Hunter supporters ask for taxpayer relief

Mar 25, 2015

Tracie Hunter (left) listens as one of her supporters pleads her case.
Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU

After her court appearance Wednesday on a new charge of misuse of a credit card, suspended juvenile court judge Tracie Hunter and her supporters went to the Hamilton County Commissioners meeting to ask that the board pull funding of her criminal trial.

But it is not clear if county commissioners have the authority to stop funding of criminal prosecution.

Suspended juvenile court judge Tracie Hunter will go to trial again on June 1, facing eight felony counts.  Special prosecutors re-filed those charges after a jury failed to reach a verdict on them in last fall's criminal trial.  Hunter was convicted in October on one count of unlawful interest in a public contract; and was sentenced to six months in prison. She is appealing the conviction.

Hamilton County's budget office reports the county has spent roughly $460,000 prosecuting Hunter.  When including what the county spent in other Hunter-related court cases, the county says it spent more than $1.4 million in 2013 and 2014.

Troy Jackson submitted a petition asking commissioners to stop funding the prosecution.

“Because we are paying resources into this county that are precious, and what is going on is further dividing our community," Jackson said. "It’s not in the best interest of anyone.  So you’ll hear a lot of voices today, simply asking ‘who runs this county?’

“We believe that the trials have gone on long enough,' Jackson said. "Enough resources have been spent.”

But commission president Greg Hartmann said he doesn't believe commissioners have the ability to cut funding to the prosecution team once a grand jury indictment has been issued.

“Should a decision be made by a board to inject itself into prosecutions, to end prosecutions by cutting off funding, is a very serious legal question," Hartmann said. "And it goes to the very core of our role as county commissioners."

The board directed the county administrator to find out whether commissioners can withhold funding.