When Belmont County voters go to the polls Nov. 6, they may not know whether Matt Coffland, a candidate for re-election as county commissioner, is about to be convicted of a felony. It is not fair to Coffland - but more importantly, it is not a desirable situation for voters.
Coffland was arrested July 20 at Jamboree In The Hills. He is accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer. Specifically an Ohio Bureau of Liquor Control officer says Coffland threw a full can or bottle at him. That is a fourth-degree felony under state law.
The OBLC and Coffland were not on good terms before that alleged incident.
Earlier this year, bureau agents went to the Coffland family's Tiger Pub in Shadyside just before 2 a.m. one night. Agents have accused Coffland and his son of alerting pub customers to the presence of OBLC officers, then announcing the bar would close early in attempts to hinder agents in their work.
Clearly, the assault charge is the most serious accusation facing Commissioner Coffland. Court proceedings in that case have begun.
Last week, a tentative trial date of Nov. 7 - the day after the general election - was set.
Coffland's attorney is asking a trial be held before the election. It will be up to the court system to deal with that request.
Defendants in criminal cases are assured of the speediest resolution of their cases possible. Any number of complications can hinder the process, however. It may not be possible to hold Coffland's trial before the election.
Again, however, it would not be fair to voters for them to have to wonder on Nov. 6 whether Coffland is a criminal. If at all possible, his trial should be scheduled in time for the matter to be resolved before the election.