The Montgomery County Clerk of Courts race features two candidates with last names long associated with local politics. But neither is the Foley nor Joseph that local voters have put into office before.
Democrat Russ Joseph charges Mike Foley the Republican is misleading the public.
“He’s trying to pretend — deceive people — that he’s Dan Foley, which is obviously not true,” said Russ Joseph.
“I can’t do anything about my last name,” Foley countered. “I could allege the same, of course. But I’d rather stay above negative politics.”
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Mike Foley is not related to Democrat Dan Foley, a current longtime county commissioner currently running for a statehouse seat. Democrat Russ Joseph is in his first campaign for public office, while his brother, Matt Joseph, has been on the ballot multiple times and won terms on the Dayton City Commission.
The clerk of courts candidate Foley said he would rather “stick to how we differ and why I’m a better candidate and not go back and forth about trivial matters.”
Foley said his background as a 12-year Bureau of Motor Vehicles deputy registrar that worked closely with the court clerk and his current ownership of multiple small businesses, among them four tax and accounting offices including one in Fairborn, make him the better candidate.
“My experience in both government and small business operations is what dramatically sets me apart from somebody that’s worked strictly in government all his life,” Foley said.
Joseph said his more than a decade as chief deputy clerk of the Dayton Municipal Court provided him the experience to lead the county’s courts.
“I gained invaluable experience in court administration and budget development. During that time, I became a Certified Court Manger through the Ohio Supreme Court and the National Center for State Courts,” he said.
The county clerk’s office is responsible for receiving and maintaining legal documents for Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Court, two county municipal courts, the state’s Second District Court of Appeals and five auto title offices. The clerk oversees a budget of about $7.7 million and a staff of about 100 employees.
Joseph was named by Democrats to the office last November to replace Greg Brush, who retired and took a job with Hamilton County. A state law required an election this year to fill out the final two years of Brush’s term that would have ended in 2020.
Both candidates said the office would gain improved technology and the public better access to records under their watch and faster, more secure filing for those using the courts.
“One of the most important duties of the clerk is ensuring that every case filed in our courts is handled with the care and consideration that we would give our own case,” Joseph said. “People generally do not look forward to visiting us in the courthouse, but it is our job to ensure that their case is handled carefully and efficiently.”
Foley said while technology has been upgraded over time, the clerk’s office still falls short in providing access and services to the various courts through a unified filing and records system.
“I’d like to have one central location all the courts in the county can be accessed to search public records.” Foley said, pointing specifically at the lack of Domestic Relations Court. “Time is money and, technology offers countless opportunities to maximize efficiency, thus saving taxpayers money.”
Joseph, a Dayton resident, said he too would expand electronic filing to the Domestic Relations Court as well as adopt new online chat-bot technology to assist customers after business hours.
“The Montgomery County Clerk of Courts runs efficiently and effectively. Our Auto Title Division is operating so efficiently that we have saved the county $1 million a year,” Joseph said. “Our office will continue to make customer service and accessibility a priority.”
Foley, an Oakwood resident, ran unsuccessfully against Brush in 2012 for the same office and was similarly accused then of trading off his last name. But this year, Foley said the accusations are worse: Joseph aired an ad and posted online that Foley “owes thousands to the Montgomery County Child Support Agency,” attaching a Montgomery County Common Pleas court filing from September.
Foley, divorced with custody of a 13-year-old daughter, said Joseph “resorted to incivility and dirty campaign tactics” by attacking his family.
“I’m deeply saddened that Russ Joseph has decided to come after my family with his lies and accusations,” Foley said. “I not only don’t owe any child support, but actually receive child support from my ex-wife after I was awarded full custody of my daughter two years ago.”
The court filing showed that as of March, Foley was behind $2,765.30 in certain payments he says were not direct child support but involved a temporary order for spousal support. Foley circulated a document on Oct. 23 he said was generated on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, office of Child Support, customer service portal that showed his balance as zero.
Joseph said this week “it’s clear as day” Foley owes thousands of dollars in back support.
“This coming Tuesday people will have the opportunity to elect the new clerk of courts, and I hope they take time to look into it and see what kind of a candidate they really want representing them,” Joseph said.
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