Updated with Drew Hastings’ comments.
The former director of the Highland County Travel and Tourism Bureau who is facing obscenity charges waived his preliminary hearing on Thursday, and acting Judge Jeff Lyle ordered the case bound over to the grand jury.
Bob Lambert, 62, Hillsboro, appeared in Hillsboro Municipal Court with his court-appointed attorney, J.D. Wagoner, who told the court that Lambert had agreed to waive Thursday’s hearing and allow the case to proceed directly to the grand jury in Highland County Common Pleas Court.
Lyle asked Lambert if he understood the charges against him and if he agreed with waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.
“Yes,” Lambert replied.
Lambert’s $50,000 bond was continued.
Lambert was arrested Aug. 9 after the Hillsboro Police Department executed a search warrant at his home. He is charged with Illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, a second degree felony, and pandering obscenity with a minor, a fifth degree felony.
The Times-Gazette learned last week that the charges came about after a family member approached police with concerns about Lambert’s alleged association with a 16-year-old relative. Police interviewed the teen, contacted Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins around 3:30 a.m. on the 9th, and then carried out the search warrant and arrest.
Police say that numerous items confiscated in the search of Lambert’s property have been turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for analysis.
In addition to serving as director of the tourism bureau – a position from which he was immediately fired following his arrest – Lambert had also served as a member of the Hillsboro Planning Commission and the Hillsboro Civil Service Board. He had resigned both posts effective July 1 in letters dated June 23.
But Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings did not immediately accept the resignations or notify the boards, asking Lambert to continue serving. Lambert attended the July meeting of the planning commission.
After officials, including Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin, learned about Lambert’s resignation when it was mentioned in a Times-Gazette story following Lambert’s arrest, Fred Beery, the city law director, was asked to issue an opinion about whether Lambert’s participation in the July planning commission meeting was appropriate.
Beery issued a written opinion stating that Lambert’s resignation became effective on the July 1 date he had indicated in his letter. He said any substantial action taken by the planning commission after that date in which Lambert was involved would be void, although minor items such as seconding a motion to adjourn would not be problematic.
Beery said Thursday that it’s a “common misconception” that resignations are not effective if they are not accepted. He said a resignation either has to be withdrawn, or the person should be reappointed.
Beery said the mayor said he did not accept the resignation because he felt Lambert was knowledgeable about important issues with which the commission is currently dealing.
Wilkin said Thursday that at its August meeting this week, the commission needed to re-approve the minutes of the June meeting, since Lambert had been part of their approval at the July meeting.
Wilkin said “it’s unfortunate” that commission members had to learn of Lambert’s resignation in the newspaper.
Hastings said Thursday afternoon, “I had already spoken with most planning commission members regarding this, and I think most would agree that someone is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.
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