Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited resigned Monday, writing that his resignation would be effective Friday and adding, “I can no longer in good conscious (sic) work with the mayor.”
In a separate email to city council members, Whited blasted Mayor Drew Hastings on the issues that comprised the charges on which the mayor was acquitted at his recent trial, criticized the firing of Todd Wilkin as safety and service director, linked Hastings to a former county tourism official who has been indicted on child pornography charges, ripped a plan to tear down a building to create more parking, and criticized city council for allowing “Drew to commit his acts of malfeasance.”
Hastings said Monday that Whited’s resignation was not a surprise.
“Chief Whited made it clear a year ago that he wanted to force me out of office,” said Hastings. “When the civil case that he started against me was dismissed, and after I was acquitted at trial, I guess he realized his personal crusade against me had failed. I wish him the best.”
Hastings was referring to Whited’s testimony at trial, when the chief acknowledged that he had asked Law Director Fred Beery in December 2015 how to remove the mayor from office.
At the time, Beery did not identify Whited as the person who asked the question, saying only that it came from “the law enforcement community.”
Beery said at the time that he explained that a civil case charging malfeasance could be filed against the mayor by residents of Hillsboro, and a short time later such a case was filed based on a $500 vacant property rebate the mayor had received. The case was dismissed by Judge Kevin Greer because of an Ohio Supreme Court precedent based on when the alleged act occurred.
At the time, Whited wrote a letter dated Dec. 16, 2015, outlining allegations of Hastings using the city dumpster and receiving the $500 rebate. The letter, addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” concluded, “I believe that it would be detrimental to any investigation of criminal activities if the mayor stays in office.”
In his resignation Monday, Whited wrote, “It is truly sad that he does not have the integrity to understand that what he did was wrong. We as law enforcement must report wrongdoing and investigate such. We were doing our job. In fact we should not have been put in such a position to have to investigate our own boss.”
But Whited testified at Hastings’ trial that he turned the investigation over to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office last December because it would have been a conflict of interest for HPD to conduct the investigation. However, investigative notes kept by sheriff detectives indicate that HPD continued to carry out its own investigation.
On Jan. 5 – three weeks after Whited said he had handed off the case – the sheriff’s office found out that HPD had filed a charge of obstructing official business against Hastings in municipal court. The charge was based on a statement from a private contractor who did work for the mayor. Since the sheriff’s detectives hoped to record a conversation between the contractor and the mayor, sheriff detectives were concerned, according to their notes.
When he found out about the charge Hillsboro police had filed, Sheriff Det. Chris Bowen wrote in his notes, “The position of the Highland County Sheriff’s Office at this time was that a witness in this case now would be jeopardized and our office may not get any use of this witness once Mayor Hastings found out the charges were filed.”
After some calls from sheriff investigators to HPD, as well as to local media asking them not to report the charge that was filed, Judge David McKenna was contacted and agreed to dismiss the charge. A clerk came to the office after business hours to take the charge down from the website, according to investigators’ notes.
The next day, on Jan. 6, Bowen wrote in his notes, “Chief Whited sent me a text and wanted to know if I had any updates… Again, I advised Chief Whited I would let him know something as soon as I knew.”
In another instance, the sheriff’s office learned that Hastings had met someone for coffee at Holtfield Station on Jan. 6, and on Jan. 10 they went to Holtfield asking to see video store surveillance from that date.
When they arrived, the store manager told them that a Hillsboro police officer had already been there three days earlier, on Jan. 7, and had viewed the same video. Sheriff’s detectives were then shown a video of the HPD officer viewing the Hastings video, according to notes from the investigation.
After a seven-month investigation, a grand jury eventually indicted Hastings on four felony charges. At trial, charges related to the dumpster use and the $500 refund were dismissed after Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove ruled that the state had not offered enough evidence to go to a jury. The jury acquitted Hastings on the remaining charges, one related to his residency, and another also related to the dumpster use.
Hastings said Monday, “It was obvious that this had become very personal for Chief Whited, and it’s not good when a police investigation is carried out for personal reasons.”
Whited did not return a message seeking comment Monday.
In his email to council members on Monday, Whited blasted Hastings and others on several points, writing, “Is it appropriate to have someone who forged a document and admitted to it as the records clerk for city council?” There was no finding at trial that a document had been forged.
Whited’s email to council makes several complaints, not only related to law enforcement but to other issues:
• Whited writes that Hillsboro needs a “strong leader,” and adds, “If Drew had any integrity he would have resigned as the mayor once he was indicted. Look at what his actions have done to the image of the city.”
• The chief writes that the “invalid refund” and “admitted use of city dumpster” constitute malfeasance, and adds, “How about the backdated certificate of appropriateness? Probably didn’t know about that one. It happened this past June. If you want to know about it come see me.” No charges have been filed related to a backdated certificate.
• “You all know how I feel about the money for the Armintrout building,” Whited writes, adding that if the building was torn down it would leave only property owned by Hastings on the block.
• Whited complains about the firing of Wilkin, writing that Wilkin “accomplished all these projects you see going on around the city,” and adding that the dismissal came “two weeks after Mr. Wilkin testified that his signature was forged.”
• Whited writes, “How many people really know Drew? He has only been here for approximately 10 years. Drew has been friends with Bob Lambert for a very long time. They came here from California together. Do you really think Drew didn’t know about Bob’s crimes?” Lambert was arrested by HPD earlier this year on child pornography charges, and is awaiting trial in federal court.
Whited was appointed by Hastings as police chief in February 2014 after serving as interim chief since the previous November, after the retirement of longtime chief Nick Thompson. At the time, Whited had 15 years of law enforcement experience, the previous eight with the Hillsboro Police Department and seven before that with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office.
Whited concluded his letter of resignation by saying, “In closing I want to thank the community for the opportunity to serve you for the last 18 years.”
Hastings said Monday that he would appoint an interim chief, and said HPD would “continue to deliver the level of service Hillsboro residents have come to expect.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.