There will be a change in the Brown County state's attorney's office next year, and that's something both candidates seeking the four-year post think is needed.
Democrat Kelly Marnette and Republican Larry Lovrien agree that the reputation of the office has been tarnished in recent years. Both say they will work to earn the public's respect.
Kimberly Dorsett, Brown County state's attorney since 2007, is not seeking re-election. This is the first time there's been a general election vote for state's attorney in Brown County since 1996. Then, incumbent Democrat Harvey Oliver defeated Republican Rich Russman.
In the past couple of years, there has been strife within the office that both Marnette and Lovrien say the public has noticed. Deputy state's attorney Brandon Taliaferro was fired by Dorsett in September 2011 and has since filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. For a variety of reasons, some cases and investigations have dragged on longer than they normally would.
Both candidates say they would fix problems within the office.
Marnette said her greatest strength is that she already knows how to run a state's attorney's office. She's been the Hughes County state's attorney since early 2008, when she was appointed to the post. She moved to Pierre from Aberdeen in 2007 to go to work as a deputy state's attorney in Hughes County.
She said she's operated her Pierre office professionally and in a way that's worthy of respect. She said that because she hasn't been in the Brown County office, she doesn't know what the specific problems are. But, she said, if she's elected, she'll find out and right them.
While Marnette would like to bring her chief deputy state's attorney from Hughes County to Aberdeen, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be changes in the Brown County office.
"If people work hard, are ethical and are comfortable working with me, those people will have jobs," Marnette said.
Lovrien said he thinks that Brown County needs a new chief deputy state's attorney, but he declined to elaborate specifically what that means. Lori Ehlers, whom Marnette defeated in the Democratic primary, is currently the chief deputy state's attorney in Brown County.
If he were elected, Lovrien said he won't make a host of rash personnel changes. But there could be some, he said. He said he would like to serve as a mentor for the younger deputy state's attorneys in the office and doesn't see any reason why there would be changes to the clerical staff.
Lovrien likened the situation to his time on the James River Water Development District. After he was elected, he assessed how things were going and, once that was done, had a hand in personnel changes. Ultimately, as the result of various problems including those unveiled by a state audit of the district's finances, longtime James River Water Developmental District manager Darrell Raschke resigned.
Taliaferro voiced ethical concerns about Dorsett after he was fired and said politics might have been one reason he was let go, saying that Dorsett and Ehlers are both Democrats. A Republican, he announced his candidacy to run for state's attorney, but withdrew before the primary.
Lovrien, who would have been Taliaferro's primary opponent, said he played no role in that decision. He said he doesn't believe he's ever met Taliaferro and that they never discussed Taliaferro's decision to drop out of the race.
Lovrien said his new chief deputy state's attorney would share his philosophy. That, he said, includes resolving cases in a timely manner and the prospect of somewhat shorter jail terms for nonviolent offenders.
Decreasing sentences by 10 percent, for instance, could free up more space at the jail and save the county money, he said. And, Lovrien said, he's not certain that, for example, a 30-day jail term is more of a deterrent than a 27-day sentence.
Both Marnette and Lovrien are in favor of alternatives to jail such as sobriety courts. Brown County started a drunken driving court in July with its aim being intensive oversight of people who have addictions. Instead of a lengthy jail term, people in the program are given skills to help them remain sober.
Hughes County has had a drunken driving court for about three years, so Marnette is familiar with how the program works. If sobriety courts can protect the public while addressing addiction problems, she said she's supportive of expanding the concept.
Addiction issues are going to be an ongoing problem, she said. The number of instances of impaired driving after "huffing" is on the increase, she said. Huffers inhale the gases given off by aerosols and or chemicals to feel intoxicated or high. And the feeling comes on quickly, not gradually as it does with alcohol, Marnette said.
Synthetic drug use is also something prosecuting attorneys need to keep tabs on, Marnette said. State legislators made considerable changes to state laws this year to allow state's attorneys to better prosecute cases involving drugs that are commonly called "bath salts" and "spice." But lawmakers are likely going to have to continue to fine tune wording in laws to make sure that they encompass the changes made to synthetic drugs, she said.