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Prosecutor reprimanded following 6 On Your Side investigation

Athens County Prosecutor J. Keller Blackburn was reprimanded by the state for spending habits involving public money. (WSYX/WTTE)

Auditor of State Dave Yost called the Athens County prosecutor to Columbus and reprimanded him following a 6 On Your Side investigation.

Yost released the results of a special state review of Keller Blackburn's Furtherance of Justice account Friday and outlined changes to how Ohio prosecutors and sheriffs are trained on ethics and appropriate use of taxpayer money.

ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates reviewed thousands of records in the Furtherance of Justice Fund for several counties. It’s an outside bank account used by Ohio prosecutors and sheriffs meant for crime fighting, investigations and continuing education. However, it was uncovered that didn’t always appear to happen.

The spotlight was turned on Blackburn questioning how tax dollars were being spent upon records showing lavish meals, extended trips and conference expenses with no evidence of continuing legal education credits submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court.

After the initial report, Yost launched a review of Blackburn's bank accounts.

Eight months later, Yost just determined the expenses are technically legal.

“Bottom line is I did not find anything that violated the law, but I was really bothered by the judgment that I saw,” Yost said. “I called Prosecutor Blackburn up to Columbus for a meeting and we took a trip out back to the woodshed.”

Auditor Yost said while loose rules don’t make it illegal, it’s important to gain the public’s trust and act responsibly.

“He promised me not only did he regret the decision-making he had done but that he would do better,” Yost explained. “He told me he pays for his own meals when he goes out now.”

Since the initial ABC 6 reports, the Auditor of State’s Office has revamped and expanded training for prosecutors and sheriffs on proper and appropriate use of the Furtherance of Justice Fund and other outside bank accounts containing taxpayer money.

“Even when there’s maybe not a legal remedy, the sunlight of publicity often brings the good outcome we want to see,” Yost said.

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