Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Ex-auditor's trial opens in Lebanon

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Three top city officials' decisions to take early retirement buyouts prompted other employees to line up for the benefit, lawyers on both sides said at Monday's opening of the trial for former City Auditor Debbie Biggs.

        City Council quickly realized a “Pandora's box” had been opened, defense attorney Bill Gallagher said, and council denied knowingly approving Mrs. Biggs' buyout in late 1999.

        Then-Mayor James Mills and then-Councilman Mark Flick did know about her buyout, Mr. Gallagher asserted Monday. Current and former council members are scheduled to testify today in the Warren County Common Pleas Court trial.

        Mrs. Biggs, 53, of Oregonia, is fighting felony charges of theft in office and unlawful interest in a public contract in connection with the buyouts meant for city electric department employees. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

        Visiting Judge George Elliott, who will decide the case, found retired City Attorney Bill Duning not guilty of identical charges in December.

        Mr. Duning received a $206,000 buyout at the same time Mrs. Biggs got a $110,000 buyout and retired Electric Director Bob Newton received a $170,000 buyout. The program gave participants credit for an extra five years' service, increasing their retirement benefits and in some cases

        allowing them to retire earlier than they otherwise could have.

        Mr. Newton and former City Manager James Patrick have been charged with aiding and abetting Mrs. Biggs and Mr. Duning; their trials have not been scheduled.

        Mrs. Biggs' case is different than Mr. Duning's in that she was involved in processing the buyouts, including her own.

        “Biggs, as the city auditor, was orchestrating and engineering all of this,” Special Prosecutor Patrick Hanley said in his opening argument.

        Even as she prepared to take a buyout, Mr. Hanley said, Mrs. Biggs told at least two other non-electric employees — a water department worker and a police dispatcher — that they were not eligible for the program.

        In 1998, she had told another water department employee — Jack Bayes — that he was not eligible, Mr. Bayes testified Monday.

        “The only thing she said about it was that it was for electric,” he said.

        Mrs. Biggs has contended that she is eligible because she did extensive work for the electric department.


'Wish list' varies for Bush speech
City lost money when Enron fell
Crackdown on speeding under way
PULFER: Poverty is not for sissies
School mourns teacher
Hamilton Co. levy would support parks
Hamilton Co. put to the test
New anti-cancer tool promising, UC doctors report
Officer indicted in sexual battery case
Portman creates fund for GOP
Schools put new focus on kids' 'assets'
Good News: Giovanni to lecture at library
Local Digest
- Ex-auditor's trial opens in Lebanon
Man charged in death of unborn son
Mason chips in $25K toward bus service shortfall
Middletown considers school building plan
Carjacking victim safe in Lebanon
Charter school critics threaten legal action
Columbus woman is Hagan's running mate
Convicted killer makes plea to Taft
Doctor: Cops tricked me to get OxyContin
Judge denies Traficant's delay request
Newport wants river museum
Ohio politicians review how redistricting got done
Tax appeal petitions get board review
Wait list for elderly defended
Girl injured after tossing gas on fire
Candidates for fall must file today
Crescent Springs residents quiet on merger proposal
Dixie Hwy. takes priority
Ft. Campbell area told war could last five years
Kentucky Digest