MORRISTOWN - Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland faces a charge of assault against a police officer following his Friday arrest by Ohio Division of Liquor Control agents while he attended Jamboree In The Hills.
Belmont County Sheriff's Deputy Bridget Allar confirmed late Friday that Coffland had been arrested while attending the concert. She said he also faces a charge of disorderly conduct.
Deputies booked Coffland into the Belmont County Jail late Friday, pending bond.
Earlier in the day, Coffland acknowledged that he and his son each face three charges brought by the liquor control agents based on incidents at his Tiger Pub bar in Shadyside last spring.
"The charges are from the liquor agency, but they are not criminal," Coffland said before his Friday arrest. "They are a violation on the permit. That's what they are. Nobody's going to jail."
Allar could not confirm whether Coffland's Friday arrest was related to the alleged activity at the Tiger Pub.
In his court case, Coffland is named in court documents as "Matthew D. Coffland," while his son is named as "Matthew B. Coffland." They are charged with the following:
-- Knowingly or recklessly hindering or obstructing an agent or employee of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control;
-- Knowingly - with purpose to hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of another for a crime - warning another person of impending discovery or apprehension; and
-- Knowingly and without privilege - with the purpose to prevent, obstruct or delay the performance by a public official of an authorized act - performing an act that hampered or impeded a public official in the performance of the public official's duties.
Coffland said the agents entered his Tiger Pub just before 2 a.m. April 1. He approached them and learned they were from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
He then announced to patrons who were still in the bar that agents were on the premises and that he was closing early.
"I decided we're done, we're closing in 20 minutes anyway," Coffland said. "I told the people there were agents there, we were closing early and to please exit. The agents then asked me, 'Why did you do that?' I told them it was time, we were closing up and going home."
Coffland said the agents informed him he had "placed them in jeopardy."
"If announcing they were in the building was wrong, I was wrong," Coffland said. "I didn't know of any law stopping me from saying they were there."
The time on the agents' report states the incident happened at 1:48 a.m., which is about 2 a.m. "in bar time," according to Coffland.
Clocks in the bar are set 10 minutes faster so that the bar closes well before the legally designated time of 2:30 a.m. Coffland said he serves the last drink in the bar at 2:10 a.m. "bar time," and asks that patrons leave within the next 10 minutes.
The Belmont County Prosecutor 's Office has recused itself from the case since the elder Coffland is a county commissioner. Attorney Thomas Hampton has been named special prosecutor.
The matter still will be heard in Belmont County Eastern Division Court, where Judge John Vavra also has recused himself. A Monroe County judge will be called in to hear the case, according to Hampton, who confirmed the charges.
Hampton said he could not discuss further facts in the case.
The Cofflands are set to appear in court for a pretrial conference at 10 a.m. July 31.
Coffland said it actually is unusual for him to work at the bar, and he instead delegates duties there to other family members.
"I am a full-time county commissioner," he noted. "My son and wife run the bar, and I help out on weekends. ... I am allowed to own my own business.
"I am a county commissioner every day - 365 days a year, 24 hours a day," he added. "I do go in at the Tiger Pub as a second set of eyes."
Coffland, a Democrat, is up for re-election in November and faces a challenge from two Independent candidates - Jerry Echemann and Doug Longenette. There is no Republican candidate in the race.