Local lawmaker steps away from legislative session, committees after OVI charge

Local lawmaker steps away from legislative session, committees after OVI charge
Posted at 11:43 AM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 12:38:28-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The local lawmaker charged with drunk driving over the weekend said he will step away from the Ohio Statehouse, committee hearings and legislative session for the rest of the week.

Rep. Wes Retherford -- who represents Hamilton, Fairfield and Ross Township in the Ohio House of Representatives -- said he will "be absent from session and all committee hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives for the remainder of the week."

"Out of respect for my family, I humbly ask for space and privacy as we move forward on this personal matter," Retherford said in a news release.

Retherford, 32, was arrested early Sunday morning after he appeared to be passed out behind the wheel at a McDonald's drive-thru.

A deputy stopped performing a field sobriety test on Retherford after the lawmaker "nearly fell over," according to an incident report released Monday.

A 911 caller reported seeing a man passed out in the driver's seat of a running Silverado at 3:23 a.m.

"He's not even up to where he orders," the caller told an emergency dispatcher. "He's just sitting there."

Deputies sent to the scene found Retherford in the truck. His breath smelled of an alcoholic beverage, his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot, the arresting deputy wrote in an incident report. Retherford also had a difficult time standing and appeared confused, the deputy wrote.

The deputy then arrested Retherford, who said he also had a pistol in the truck. The deputy found the Glock 23 in a holder with 15 rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber, according to the report.

Authorities drove Retherford to Ohio Stater Patrol Post 9 for a blood alcohol content test, but he refused the test. Then he was driven to the Butler County Jail and charged with improperly handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle while intoxicated and OVI.

Retherford has represented Ohio's 51st District since 2012.

In 2015, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger ordered Retherford to remove a liquor cabinet he was keeping in his office.

Retherford, 32, told WCPO's news partner, 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.

The incident became fodder for Retherford’s opponent during the March 2016 primary election.

Former state lawmaker Courtney Combs, who was challenging Retherford in the Republican primary, pounced on the incident, accusing Retherford of turning his district office into a frat house and coining the hashtag #StatehouseNotFratHouse in a Twitter battle with Retherford.

Ohio House rules prohibit the possession or consumption of alcohol in the Statehouse, a spokesman for Rosenberger told the Journal-News in 2016.

Retherford said he had kept two bottles of unopened wine from Hanover Winery in the liquor cabinet in an attempt to have it sold at the Statehouse Museum Shop. He also said he had kept an unopened bottle of bourbon that was a Christmas gift given to him and bottles of Hamilton water in the liquor cabinet.