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New Franklin County Prosecutor Commits To Greater Diversity, Police Oversight

Retired judge Gary Tyack was elected as Franklin County Prosecutor, ousting longtime Republican Ron O'Brien.
Gary Tyack
Retired judge Gary Tyack was elected as Franklin County Prosecutor, ousting longtime Republican Ron O'Brien.

Newly elected Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack says the first item on his agenda is diversifying the staff within prosecutor's office.

"I want to have an ongoing process of hiring more people of color, frankly more women,” Tyack says. “Other folks who can make the office more balanced, so that when someone deals with the office, they see somebody that looks like them. And not just another white male.”

The 74-year-old Democrat had retired as a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals due to age restrictions, after serving for over two decade. On Tuesday, he beat longtime prosecutor Ron O’Brien, 71, a Republican who had held the office for 24 years.

Tyack says he won because of a “blue wave” of votes in Franklin County, and said O’Brien did not support police oversight.

“Ron kept utterly quiet about a Civilian Review Board,” Tyack said, referencing the independent oversight body that Columbus voters approved this week.  “And clearly, the average person is now in favor of having a Civilian Review Board to consider misconduct.”

Tyack says he will do more to scrutinize police shootings. Under O’Brien’s supervision, no white Columbus Police officer was ever indicted for police misconduct – and no officer had ever been indicted for a shooting while on duty. That record made O'Brien a constant target of criticism by police reform advocates in the city.

“I had a 14-year old boy who was shot in the back from a police officer, driving away from that, so there was no self-defense issue, but nothing ever happened to the officer,” Tyack says.

During the campaign, Tyack says the criticism from O’Brien about his lack of prosecuting experience did not stick.

“I have tried every kind of case imaginable as a defense counsel, and so I have no doubt about my ability to handle such cases,” Tyack says.

In addition to overseeing cases with Columbus Police, the Franklin County Prosecutor also has jurisdiction over the Ohio Statehouse. Tyack plans to re-establish a corruption unit focused on state lawmakers.

“I will have some people to look over that,” says Tyack. “If people have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about. If they’ve done the kinds of things that are alleged, as to Larry Householder and some of his assistants, then they will have a lot to worry about.”

Although Tyack suffered a stroke in September, he describes his health as excellent. 

“It slows me down a little bit with my right leg and slows me down a little more with my right arm, but it has no effect on my brain or the left side of my body,” Tyack says. “By January 1, I plan on being in full health and being able to do everything I want to do.”

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.