The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jan. 21, 2022

New county prosecutor embraces change

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Eva Yarger, the first new Van Wert County prosecutor in more than 27 years, says modernizing the office and establishing closer relationships with government entities who rely on the prosecutor’s office for legal advice are two priorities when she takes office next week.

New Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger poses in her office. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent
New Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger poses in her office. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Yarger, who takes over officially this coming Monday after defeating longtime Prosecutor Charles Kennedy III in the primary election back in March, said she plans to streamline operations in the office, which includes the purchase of software developed especially for prosecutors.

Yarger, who has more than 25 years’ experience as an attorney and spent nearly 20 years as an assistant prosecutor before she was fired by her opponent just prior to the primary election, has been working the last few months as an assistant in the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office in Lima.

While there, she had the opportunity to use the Matrix prosecutor’s software system she plans to implement in Van Wert County. Yarger said the software, which she has included in her 2017 budget requests, would make filing criminal indictments and other complaints much easier and faster than is now possible, while also making discovery easier for defense attorneys.

“I want to go as much paperless as possible,” she added, noting that the new software would allow prosecutors to take a laptop or mobile device such as an iPad, into court, rather than what is now often a large stack of legal documents. “It’s going to be a big, big help.”

Yarger said she feels updating operations in the office would also be a benefit for county residents and agencies that use its services. “I want to be as professional and modern as possible,” she noted.

The new county prosecutor said she also plans to develop a website for the office — something not currently in place — which would also include an official email system for office use, instead of the current system of using private email accounts for official business.

“Using a private email for public records is not a good thing,” Yarger noted.

Instead of a full-time prosecutor and three part-time assistants, as is now the case, Yarger said she plans to have two full-time people, her and an assistant prosecutor she is bringing in from Logan County, along with a second, part-time assistant: local attorney Kelly Rauch, who will also maintain her private practice.

Current assistant Shane Lee will also stay on until March to assist with the transition, she added.

Yarger said she would also look at hiring a second part-time assistant if the workload made that necessary, but would prefer to stay at three people if possible.

“I’m still assessing the workload to see whether a second assistant will be needed,” she explained, while adding that all of the prosecutors will be working out of her Young & Yarger law offices to improve communication and accessibility.

Several operational changes are coming in the office, Yarger said, noting that she would end the current practice of having law enforcement agencies file cases in Van Wert County Juvenile Court.

“That’s not how it’s done in other places,” she said, noting that filing juvenile cases is also more appropriate for the prosecutor’s office, and would also be a benefit in making decisions on what charges should be filed.

Yarger said she would also be the one assigning all criminal cases, instead of having cases assigned on more of a lottery basis, as is now done.

“I want to be a little bit more in the know,” Yarger said, while also noting that making the assignments herself would allow the office to ensure the best person is prosecuting each case.

In addition, the new prosecuting attorney said she plans to develop closer relationships with township trustees and county offices and agencies that look to her office for legal advice, noting she is also looking at possibly attending a different township trustee meeting on a monthly basis, if the workload allows.

“I want to be available for all the civil people (trustees, commissioners, etc.),” Yarger said.

The new prosecutor will need to hit the ground running, though. In addition to caseloads that have increased annually over the past several years, the office is prosecuting a death penalty case involving a Delphos man accused of murdering a young child. Death penalty cases require significantly more legal work than other criminal cases.

Yarger also said the development of a land bank in the county to assist with demolishing unsafe and condemned buildings will also require some legal research on her part, while she also intends to “look long and hard” at the county’s current plea bargain policy.

Notwithstanding, the new county prosecutor, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1986 and her law degree from the Arizona State University College of Law, said she is excited be in her new position, although she knows there will be plenty of challenges ahead.

“It’s going to be a learning process, and I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way,” she noted, but added: “I taking the oath (of office) seriously.”

POSTED: 12/30/16 at 9:29 am. FILED UNDER: News