April 25, 2014

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Long-time Ohio official Jim Petro retiring

COLUMBUS — Republican Jim Petro announced today that he’ll retire next year after a long career in public service that included 12 years as state auditor and attorney general.

Petro, 64, will step down in February after two years as state chancellor overseeing higher education in the state. He was appointed by Gov. John Kasich.

The move follows a series of health issues for Petro. It also comes days ahead of the Ohio Board of Regents’ relocation to Ohio Department of Education quarters in downtown Columbus, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 28. The move is aimed at fostering closer collaboration between Ohio’s education agencies.

A Republican from the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, Petro sought the governor’s seat in 2006 but lost a GOP primary among three sitting statewide officeholders.

He also served as a councilman, commissioner and state representative before being elected Ohio auditor in 1994. He served two terms as auditor before being elected attorney general in 2002.

In 2005, Petro became the first state attorney general in the nation to intervene for the use of DNA evidence on behalf of a wrongly convicted inmate. His work helped exonerate Clarence Elkins, a northeast Ohio man wrongly accused of rape and murder.

The experience prompted Petro and his wife, Nancy, to later write a book on the issue titled, “False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent.”

The Petros plan an international tour in retirement to discuss the book and the issue, which remains a passion.

Petro’s work on the Elkins case also helped prompt a 2006 rewrite of Ohio law allowing post-conviction DNA testing for some inmates, though the reforms barred ex-convicts and anyone who pleaded guilty from using the tool.

As chancellor, Petro has overseen the University System of Ohio, one of the nation’s largest higher education networks.