Thursday, March 08, 2001

Prosecutor appointed


Retirement case in Lebanon investigated

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Warren County judge Wednesday appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether three former Lebanon city employees improperly took early retirement. Patrick Hanley, a former federal assistant prosecutor, was chosen by Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson to investigate findings recently released by the Ohio Ethics Commission. The commission found probable cause the employees may have violated state law.

        Warren County Prosecutor Tim Oliver would not comment about possible criminal charges or the ethics commission's report, which he received Friday.

        Mr. Oliver said he requested the special prosecutor because of personal conflicts. One of the former employees is a fellow member of the Warren County Bar Association and another has family members who worked closely with his son on a contract with the city.

        The action comes more than a year after the controversy erupted over the three officials taking early retirements meant for electric department employees.

        The buyouts, which totaled $486,416 in city money, were completed without City Council's knowledge, council members said.

        The Public Employees Retirement System has returned the payments made on behalf of two of the employees — retired City Attorney Bill Duning and retired City Auditor Debbie Biggs. Mr. Duning voluntarily gave up claim to the money; Mrs. Biggs has sued to get hers reinstated.

        But PERS has refused to return $169,549 paid on behalf of the third retiree, former electric department Director Bob Newton.

        The city recently sued Mr. Newton, claiming:

        • City Council did not authorize renewal of the buyout program after it expired at the end of 1997.

        • The buyout was part of a contract with union members in Lebanon's electric department. Mr. Newton was not a union member.

       



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