criminal and civil sides and that the right people are there to fill the various responsibilities.”
Kemmer said a complaint brought against him in by some municipal court employees followed efforts to enact changes or what he termed “upset the apple cart” in that court’s operations. The complaints involved alleged sexual harassment, according to letters dated early January to Kemmer from then-prosecutor Nasal.
Kemmer said he met with employees and “said if I have ever done anything to make you feel uncomfortable, I apologize, it was not my intention.” To avoid further allegations, he said a procedure was put in place to allow for conducting business between his office and the clerk’s office.
“The Supreme Court investigated and found no basis for further action on their part,” he said, adding after retirement he was appointed by that court as a visiting judge to other courts.
“They would send me around to other courts. They wouldn’t have done that if they thought I was a bad guy,” he said. “The point is it didn’t intimidate me then and it sure as hell isn’t going to intimidate me now.”
Among issues faced by law enforcement and his office would be heroin and its impact on the criminal justice system.
“It is something like we have never seen,” Kemmer said.
“We have to figure out a solution to this. I wish I knew the answer. I do know all the things we have tried before just haven’t worked very well. It suggests to me we need to keep an open mind to all kinds of different new approaches to this,” Kemmer said. “Treatment is expensive but so is incarceration. People who otherwise wouldn’t commit a crime will for this. I would eagerly participate in any coalition/task force to see if there is anything from the prosecutor’s perspective that can be done or help with it.”
Anthony “Tony” Kendell
Occupation: Miami County Prosecuting Attorney, appointed ; elected to complete term
Previous political experience: Republican Central Committee, prosecutor past three years
Education: Associate degree, Edison State Community College; bachelor’s degree economics and economic theory, Wright State University; Juris Doctor, University of Dayton School of Law.
Family: Two children.
Anthony “Tony” Kendell said serving as a prosecutor is one of the “great passions” in his life.
The Piqua area resident said the other is his family.
“I have dedicated my professional life to defending victims of crime and helping keep our community safe by prosecuting criminals to the fullest extent of the law. It has always been both my honor and privilege to serve Miami County in that capacity,” Kendell said.
He said he has prosecuted successfully thousands of adult felony cases and tried numerous jury trials, losing one.
“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, and I will compare my record, both in and out of the courtroom, with anyone,” Kendell said.
He has been with the prosecutor’s office more than 20 years, working for the first three years in the civil area and writing legal opinions while attending law school. He said he also worked over the years in Children’s Services cases, juvenile court, and in the various areas of civil cases. He also served several years as the municipal prosecutor for Tipp City
The prosecutor’s office has assistants who help with criminal cases in adult court and juvenile court, Children’s Services and civil cases along with requests for legal opinions.
Around 50 requests per year are received for opinions, he said.
“Nevertheless, depending on what is asked it takes time to research. It is not like a drive through. Trying to research and come up with a good solid legal answer isn’t something that can be done just at the drop of a hat,” he said.
Among Kemmer’s campaign claims are Kendell not being available and a lack of confidence in the prosecutor’s office. Kendell said he didn’t take vacation last year. “If there was a lack of confidence, wouldn’t you expect elected officials to speak up? Nobody has. I would encourage people to go to township trustees, the health department, clerk of courts … and ask,” he said.
Kemmer claimed there also was dissatisfaction with the timeliness of responses. He pointed to a Sept. 11, , letter to Kendell from the board of elections (whose members are Kelly Gillis, Dean Tamplin, Jose Lopez and Robert Huffman Jr.) expressing “disappointment in the lack of service we have received from your office.” The letter said the board had made two decisions before requested opinions were received and was waiting for four opinions needed to make decisions on issues/candidates for the November ballot.
“That was during a period of time the board went public on a couple of issues where they had made mistakes,” Kendell said. “Bev (Kendall named director last summer) found quite a few of these irregularities. Once she starts finding irregularities, they want things answered overnight … The man hours that have been put into it have been way above what we normally experience.”
Kendell said he assigned other employees to help with those requests. Among issues at the time were offices for a village and the county Educational Service Center being on the ballot in the wrong year.
Kendell said the largest issues facing the office are the heroin problem and sexual crimes against children.
He said that, conservatively, 80 percent of cases involve heroin in some way. Kendell is a member of a recently formed heroin task force that also includes the sheriff, Troy’s fire chief and others such as pastors, social workers and mental health professionals.
“We are not going to arrest our way out of it, not going to prosecute our way out of it. We want to try to get at the front end of it and see what we can do before these people actually go out and break he law and break into your garage, your car or rob your bank,” he said.
With sex offenses, Kendell said more education of parents for signs of abuse is planned with a goal not of forming negative attitudes but providing information for them to better look out for their children.
A sexting diversion program was introduced recently in juvenile court for cases that usually involve boyfriend/girlfriend relationships and exchange of photos that carry serious consequences for adult offenders. “The whole family was involved … They walked away with a new appreciation,” he said.
Kendell said it “is just an honor to defend victims of crime, and their families and the people of Miami County. It is not just a job for me. It is a whole lot more than that.”
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The Miami County Prosecuting Attorney, located in Troy, OH, is an agency that prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the Troy government. The District Attorney heads the Troy Prosecutor's Office, directing the attorneys who work for the office. In Troy, the District Attorney plays a central role in criminal cases, working with police to decide whether to bring charges and prosecuting the case in court. The DA's Office also maintains court records that are open to the public.You may contact the District Attorney for questions about:
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Nasal and Lopez are the only two candidates for the office. The Board of Election certified their petitions to run in May.
The Board of Elections will hold a hearing on the protest by Nasal at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 at the Miami County Courthouse in Troy.
In the petition, Nasal’s lawyers state Nasal was county prosecutor for 18 years before becoming judge. Prior to serving as county prosecutor, he was the municipal court prosecutor and was in private legal practice in Troy.
Nasal’s lawyers — David C. Greer and Kevin C. Quinlan of Dayton — allege that Lopez filed as a candidate “but does not satisfy the qualifications to run for this position (under the Ohio Revised Code). Specifically, Ms. Lopez has not engaged in the practice of law in this state for a total of at least six years.”
The petition states the Ohio Supreme Court has defined “engaged in the practice of law” to include private practice as an individual or as an attorney for a corporation.
“Even if one is a licensed attorney, to satisfy the six-year requirement, they must be employed in a position where they are practicing law, either actually before the court and incident to such actions, in the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds, or rendering legal advice to clients,” the petition states.
The petition includes copies of financial disclosure statements from Lopez beginning in
Lopez has served as the county recorder since
A brief filed by her lawyers from Bricker and Eckler said Lopez was admitted to the bar in Ohio in November and has engaged in the practice of law since. They say she has worked at two different law firms; worked as a guardian ad litem in Miami, Darke and Shelby counties; and represented clients in real estate, criminal, probate and domestic relations matters.
“Ms. Lopez has practiced for 15 years The board should reject the protest,” the lawyers wrote in a brief on the behalf of Lopez.
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