4th UPDATE: A complaint filed Wednesday afternoon in Highland County Probate Court alleges that Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings is guilty of malfeasance.
And Wednesday night, a search warrant was issued at the city building, according to numerous sources, indicating a possible criminal investigation.
The civil complaint filed Wednesday afternoon alleges that an “investigation revealed that (Hastings) recovered a deposit he paid to the city under the vacant building ordinance by preparing and submitting a letter to the city auditor utilizing the signature stamp of the city safety and service director without lawful authority and without being entitled to the refund.”
The complaint was filed by Craig Jackson, a city employee, along with Ariana Jackson, Lisa Leeth, former city administrative assistant Kirby Ellison and former Hillsboro Mayor Betty Bishop.
The complaint states that City Auditor Gary Lewis “issued the refund to (Hastings’) business, Firehouse Square Partners, pursuant to the false letter.”
Hastings said Wednesday that the allegations are “ludicrous.”
“This is absolutely a political witch hunt,” he said. “There is nothing to this charge. This is absolutely asinine.”
He said it was “more than coincidental” that the filing came from some of the people who attended a council meeting Monday to voice complaints over a Facebook post.
The filing included as an exhibit a copy of a letter dated June 24, 2015 that states it is to Lewis from Todd Wilkin, the safety and service director, reading, “Please issue a refund of the $500.00 Vacant Building Registration Fee paid in November 2014 for the property at 135 North High Street. The building is no longer considered to be a vacant building.”
The letter includes Wilkin’s stamped signature. But the implication of the suit may be that Wilkin did not authorize the signature. Wilkin could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon.
The building in question is the former county annex building, purchased by Hastings when the county put it up for bid. The attachment also includes a copy of the $500 check Hastings wrote in November 2014 to pay the fee.
The filing asks that city Law Director Fred Beery be appointed to pursue the complaint.
Probate Judge Kevin Greer said Wednesday that under the law, a civil complaint against an official such as the mayor is filed in probate court in the county in which the official presides. He said the law requires a hearing to be held within 10 days.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, either party in the case has the right to demand a jury trial. If found guilty, the penalty is removal from office.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.