A group protesting the ongoing investigation of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings gathered at the Highland County Courthouse around noon on Saturday.
The 15 or so demonstrators held signs and expressed their support for Hastings as traffic passed by, with many motorists honking horns in support of the demonstration.
The event was organized by James Pearce, an adjunct assistant professor at Southern State Community College, who placed a post on his Facebook page announcing the protest. On Saturday, Pearce said the investigation of the mayor is “absolutely outrageous.”
“I’ve never seen such a groundless waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Pearce, as he and others held signs saying things like, “Enough Already” and “We Support Our Mayor – Stop Dirty Politics.”
Pearce said the events surrounding Hastings remind him of Sayre’s Law, which states, “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” Pearce paraphrased it, “The less there is at stake, the more vicious the infighting.”
Separately, another individual, Kay Stamper, purchased an advertisement last week in The Times-Gazette encouraging people to contact her to show their support for the mayor. The ad said, “We need a petition signed by the people and sent to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost. I will stand in the cold for our rights & for the mayor’s rights.”
Hastings has been the subject of a criminal investigation since mid-December. A civil complaint filed by five Hillsboro residents and based on some of the same allegations in the criminal investigation was dismissed in January.
In the criminal probe, special prosecutors have been appointed from the office of State Auditor Dave Yost and the Ohio Ethics Commission.
Allegations have ranged from dumping personal items into a city dumpster to improperly receiving a rebate of a $500 vacant property fee Hastings paid, to “election falsification” based on investigators probing his residency.
Part of determining his residency was based on measuring whether he uses more water at his Hillsboro residence compared to a farmhouse he owns outside of town, according to an affidavit.
Various search warrants and subpoenas have been served. On Feb. 4, a nighttime search warrant was served at Hastings’ Hillsboro residence, which led investigators to order the mayor’s visiting father-in-law out of the home so they could photograph and document clothing, appliances and children’s toys, according to an affidavit and evidence receipt.
The affidavit said investigators are probing allegations that could lead to charges of theft in office, tampering with evidence, election falsification and obstructing official business.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.