For Prosecutor's Office internships, political and family ties get you in the door

Deters hired two sons of Ohio Supreme Court Justice DeWine, sons of GOP bigwigs Triantafilou, Gerhardt

Aug 14, 2017 at 10:09 am

When the college-aged sons of three powerful Hamilton County Republicans sought paid, resume-boosting summer internships this spring, they found a willing taker in Republican prosecutor Joe Deters.

“Joe, can you find a spot in your internship program for my son Matt this summer?” Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine asked Deters in an April 23 email obtained by CityBeat in a public records request. “It would be a great experience for him. If you can, I would really appreciate it.”

Within an hour on that Sunday night, Deters emailed instructions to his executive assistant Janet Roedel. “Another…for sure,” he wrote.

Voila! Matt DeWine reported to the prosecutor’s office and his $11-an-hour internship on May 16, according to county personnel records. Eleven days later he was joined by his older brother Richard Michael DeWine, who was starting his third summer internship in the office. Both are grandsons of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

By mid-June, the sons of two other prominent Hamilton County Republican Party officials also came on board: Michael Triantafilou, the son of county GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou, and Henry Gerhardt, the son of former GOP Vice Chairman Charles “Chip” Gerhardt, one of two Republicans on the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Neither Deters nor his spokeswoman Julie Wilson would take questions about the internships. DeWine did not respond to an email sent to him through an Ohio Supreme Court spokesman. Triantafilou and Gerhardt did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, expressed alarm at the temporary hirings.

“I’ve got no problem with an internship program, but if it is only open to folks who are well connected to the Republican Party and for whom the prosecutor can do favors — particularly when he’s doing favors for judges — that’s a problem,” Burke says.

Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-North Avondale, believes that the arrangement crossed a line. On Tuesday he called for an independent investigation. Thomas is holding a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the county courthouse.

Hamilton County government offered 65 paid internships this summer, and 29 were in Deters’ office. All but one of his "student helpers" work 35 hours a week and are paid $11 or $13 an hour.

Among the 29 are three who are sons of assistant prosecutors Jocelyn Chess, Philip Cummings and Charles Thiemann. At least two other interns are the children of courthouse employees. Another intern, Na'Kiima Reid, is the daughter of Samuel DuBose’s fiancee DeShonda Reid. DuBose was the unarmed motorist killed by then-University of Cincinnati policeman Ray Tensing during a controversial traffic stop in 2015. Deters’ office prosecuted Tensing for the shooting, but two juries would not convict him.

CityBeat asked Wilson how the prosecutor’s office had spread word about the availability of its student helper jobs. She would not answer the question and, in a separate letter, says there are no records reflecting that. She would not say how many people applied for the jobs. She says there are no records specifying qualifications of applicants.

Reid, in an interview with CityBeat, says a family acquaintance in the prosecutor's office, whom she met "in passing" last fall, encouraged her to apply for an internship. She says she was not interviewed further. "I did not meet with anyone until my first day," she says.

Other county offices posted their internships widely. The clerk of courts office posted its openings on the county website, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and, as well as at the Mayor’s Youth Career Expo and with local schools, says Nia Baucke, director of external relations. She says the office received applications from more than 200 students at 36 schools. After a rigorous review, nine were selected.

The county administration office had one internship to offer. It posted the $12-an-hour gig on the county website, the county Facebook page and two other websites. It received 38 applications, says county Human Resources Director Cheryl Keller.

Annie Straka, an assistant professor of experience-based learning and career education at UC, recommends that employers cast as wide a net as possible to strengthen the pool of internship candidates.

“By focusing only on personal referrals, you’re likely missing out on some really strong candidates who don’t have the social capital to get their foot in the door,” she says. “Equitable hiring practices should be in place to ensure that the most qualified candidates who will enhance the organization are hired.”

As depicted in a CityBeat cover story on April 12, the office of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters teems with nepotism, favoritism and political patronage hiring not barred by state law. Of his 186 employees, at least 31 were related to past or present county officials or employees or had political or business linkages to Deters.

But the hiring of a judge’s son — at the judge’s written request — offers bald proof that connections are prized in the prosecutor’s office.

“It may be that some of the interns are doing very good work, but there are myriad other people out there who could do very good work and not be the son or daughter of an Ohio Supreme Court judge,” says Dem Chairman Burke.

Burke also lamented the chances of attorneys opposing the Hamilton County prosecutor in cases going before DeWine.

“It’s convenient for the county prosecutor to have done a favor for a member of the Ohio Supreme Court,” he says.

CONTACT JAMES McNAIR at jmcnair@citybeat com, 513-914-2736 or @jmacnews on Twitter