The case against Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings will not likely go to the June session of the Highland County Grand Jury on Tuesday, based on interviews with multiple sources.
If Tuesday’s monthly grand jury meeting comes and goes without evidence in the Hastings case being presented, it’s likely another month will go by before the case is brought before the panel. The investigation began last December and is believed to be complete.
Anneka Collins, the Highland County prosecutor who convenes the grand jury and presents evidence in most cases, said Friday that no one involved in the Hastings investigation has requested time in front of the grand jury on Tuesday. Collins stepped aside from the case earlier this year, and Judge Rocky Coss appointed Robert F. Smith of the office of state auditor Dave Yost as a special prosecutor.
Sources speaking on background said the investigation concluded a few weeks ago and the evidence is being reviewed. However, they indicated the belief that Smith is unlikely to be ready to proceed by Tuesday.
Contacted Friday, a spokesman for the auditor’s office, Dominic Binkley, said there were “no updates,” and the office “can’t confirm or deny anything about the investigation.”
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, whose office has assisted the auditor’s office in the probe, said this week that he is unaware of any movement in the Hastings case.
Hastings’ attorney, James Boulger of Chillicothe, said Friday, “We just have to wait, wait, wait.” He said the case “does not seem on its face to be all that complicated.” But he said that in his experience with state offices, they often take longer than local agencies to act.
“But it keeps the pot stirring, and keeps people on edge,” said Boulger.
The latest public development came in April when a warrant was issued to confiscate the home computers of Debbie Sansone, Hastings’ administrative assistant. Affidavits filed with that warrant indicated that Sansone had also become a subject of the investigation.
Affidavits have indicated that investigators are exploring issues involving a $500 rebate Hastings received for a vacant property fee he had paid. The refund was allegedly authorized using the stamped signature of Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin without his consent. Other claims are that Hastings had used a city dumpster for personal items and that he had asked a witness to “lie” about the use of the dumpster.
In early February, investigators conducted a late-night raid of the mayor’s city residence in order to look for proof of residency, according to an affidavit. After ordering Hastings’ visiting father-in-law out of the house, they documented items of personal clothing, appliances, furniture and a child’s toys, along with describing a comparison of water usage at various locations listed as Hastings’ residences.
The criminal investigation kicked off just a couple of hours after a civil case was filed in December against Hastings by five Hillsboro residents on the $500 rebate. The civil case was dismissed in January based on technical issues.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.