GREENVILLE — Darke County voters will have a choice between two familiar faces in the race for the county prosecutor position this November, when incumbent R. Kelly Ormsby III will be seeking to defend his seat against a challenger he’s often faced in the courtroom, as well, Greenville attorney David Rohrer.
Ormsby is running in the general election as a Republican, while Rohrer will be on the ticket as a non-party candidate.
The current Darke County Prosecuting Attorney, Ormsby grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan. He then attended Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington.
His first job out of law school, beginning June 1, 1981, was working as an assistant prosecutor in northwestern Ohio. He came to Darke County 20 years ago, in the fall of 1996, hired as an assistant to do felony prosecutions under then-Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Hein.
Hein ran for and won the position of judge of Darke County Common Pleas Court in 1998, and Dick Howell, who had been his first assistant, went on to become Darke County Prosecutor. Ormsby eventually went on to become first assistant, and when Howell died of cancer in the fall of 2009, Ormsby was appointed to fill his seat by the county Republican party.
Ormsby ran unopposed in 2010 to serve the last two years of Howell’s original term, then he ran unopposed in 2012 for the full four-year term.
Rohrer came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, then went on to Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology. He was a youth and music minister for three years, beginning in Fremont, Ohio, then Norton, Ohio, where he raised his first family.
Finding that he could not afford to raise a family working in youth ministry, Rohrer went on to work in a factory for five years. When he was working as a foreman on third shift, his company told him if he wanted to go back to school and get a degree in industrial technology, they would pay for it. He took advantage of the opportunity, and one of the classes he took was Business Law.
He said he “loved the course” and went on to get his paralegal certificate and was offered part-time work as a law clerk while he continued to work third shift in the factory. Those at the attorney’s office said he should go on to law school, but he initially balked at the idea of starting law school at age 30 with two children at home.
He accepted the challenge and took the LSAT in April of 1986. He did well and was accepted to law school at the University of Akron, nine years older than most of the incoming students. He said he loved it and looked on it as “a chance of a lifetime.”
Rohrer began working as a law clerk for a judge during his second year of law school, then when he graduated, he went to work for the prosecutor’s office in Summit County, where he worked for five years to gain experience as a trial attorney.
“I got grief when I went to the defense side – from my mom,” Rohrer said with a laugh. “She said, ‘how can you defend these people?’ I said, ‘I can defend them because it’s their right. Everybody has the right to be defended.’”
Rohrer has worked under contract with the Darke County Commissioners to serve as a public defender for indigent clients, in addition to his private practice, for about a dozen years.
Both candidates agree there is no “political” element to the job of prosecutor, so party affiliation is largely irrelevant. Rohrer said he is running as a non-partisan candidate because his dissatisfaction with the current state of both major parties.
“It’s not like something comes across your desk where you say, ‘If the victim’s Republican, we’ll help them; if they’re Democrat, we’re not going to help them.’ Yeah, that really never enters into it,” Ormsby said.
“The prosecutor’s job – the part about it that I like – is the prosecutor’s job is to do justice,” Ormsby continued. “It’s unlike any other attorney. Most attorneys have a client, and their client is a particular person, and they’re trying to advance their interest, or they’re protecting their interest. The prosecutor is different because you don’t have an individual client. Your client is the public. You’re supposed to do the right thing. … We’ve got a lot of discretion in the office to first try to figure out what is a just result in the case and then to try to get it. That’s unusual as far as attorneys are concerned.”
Rohrer said he thinks the prosecutor’s office can do more, especially in the current drug crisis.
“The prosecutor has the ability to go after landlords, go after some of the cheap motels that we have in this town, and shut them down,” Rohrer said, “as a nuisance, because they have drug traffickers there, and they don’t do anything about it. He has the power to do that and hasn’t done that, and that is something that I would do.”
“You don’t really accomplish anything by prosecuting drug users,” Rohrer went on. “You should try to get them help.”
He said Darke County has been prosecuting drug users who go to the hospital for an overdose of heroin.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” Rohrer said. “I think that’s a waste. You’ve got to stop drug trafficking. You’ve got to make Darke County uncomfortable for people that are bringing in drugs. You’ve got to make it impossible for them to find places to stay.”
One of Rohrer’s priorities for the prosecutor’s office would be hiring an investigator with significant experience in the field to supplement the work of law enforcement agencies to establish a case.
“You don’t have to rely on heroin addicts (as witnesses) to make a case,” Rohrer said. “People know when their neighbors are selling drugs.”
Rohrer said he not only believes that prosecuting higher up the drug chain is important to fighting the crisis but also that the prosecutor’s office should be actively involved in seeking funding from industry to help support programs to get addicts off the drugs, since a major complaint of employers is the inability to find workers who can pass a drug test.
“Then it’s my responsibility (as prosecutor) and the sheriff’s and Greenville P.D. and the surrounding law enforcement communities to just do a better job of getting the people who are bringing this crap in,” Rohrer said.