Ohio AG’s office to handle case against former DTF chief

LISBON – The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has agreed to pursue criminal charges against the former director of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force.

County Prosecutor Robert Herron recently filed a request asking the AG’s office to serve as special prosecutor in the case of Dan Downard, who was suspended as DTF director in November 2012 after it was learned that a DTF cell phone may have been issued to non-DTF personnel.

County Sheriff Ray Stone requested the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conduct the probe to avoid any conflict of interest since he has deputies assigned to the DTF, not to mention he serves as chairman of the DTF board of control. The state auditor’s office was also called in to assist.

With both state investigations recently concluded, Herron said it was time to ask the AG’s office to prosecute the case to avoid any potential conflict of interest with his office.

“Obviously, there’s the potential for Dan to be a witness in (pending) cases that he was involved in when with the DTF,” said Herron, who also serves as secretary for the DTF board of control.

The AG’s office agreed to present the case to the county grand jury and prosecute the matter if an indictment results, at no cost to the county.

Stone launched a preliminary investigation after possible irregularities within the DTF were brought to his attention. The board meeting minutes indicated his initial probe determined the DTF was billed for at least four months for a cell phone given to a non-DTF member.

Based on Stone’s findings, the DTF office was closed for two weeks, the office locks changed and an office-wide inventory performed. A new DTF director was also appointed to replace Downard, who was on assignment to the DTF from the Lisbon Police Department.

Downard was placed on paid leave from the Lisbon Police Department pending the outcome of the investigation but he later resigned. His attorney previously declined comment.