Monday, April 30, 2001

Prosecutor checks off tasks done

Piper's kept staff, not procedures

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — After a grueling, acrimonious political contest — said to be the most expensive in Butler County history — Prosecutor Robin Piper says he's focused on fulfilling his campaign promises.

        He's also been trying to build trust with staffers who may have once viewed him as an enemy.

        “It's as if we've been here all along,” says his secretary, Melissa Spurlock, 27. “It's not "us' and "them.' We're all a team now. The cards have just fallen into place as if there wasn't ever really a campaign.”

        Joe Statzer, Mr. Piper's office administrator, said many employees feared Mr. Piper would summarily dismiss everyone from the previous administration. Among 62 employees, 22 are new, he said; a number of former staffers left voluntarily.

        In a program Thursday at Grace United Methodist Church, Mr. Piper gave his first public address on the changes he has made since taking office in January.

        Among them:

        • Requiring prosecutors to work full time and phase out any private practice work they may have been doing.

        • Implementing systems to better track performance, including number of cases prosecuted.

        • Establishing “checks and balances” to ensure criminal cases aren't lost for lack of speedy prosecution — an issue in Mr. Piper's campaign against Dan Gattermeyer, who served four months as prosecutor after John F. Holcomb died.

        “Too often, promises made during an election seem to go nowhere after the winner takes office, and issues that were so important during a campaign season seem to stagnate and lose their priority,” Mr. Piper said.

        “He's usually the first one here and the last one to leave,” Ms. Spurlock said. “Even when it's beautiful outside, he's here just about every Saturday.”

        Glen Ballinger of Hamilton, among about 40 people who attended, found Mr. Piper's talk enlightening. “It's not very often you get to hear a public official come out and talk about his office like this,” he said. “I had no idea of how much he has had to do to set up his office.”

        Mr. Piper said the office lacked structure: incomplete personnel files, no employee performance evaluations and no system for tracking vacation time and leave. Further, he said, “a lot of the employees didn't have training on the computer systems that were already in place.”


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