Clerk under suspicion calls it quits
State audit in Columbia Twp. alleges misuse

Sunday, May 10, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Columbia Township Clerk Debra Huff, among the key players named in a special state audit that found more than $54,000 in township money was spent improperly, has resigned.

Trustee Michael Tighe said he was told Friday night by the township administrator of Mrs. Huff's resignation.

Mr. Tighe was not surprised by the news, but said he didn't know the reason for the resignation.

"It's good to have change," he said Saturday. "Now is the time for everybody to move forward."

In November, Mr. Tighe asked the law director to find out what the township could do to remove Mrs. Huff from office. The clerk's is an elected position.

Mrs. Huff couldn't be reached for comment.

Mrs. Huff; her father and former Township Administrator Jim Harmon; and her husband, Jeff Huff, former township maintenance superintendent, were named in a state audit released in October. The audit claims the three officials paid "phantom" employees, falsified payroll documents and spent thousands of dollars for improvements to private property, including their own and that of family members.

The audit findings are being investigated by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.

The audit found that more than $54,000 in township money was spent improperly since the 1980s. Last month, two computer discs containing financial records of the township were confiscated from Mrs. Huff's home by prosecutors.

The three township trustees will appoint a clerk to fill out Mrs. Huff's term. The term expires in March 2000, he said.

Mrs. Huff's resignation comes at a time of heightened controversy in the Hamilton County township of about 4,400 people. This month, a citizens group filed petitions with Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to oust two township trustees, claiming they have misused the offices they have held only a few months.

The "forfeiture of office" action against Carl Fernandez and Susan Hughes is thought to be the first of its kind in Ohio in at least two decades.

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