Administration brushes off worries over breath-tester

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Dismissive, stonewalling and disappointing. These are the terms that I believe best describe both the recent and ongoing actions on the part of the state regarding efforts to move forward with a breath-testing program that, in virtually every way, has been exposed as flawed by the excellent work of a number of reporters ("State likely to OK DUI testing device," Dispatch article, Tuesday).

Dismissive: Several individuals who have vested interests in seeing that this $6.4 million goes out of state testified at both the Ohio Department of Health hearing and the Controlling Board hearing several weeks ago that Ohio does not need to worry about the credibility of the science nor the ongoing court battles in other states.

But hundreds of driving-under-the-influence cases thrown out and the manufacturer's fines exceeding $2 million do not support their testimony. They claimed these problems do not apply in Ohio because the evidence of the breath-test instrument cannot be challenged in court.

This is not only dismissive, but it is an affront to every judge in this state and an insult to our judicial system. Since when does the validity of a science hide behind a judge's robe? While this may in fact be the case in Ohio, it is nothing short of arrogant to flaunt it.

Recently, an e-mail was sent by an Arizona attorney to Ohio Department of Health attorneys charging that one of the people testifying at both hearings, while under oath, misstated the facts of the court challenges in other states.

The testimony, meant to reassure the Ohio boards regarding the purchase, was shown to be in direct contradiction to both the testimony and the court decisions in Arizona. This e-mail has received no attention within the state bureaucracy. Covering up bad news is a sign of what is to come.

Allegations of improprieties in admitted personal relationships, bid-specification representations, ongoing court issues and warnings from the Ohio community of defense attorneys – all dismissed by the administration. This is also not a good sign.

Stonewalling: This is the response we are now seeing from the administration. A few senators and representatives are still listening and working to remedy this issue. Among them is Sen. Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland. The departments of Public Safety and Health, as well as the governor's office, have essentially been unresponsive from the beginning, almost two years ago.

Indeed, all the information and contacts during the entire past two years have been centralized and filtered through just one person within the Department of Health. The entire administration heard what he wanted them to hear in the way he wanted it heard. Not one person in the administration, other than this point man, has ever seen the instrument manufactured by my company in Mansfield by residents of Ohio. And this person was never a fan of anyone for the past 30 years except the Kentucky firm.

Disappointing: Gov. Ted Strickland, among others, could have intervened early on when I originally presented arguments and alternatives. He chose not to. I mentioned to him in a letter that following the current course could result in an embarrassing situation for the administration.

I will say it again. This program has the potential, from a number of vantage points, to create a very embarrassing situation for the administration. If it does, the coverage of the media over the past few weeks will look like child's play. Ohio will follow other states presently embroiled in these issues.

The proposed breath-tester purchase has now turned into a political football in Columbus. Nether the jobs that will be lost or go uncreated, nor the wisdom of the program itself, nor the enormous price tag associated with it – wasteful to say the least – nor the many other reported flaws are of consequence. Only someone's pet project is of importance. The administration has shown a lack of concern for the jobs and employees that will be affected. This is truly disappointing.

The out-of-state company apparently has mounted a huge lobby effort in Columbus that my company does not have the resources to match. It has the ears of our government and it wants this money.

Politics being the case, there is little choice except to ask that if there is any concern on the part of the readers that they let their senators and representatives know these. My concerns are being routinely and roundly dismissed by our administration at every point. Let your senator know how you feel, either way.

JOHN D. FUSCO, President

National Patent Analytical Systems, Mansfield, OH