Friday, February 01, 2002

Former Lebanon city auditor cleared in buyout case

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Former City Auditor Debbie Biggs was acquitted Thursday of all charges related to an early retirement buyout she took from Lebanon two years ago.

        Visiting Judge George Elliott, who heard the Warren County Common Pleas Court case, rendered the same verdict last month in a similar case against retired City Attorney Bill Duning.

        “The conflicting testimony fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that council did not know,” Judge Elliott said in announcing his verdict Thursday.

        Mrs. Biggs was indicted in Julyon charges of theft in office, unlawful interest in a public contract and conflict of interest.

        If convicted, she would have faced up to five years in prison.

        In December 1999, Lebanon paid $486,000 extra toward the retirements of Mrs. Biggs, Mr. Duning and Electric Department Director Bob Newton through an electric department buyout program.

        When the buyouts came to light in January 2000, City Council members said they did not know that's what the money was for and questioned the eligibility of the three.

        Mrs. Biggs, 53, of Oregonia had no comment after the verdict, but her husband, former city employee Walter Biggs, said: “We're happy.”

        Mrs. Biggs has sued the city and the Public Employees Retirement System to have her $110,000 buyout reinstated.

        That case was on hold pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

        Also on hold is the fate of two others indicted in the buyout scandal, Mr. Newton and former City Manager James Patrick, who were accused of aiding and abetting Mr. Duning and Mrs. Biggs.

        But special prosecutor Patrick Hanley said he has not decided whether to pursue those cases.


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