Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Ex-auditor sues city over funds

She wants Lebanon to return buyout money

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The former city auditor is suing to get her early retirement buyout back from the city.

        Late last year, the city paid $110,565 into the state retirement system on behalf of Debbie Biggs, enabling her to retire six months shy of 30 years of service. That buyout and those of two others — City Attorney Bill Duning and electric chief Bob Newton — were through a program for electric department employees only.

        City Council said it was unaware of the buyouts and persuaded the Public Employees Retirement System to return Mrs. Biggs' share to the city last month.

        Mrs. Biggs filed suit Monday against the city and its council members, seeking the buyout money back and at least $200,000 in punitive damages.

        “They've ruined my name, as far as I'm concerned,” she said Tuesday. “I can never get back what that city has taken away from me the last eight months. When you give somebody 30 years of your life ... it's uncalled for.”

        The city continues to maintain she was not eligible for the buyout.

        “We will defend the allegations vigorously,” City Attorney Mark Yurick said. “She was the auditor, and the auditor's not an electrical worker.”

        As it stands now, Mrs. Biggs, who has not been receiving retirement payments, either must work for a public body another six months or wait until she's 55 — four more years — before she can start receiving benefits.

        Meanwhile, county Prosecutor Tim Oliver said Tuesday that the Ohio Ethics Commission has not yet sent the results of its buyout investigation to them. The commission operates in secret, and the prosecutor's office will hear the results only if the commission finds grounds for criminal prosecution, Mr. Oliver said.

        Mr. Duning voluntarily returned his $206,302. The city is trying to get back Mr. Newton's $169,549 on the grounds that he signed off on his own buyout, and it was meant only for union members.


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