Interim prosecutor to be named by commissioners Thursday

In the month since the conviction of Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, operations of the office have continued nonetheless.

“One person is not just assuming his duties in his absence,” said Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Coil. “All of his work has been distributed across the team as needed, mostly in cases that were already on the docket and with new cases and needs that have come in.”

Coil was appointed by Rings after his conviction to take over the direction of the office during Rings’ absence for the last month.

She has divvied up his civil and criminal duties between the office’s remaining four assistant prosecutors while utilizing the three full-time and one part-time administrative staff members and one victim advocate.

Rings was convicted of coercion, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after a weeklong trial in April. He submitted a letter to Washington County Commissioners stating his intent to resign, effective on Wednesday.

His sentencing is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m., and he still faces a civil complaint to remove him from office headed by attorney Ethan Vessels.

“Until I receive official word from Rings’ attorney or from the county commissioners of an irrevocable resignation, we’re still moving forward,” said Vessels, noting if the resignation does take effect Wednesday the civil complaint would be dismissed.

The deposition of the civil case is scheduled for May 24, with the preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for June 5 before Appointed Judge Janet R. Burnside.

Vessels isn’t the only one waiting, as Rings’ April 29 letter to the commissioners notified them of his intent to resign but not an official resignation.

“If that intent is not rescinded between now and the 15th then I’m considering it an official resignation,” said David White, president of the commission. “But as of now, technically that intent could still be rescinded.”

After Wednesday, Washington County Commissioners White, Ron Feathers and Kevin Ritter would then be called upon to appoint an interim head of the office until the Washington County Republican Central Committee chooses an attorney to fill the seat through the remainder of Rings’ term ending on Jan. 3, 2021.

Coil is expected to be the temporary appointment, though commissioners will not officially nominate until Thursday.

“Nicole has done a wonderful job, and we’ve not seen any negative impact with (Rings) out of the office, she’s very competent,” said White, though he wouldn’t confirm who he would recommend before Thursday’s regular commission business meeting. “Several qualified people have expressed their interest in the appointment. As a commissioner I definitely have my opinion of who’d be best.”

White said in the last month Coil has taken on the responsibilities for running the office, but not drawn a larger salary.

Rings’ annual salary is $140,638 as prescribed by state code, Coil’s current salary is $59,916 and she has served as an assistant prosecutor full time since June 1, 2015. If she were to ascend to the role, her position would then be open for another hire, as would be the case if anyone already in the office were promoted to prosecutor.

White, also a member of the central committee, explained that the party would then have five to 45 days after an official resignation to convene and determine the remainder of Rings’ term.

“That could be as early as May 20… but our central committee has not regularly scheduled meetings, they have to be called,” he continued. “I would expect it to be either a very long meeting or a series of meetings to interview each individual.”

Then, once all those vying for the position have spoken with the committee, he said nominations would precede a balloting process.

“They are typically open to the public, sometimes it’s only one person being nominated and then it’s more of a formality,” White added. “And there’s no prescribed balloting process, it’s just typical. After the first ballot if there’s not a clear majority, then we would remove the names with the lowest votes and keep going as long as needed to obtain a majority.”

If Rings officially resigns Wednesday, that would give the committee through June 29 to appoint a replacement for the term.

Meanwhile, in the office this last month, contract review, coordination with other elected officials and budget meetings with the county auditor have fallen to Coil.

“I’ve taken over much of his civil duties and contract review since I primarily have covered civil duties before his absence, as has Alison Cauthorne,” explained Coil of the two most senior in the office. “Joe Derkin and David Silwani are primarily criminal though Alison, and I do aid both before the cases reach indictment with warrants, briefs and then on the tail end in appeals, and Amy Graham is primarily juvenile cases though she does also have some criminal.”

Coil said Derkin has also been the primary representation from the office to Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi’s drug court and Silwani has also aided in juvenile cases.

“We’ve been dealing mostly with incoming cases, not touching others under (Rings) direction–those are still in his office–as soon as his resignation is final we’ll take over those,” she said.