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Drew Welsh: ‘I Never Intended It to Be Like Freaky Friday’

Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

welsh-peckCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Although Drew Welsh won both the Democratic and Republican nomination for district attorney in the May primary election and will probably be the only name on the ballot in the November general election, he won’t become the next Clarion County District Attorney until after that election.

One of the things unlikely to change much under District Attorney Drew Welsh would be the relationship with CNET and Bill Peck.

“I’m kind of in an odd sort of position because, yes I won the primary, I should be the only name on the ballot, but I still would have to be elected in November. I’m still not the district attorney,” said Welsh. “I’m looking forward to talking about how we’re going to do it, including budget talks — they have to get the budget in towards the end of the year — I think they have it finalized in October. I’m hoping to be part of those discussions, but again I’m just the hopeful district attorney.

“In the meantime, I don’t get to make any decisions until I actually get elected in November, so I’ve been brainstorming. I want to cast a wide net for an assistant district attorney candidates. If we’re not going to be in the current DA office building (owned by Mark Aaron), I’d like to talk with the commissioners about where we will be going. No, I will not be buying this building.”

Unless there is a third-party candidate or a successful write-in candidate, Welsh will be the district attorney in January 2020.

The question about a location for the new district attorney was raised at a recent meeting of the Clarion County Commissioners before the election. The current building is rented by the county from Aaron at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street. Clarion County is required to provide space for the office or to rent appropriate facilities. Many years ago, the district attorney had an office in the Clarion County Courthouse.

“An office is a big question, and I would like to sit down to talk about it with the commissioners if they have any thoughts about it,” continued Welsh.

“We’re packed up with space we now have—–and I don’t see where there’s the space at the courthouse.  You have to include the attorneys, support staff, victim’s services, and we also have the drug task force operating out of this building, and that’s kind of a 24 hour a day thing. They do investigations and bring in people at one o’clock in the morning. They have an evidence room that’s locked.  

“Where do you find the space for all that is kind of a big question.”

Since Mark Aaron did not win the judge election, there may still be a question if there would be a conflict of interest in renting the building, even if Aaron has a private practice.

“At this point, I don’t know who I would select for assistant district attorney. As I see it, I would like to bring in somebody who is just out of law school or someone who is local.  We’ll have to establish a budget, and that’s something that happens later.

Asked about rumors he would just select Aaron as an assistant, Welsh said “no,” unless it was just a short-term transitional appointment.

“I never intended for this to be like Freaky Friday (where the two would just change positions).

“I look back at when I started in 2010 and Dave Speer said he was going to retire, and they brought me in and Dave and I were working at the same time.

“Depending on who would be appointed and their experience, I could see the potential for Mark staying for few months to transition that person, especially if it was someone just out of law school and there was a need to get them up to speed. If it’s a local criminal lawyer, there may be a conflict and unable to work on cases that they already defended. I cannot perceive the appointment of Mark to be a permanent thing. I’d like to keep the office at two attorneys. I intend to cast the widest possible net for the position. It’s a matter of what’s best for the office.”

Some of the brainstorming thoughts about the direction of programs include the following:

  • CNET, Clarion County Drug Task Force: “I want to keep that going. We have really high-quality investigations, and they’ve been working closely with the state police. I’m coming here on Friday morning and Bill Peck and someone from the state police will be upstairs in their office and tell me the whole situation of what’s happening at that time. They’ve been working on fentanyl and whatever’s coming into the county, and I want to keep that going for sure.”
  • Child Abuse: “I had talked about child abuse and the multi-disciplinary team that we had started in dealing with child abuse cases. We made great progress with that, and there is still some work that needs to be done as far as procedure and trying to get everyone on the same page as far as steps to follow on child abuse cases.”
  • Elder Abuse: “We made a stab a few years ago of starting an Elder Abuse Task Force, and I still see a need for something like that. I get the feeling that there is a lot of elder abuse going on that is not being addressed in the criminal system, and I think it should be.
  • Communications: “The other thing is that when I was going door-to-door campaigning, there seemed to be a lot of people who didn’t seem to know what exactly the DA does and the court system. To some degree, I would like to get out there and having a public town hall type meetings and updates maybe twice a year in different parts of the county and say what the DA office has done in the last six months. I could also ask if the public has any concerns about what is happening in their area and what needs to be addressed. I want to hear from the community about what their concerns are.”

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