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Pepper touts plans to fight heroin crisis, corruption

Democratic AG candidate vists Springfield for campaign stop.

David Pepper has a broad agenda for the office of Ohio Attorney General if elected this fall.

“I think this office should be talking about jobs every day,” he said at a campaign stop at Clark County Democratic headquarters in Springfield Wednesday afternoon. He said the office of attorney general can help the economy through enforcement of things like minimum wage laws.

He also briefly outlined his plans to address the heroin epidemic to a small group of supporters and highlighted what he calls a “play-to-play” scandal in which incumbent Attorney General Mike DeWine has allegedly given collection firm contracts to friends and donors.

“There is no plan from Columbus to deal with the heroin crisis,” Pepper said, claiming DeWine is all talk and no action.

DeWine’s office said the Attorney General has taken action by forming a dedicated heroin unit which currently assists local law enforcement, health officials and victims.

“A lot of the things that Mr. Pepper is suggesting are things that he could do if he was running for Governor,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said, “but not within the office of the attorney general.”

Pepper’s plan includes working with each county to assess its current capacity for drug treatment versus the current need and work with local officials to try to bridge that gap.

He also said he will be tougher with law enforcement efforts.

“If you’re dealing heroin and we can connect you to an overdose death that you caused, don’t think we’re just going to go after you as having been a dealer. We’re going to hold you accountable for the death you caused,” Pepper said.

Pepper spoke in front of a blown-up copy of a scoring sheet which DeWine’s office used to award a state collections contract to CELCO, a company started in 2012 by DeWine supporter Pete Spitalieri.

He alleges DeWine is consistently giving lucrative contracts to collect back taxes, defaulted student loans and other money owed to the state to his friends and supporters over more qualified firms.

“The Attorney General of Ohio cannot crack down on corruption if he is violating all the rules,” Pepper said.

Most of the contracts in question went to people who did not donate to DeWine’s campaign, Tierney said, but made donations to state or county Republican parties.

The Springfield News-Sun previously reported that Spitalieri did not donate to DeWine’s campaign but did make donations — to his son, Pat DeWine, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Summit County GOP — which he claims has funneled some money to DeWine.

DeWine follows all campaign finance laws, Tierney said, including limitations on donations by attorneys doing work with the office.

“If we have vendors who don’t follow the law, they don’t get the work,” Tierney said.

When asked about the officer-involved shooting at Walmart in Beavercreek, which has prompted DeWine to order a special grand jury, Pepper said he believes that is the right move to make sure John Crawford’s death is investigated objectively.

Without commenting directly on whether he would have released surveillance video from the incident, which DeWine has declined to release until after the grand jury meets, Pepper said he thinks its generally best to err on the side of transparency.

“In these cases, whether in Ferguson or elsewhere, it’s good practice to get information out,” he said, referencing the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., where he said officials withheld the name of the officer involved for too long.

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