Thursday, March 22, 2001

Husband of ex-auditor faces charges

Verbal threats alleged in retirements probe

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The husband of former Lebanon Auditor Debbie Biggs faces a misdemeanor charge, accused of making a verbal threat involving the criminal probe into early retirements of his wife and two other city workers.

        Walter Biggs, second in command in the city's telecommunications department, pleaded not guilty when he appeared for arraignment this week in Lebanon Municipal Court to a charge of inducing panic.

        Mr. Biggs, 54, is free on his promise to return for future court hearings, but Judge Mark Bogen barred him from city property and from having any contact with city employees. He is on paid leave from his job.

        Mr. Biggs turned himself over to authorities Monday after learning that he was being charged.

        City officials, including Mark Yurick, the city attorney and a target of the alleged threat, would not discuss details of the incident.

        Mr. Biggs' supervisor, James Baldwin, said only, “It's just a tremendously tragic situation for all involved. Our prayers are all with Walt.”

        According to court documents, the incident occurred March 7, the same day a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing involving nearly $486,416 in retirement buyouts issued to Mrs. Biggs, former City Attorney Bill Duning and former Electric Department Director Bob Newton.

        The Ohio Ethics Commission recently referred its findings in the case for possible prosecution.

        City officials alleged that the three improperly took early retirements meant for electric department employees, and that the money was taken without council's knowledge.

        The Public Employees Retirement System has returned the payments made on behalf of Mr. Duning, who voluntarily reimbursed the city, and for Mrs. Biggs.

        She has sued the city to have her retirement reinstated.


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