Judge Trouten sworn in; clerk of courts post to be filled

TROUTEN

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — David Trouten stepped down as Belmont County Clerk of Courts and was sworn in as Belmont County Eastern District Court judge Friday, having won the seat on the bench in the Nov. 6 election.

Trouten was sworn in during a Columbus meeting of the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association by Teresa A. Dankovic, clerk of courts of Guernsey County. Trouten said he looks forward to doing what he can to oppose the drug epidemic from the bench and to reaching out to area youth about the consequences of crime.

“I’m excited to get started. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I think I can make a difference,” he said.

On Friday morning, the Belmont County Board of Commissioners convened briefly to swear in Trouten’s temporary replacement, Karen Hill, chief deputy at the Title Department with more than 20 years of experience at the office. She will serve as interim clerk until the Belmont County Republican Party meets to appoint a new clerk of courts to finish Trouten’s term, which runs until 2020.

Belmont County GOP Chairman David Jones said the party will convene a special meeting, most likely on Dec. 18.

Trouten took office in January 2017. He reflected on his work as clerk of courts, adding that he believes he is leaving the department in a good situation. He credited the staff.

“I came in with a good staff, so that was a blessing. I had a good staff in both offices, Title and Legal, and that made my job a lot easier,” he said.

“We have done a lot of things to make the office more friendly for the public,” he said. “We’ve modernized with a few things.”

The office now accepts credit cards. It also charges for copying documents.

“A lot of people were coming in to do oil and gas research. They were copying stuff and they weren’t paying fees for it,” he said.

A more recent development in the last two months was streamlining the CourtView system so that the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department can more easily access files.

“The public view online is a little more restrictive. We made it so they could get full access to that to make their job a lot easier,” Trouten said, adding that his office worked with the company that provides the CourtView service. “Once we got it lined up so that our computer people, our tech people and (theirs) were on the same page, it wasn’t that hard to do. It was just a matter of talking to the right folks.”

He and his staff also coped during the aftermath of a fire May 2017 at the Northern and Eastern Division county court building in Bellaire.

“It resulted in us having to shut down the Bellaire office for awhile, but we got back in there as soon as we could and we made do,” he said. “We got that back up and running.”

He has also finalized the plans for a new Title Office, to be located in the former headquarters of The Health Plan east of St. Clairsville. Trouten said the public and staff will find it an improvement.

“It’s going to be a great facility,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we set up. … The layout in the current place is not friendly for our workers. We’re jammed in there. The window itself is not worker-friendly or consumer-friendly. … There’s going to be a nice little waiting area for consumers to come in. We’re going to have at least seven windows.”

He said the site will feature better parking and more space for consumers, as well as room for expansion if the county operations continue to grow.

Trouten has been the recipient of the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association Educational Award twice. He was also the chairman of the Third District of the association.

He said another ongoing project is to automate the system of calling potential jurors for trials rather than the current method of manually making calls, then often making follow-up calls if the trial is continued or made unnecessary by a plea agreement.

“That’s a lot of manpower getting wasted making phone calls, and a lot of times it’s canceled at the last minute,” Trouten said. “We’re trying to update that and make it compatible with modern technology.”

Trouten added that he recently wrote a Supreme Court Technology Grant application for about $65,000, with the recipient to be announced in February. This would cover the set-up fee, with the clerk’s budget covering the smaller yearly usage fee.

“I’m pretty confident we’re going to get it,” he said. “We’ll be able to contact them by text and email. It’s a much better system.”

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