State Rep. Wes Retherford was once ordered to remove liquor cabinet from office

32-year-old charged with felony Sunday
Posted at 10:30 AM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 13:17:10-04

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford was under fire for alcohol-related issues before his arrest Sunday on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence and improperly handling firearms.

In 2015, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger ordered Retherford, R-Hamilton, 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.

Retherford was arrested Sunday morning after he appeared to be passed out behind the wheel at a McDonald's drive-thru, according to the Butler County Sheriff's Office.

He was booked into the Butler County Jail on one count of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, a felony, and one count of operating a vehicle under the influence, a misdemeanor, according to the Butler County Jail's website.

The county's Communications Center got a call that a man "appeared to be passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle in the McDonald's drive-thru located at 5500 Liberty Square Drive, Liberty Township," a news release from the sheriff's office said.

Deputies also found a loaded firearm in the vehicle's seat, the sheriff's office said.

WCPO has left telephone messages with Retherford seeking comment on his arrest.

The 32-year-old was video arraigned at 10 a.m. Monday. He held his face down during the arraignment.

Bond was set at $2,500 for the weapons charge. Retherford can pay 10 percent ($250) plus court costs to get out of jail.

Retherford represents Ohio's 51st District, which includes the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield, Ross Township, and parts of Fairfield, Hanover and St. Clair townships. He was first elected to the office in 2012.

"While it is wise to be patient and allow the legal process to work itself through, our Party is obviously disappointed at the first reports concerning State Representative Wes Retherford's actions early this morning," Butler County Republican Party chairman Todd Hall said in a statement. "The Butler County Republican Party rightfully holds our officeholders to high standards. We are proud to have a tremendous and highly respected group of elected Republican leaders. Strong ethical and moral conduct is imperative to our Party as it is to the public. As all of the details regarding last night's incident come to light, they will be examined and considered accordingly."

The county party endorsed former state Rep. Courtney Combs over the incumbent Retherford in the most recent primary; Combs had held the office until the end of 2012, when he had to leave because of term limits.