The League of Women Voters held its third and final candidate debate Thursday night.
The event, which was broadcast live from Marietta College, featured the two candidates for Washington County Sheriff and four candidates vying for two Washington County Commissioners seats.
The debate began with Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks and independent candidate Chris Forshey, who were each armed with a bevy of harsh criticisms to lodge against the other.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Independent candidate for sheriff Chris Forshey, left, and Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks trade criticisms during Thursday’s candidate debate. Moderator for the night was Dr. Suzanne Walker, representing the League of Women Voters.
Asked if he thought the handing of personal finances reflects on the ability of a person to handle the sheriff department's sizable budget, Mincks pointed to Forshey's two personal bankruptcy filings in the past seven years.
"I really think that does raise a strong question whether he is able to run an organization the size of the sheriff's department," said Mincks.
Mincks also pointed to loopholes that Forshey used to safeguard money from creditors during those bankruptcies.
WCMO TV will replay each of the three debates at the following times:
Debate 1-Debbie Phillips and Charles Richter, Ohio House Dist. 94; Andy Thompson and Charlie Daniels, Ohio House Dist. 95
- Oct. 4, following city council meeting
- Oct. 8 at 1 p.m.
Debate 2 - Charlie Wilson and Bill Johnson, U.S. House Dist.6; Lou Gentile and Shane Thompson, Ohio Senate Dist. 30.
- Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.
- Oct. 11 at 8 p.m.
Debate 3 - Larry Mincks and Chris Forshey, Sheriff; Cora Marshall and Ron Feathers, County Commissioner beginning Jan. 3; Peg Littler and David White, County Commissioner beginning Jan. 2; Randall Burnworth and Mark Kerenyi, Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge.
- Oct. 11 at 1 p.m.
- Oct. 18 following city council meeting.
"He had negotiated a $58,000 buyout and placed it in a retirement fund where it could not be reached by creditors," said Mincks.
For his part, Forshey accused the Sheriff's Office of lax or biased hiring practices that have led to the department having employees with criminal histories. Without naming names, Forshey pointed out employees hired under Mincks' tenure who had failed a polygraph test, who had later been found to have committed crimes and who had been accused of domestic violence.
"This department does little because of personal biases Mr. Mincks has against polygraph tests. They may not be admissible in court, but they are still used in the law enforcement community, including in a federal level. It is very obvious that the hiring process at the sheriff's office need to be revamped," said Forshey.
Mincks and Forshey also disagreed on how much time and manpower the department should delegate to drug enforcement and investigations. Forshey said the department gives too little attention to many other types of crimes in the county. Mincks referenced the fact that the county has no unsolved murders in his tenure, and also drew a link between the majority of crime and drug usage.
Next up were the candidates for the county commissioner seat beginning Jan. 2.
The candidates were asked how they would distribute the revenue from the 1 percent sales tax the county receives. Democratic candidate Peg Littler was hesitant to give an exact amount until she is able to look at the budget, but said that the roads and township were a priority.
Republican candidate David White said more needs to be done to shift the tax back to its original intent, bridges and roads, but that to do so in one fell swoop would be unwise.
White and Littler were also asked how they would ensure local volunteer firefighters received necessary training without financially burdening the departments.
"We are burning people out and we need new volunteers," said Littler, who advocated for more open lines of communication with the departments.
White said while he was not in favor of lobbying the state to relax the training standards, he does think they could have different tiers of training so people could volunteer for different levels of work.
"For example, it does not take as much training to hold a hose as it does to rescue someone from a burning house," said White.
Finally, the candidates for the county commissioner seat beginning Jan. 3 rounded out the debate portion of the evening.
Democratic incumbent Cora Marshall and Republican candidate Ron Feathers both expressed a desire for transparency and openness with their constituents.
Asked how they would protect Washington County's infrastructure and environment in light of the recent oil and gas boom, Marshall said she plans on staying well-informed.
"I have been traveling throughout the county attending meetings. I've also supported a fracking advisory committee. Their mission is to provide us useful information," said Marshall.
Feathers accused Marshall of wanting to put undue tax burdens on the industry.
"I disagree with the supposition that business is evil. The development of energy from shale has been done safely for decades," said Feathers.
Marshall countered that while she favors a severance tax for the larger oil and gas companies, she does not support one for small, local companies or individual land owners.
Asked about mandates that the county update its sewage systems, Marshall said the issue needs to be dealt with in a timely fashion to avoid more costs down the line.
Feathers said the problem is an example of the county blowing an issue out of proportion.
"Now you are going to have 400 homes, most of them with working septic systems, mandated to be tied in possibly to a $5.5 million project," said Feathers.
Marshall concluded her argument for office by pointing to her experience.
"When I ran four years ago, I made some promises, and I kept those promises. I am interested in seeing Washington County going forward," said Marshall.
Though they did not debate, candidates for Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge, Mark Kerenyi-R and Randall Burnworth-D, each made a statement highlighting their qualifications for the position.
Kerenyi currently serves as the Magistrate of Washington County Court of Common Pleas Probate and Juvenile Division. Burnworth serves as the Magistrate of Washington County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations.
Thursday's debate, as well as the previous two Marietta League of Women Voters candidate debates, will be replayed on Marietta College's WCMO TV, which is channel 15 for most residents. Thursday's debate will replay Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. and Oct. 18 following city council.