Ohio is one of the hardest-hit states in the nation’s opioid epidemic, its rate of overdose deaths tripling between 2010 and 2016 to more than double the national average.
The crisis has become a focal point in the state’s gubernatorial campaign, and the Republican nominee, Attorney General Mike DeWine has played up his credentials, boasting on his website that he has been “leading the fight against the drug epidemic since he first took office.”
But in 2016, DeWine was publicly accused by police chiefs of ignoring their concerns about a prescription-drug operation in their county — a complaint that forced an investigation, resulted in a conviction and raised questions about DeWine’s relationship with law enforcement.
Both DeWine and his opponent, Richard Cordray, a Democrat and former head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, have released multi-part plans to fight the epidemic, and DeWine has unveiled an ad highlighting his work on the issue.
However, in January 2016, six police chiefs in Sandusky County accused DeWine of ignoring their concerns about a suspicious prescription drug-collection operation being run by the county’s sheriff, Kyle Overmyer, whom DeWine had praised in 2012 for his efforts combating the drug trade.
The chiefs said they brought the complaint to DeWine’s office in August 2015 and, over the next year, had multiple meetings with him and his staff where they voiced frustration that the attorney general’s office was not taking seriously the investigation into Overmyer, who they said was running a scheme to trick them into handing over prescription drugs they collected by falsely claiming he was part of a Drug Enforcement Agency-sponsored operation.
An unnamed source told the Sandusky Register that DeWine was “trying to sweep this under the rug” because of his past investigations with the sheriff’s office, a claim his spokesman told the newspaper was “false and salacious and ignores the fact that BCI does not make charging decisions.”
Shortly after the Register report, the police chiefs went public with their complaints.
The Ohio Supreme Court appointed a special prosecutor in the case after, as the Sandusky Register reported, DeWine “failed to take action after the state crime lab began investigating the sheriff a year ago.”
Six months later a grand jury indicted Overmyer on 43 charges including deception to obtain a dangerous drug, filing false financial disclosure statements, theft in office, tampering with records and theft. Overmyer pleaded guilty to fourteen charges and was sentenced to four years in prison and was required to pay back $24,000 to Sandusky County, according to WTOL-TV.
It wasn’t the last time Ohio’s police questioned DeWine’s actions as attorney general.
For more than a year, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents and their supervisors asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to replace more than 50 bulletproof vests that had passed their recommended expiration date.
“I WILL NOT ALLOW MY FOLKS TO GO THROUGH A SINGLE DOOR!!!” a BCI supervisor wrote to DeWine’s office, according to an Associated Press report last month.
The episode was the latest example of DeWine — a former senator now running as the GOP nominee to replace term-limited Gov. John Kasich — being criticized for not listening to the state’s law-enforcement officers.
While BCI officers were sharing fears about their aging body armor, DeWine was scheduled to be fitted for his own vest, the AP reported. After voicing concerns for more than a year, BCI agents filed a grievance with the Ohio Labor Council in May alleging that 53 of the 99 vests in use had gone beyond the five-year expiration guidelines set by the National Institute of Justice.