Butler County GOP asks Wes Retherford to resign

HAMILTON, Ohio -- The Butler County Republican Party is asking Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford to resign, just days after police said he was arrested passed out drunk in a McDonald's drive-thru with a loaded firearm in his truck.

Retherford is facing drunken driving and weapons charges.

The GOP is asking for Retherford's resignation not only based on his recent arrest, but also because of his past history of traffic violations, Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall told the Journal-News in an exclusive interview.

The Journal-News also reported Tuesday that Retherford has racked up traffic tickets across the state and got into seven car accidents, beginning shortly after he got his driver's license in 2000, according to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records.

"Wes has proven himself unreliable and unfit to serve the fine people of his district. His actions and behavior are unacceptable," Hall said. "Now, he has been charged with a felony. His constituents deserve better, and our party deserves better. I call on Wes to resign immediately to allow the Republican Party and Statehouse (Republican) Caucus to appoint a reliable and strong party member to fulfill the remaining term and be a longstanding servant to the 51st District."

Retherford issued a statement Wednesday that he will be absent this week from session and committee hearings, and requested "space and privacy" for himself and his family "as we move forward on this personal matter."

The party attempted to make a change in last March's primary when it endorsed former state lawmaker Courtney Combs over Retherford.

"Many in the party heard the rumors, saw the behavior, and felt that Wes was not deserving of the public trust," Hall said of that endorsement. "Too many times, Wes was ready to ‘hang out' after an official function, and too often gossip swirled about his after-hours behavior."

Retherford was at the Butler County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner in Fairfield on Saturday night, and was heard telling others in attendance he was going to a bar after the event.

In 2015, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger ordered Retherford to remove a liquor cabinet he was keeping in his office. Retherford told the Journal-News he bought the cabinet from a former legislator and was only storing it in his office until he had a chance to take it to his home.

Combs took pounced on the incident, accusing Retherford of turning his district office into a frat house and using the hashtag #StatehouseNotFratHouse in Twitter posts.

Ohio House rules prohibit the possession or consumption of alcohol in the Statehouse, according to Rosenberger's office. Retherford said he had kept two unopened bottles of wine from Hanover Winery in the liquor cabinet in an attempt to have it sold at the Statehouse Museum Shop. He also said he kept in the liquor cabinet an unopened bottle of bourbon that was a Christmas gift and bottles of Hamilton water.

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro agrees with Hall that Retherford should resign, but said, "We can't help but notice the opportunism by the very same Republicans to do what they utterly failed to achieve in last year's primary by using a process they control from the prosecutor's office down to the sheriff."

The Journal-News is a news partner of WCPO.

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