It took the city years before it learned when Joe Yost wants to make a deal chances are the only person who will benefit is Joe Yost.
Yost's housing development on the Sandusky's west side off Venice Road -- Cold Creek Crossing -- never became what city officials and Yost envisioned, and he walked away.
Yost bought the old American Crayon building on Hayes Avenue at the subway but never redeveloped it, and then he walked away.
He bought Hopper's, the mobile home park at Tiffin Avenue and Venice Road, let if deteriorate for years, and then walked away.
Now he hopes to walk away from a felony theft charge filed after the city shut off the water at Hopper's because Yost failed to pay the water bill there, for years, even though he'd been colleting water payments from tenants in addition to rental fees and "purchase" payments for trailers with questionable titles.
And the attorney assigned to prosecute Yost wants to walk away with him.
"A mobile home park was bulldozed for $2,700? I'm not aware of that," special prosecutor Dean Holman said during a court hearing last week.
Yes, Dean, that's what appears to have happened, and not only were those residents of Hopper's victimized by Yost, so too were city taxpayers and every water customer. As the prosecutor, your job is to convict Yost, not defend him.
And you might have to take some time to carefully review the hard work the Sandusky Police Department did in preparing the evidence that was handed to you. They were willing to do that; your court appearance last week suggests you're not willing to follow through.
Estimates so far show Yost owes somewhere between $1.5 million to $2 million in back taxes, utility bills and who knows what else. Wherever there's a deal with Joe Yost, there's likely some unpaid money owed to some unhappy someone.
And that's likely just the beginning of the debt Yost will leave for others to pay, just as he left others to clean up and bulldoze the trailer park and the American Crayon building.
Tenants at Hopper's mobile home park know Joe Yost all too well, even though most never met him. Dozens of families were forced out of their homes last year after the city shut off the water to the trailer park.
Yost owed somewhere between $60,000 to $300,000 alone in unpaid water bills and penalties to the city for Hopper's, even though tenants paid him monthly fees and water bills for trailers he "sold" them. Many of those trailers were separately metered for water consumption with improper devices for measuring consumption.
The tenants say they paid, and Yost appears to have no record they didn't. Holman suggested during the court hearing Yost might agree to a plea deal as long as he avoids a prison sentence.
Holman should believe the tenants, and prosecute the case against Joe Yost rather than make a deal.
Sandusky police developed evidence that showed about $2,700 in receipts from some of those tenants showing they paid their water bills to Yost, but he never forwarded that money to the city. The fact that the other tenants didn't keep their receipts doesn't change the fact that Yost didn't pay the water bill he owed.
Holman should be advocating for the tenants and seeking a conviction on the charges presented to him. It's difficult to believe he doesn't understand that role, and if he doesn't want to do that he should get out of Dodge and let another prosecutor take the reigns of this case.
Advocate for the tenants and the residents of Sandusky, Mr. Prosecutor. They will be paying his bills for years to come. If you don't have time for this case, then resign from it.
If anyone of those tenants had pulled the same kind of shell game Yost appears to have played they'd likely be sent to the Big House in a forced plea deal in short order. It's easier to convict disadvantaged people than it is to convict people, like Yost, who live in nice homes in comfortable surroundings.