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Hillsboro Mayor Faces Multiple Felony Charges

In February of 2016, Hillsboro Mayor W. Drew Hastings publicly demanded that the special prosecutors assigned by Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss either “Indict me if they believe they have a valid criminal case or cease this politically-driven witch hunt, immediately.” His demand has now been answered.

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost announced that Hastings has been indicted on four counts:

  • Election falsification
  • Theft
  • Theft in office
  • Tampering with records

“Mr. Hastings has long complained about the length of time a careful, proper investigation takes. That investigation is now complete, and the evidence will be made public appropriately, in a court of law,” said Auditor Yost. “I am confident the jury of his peers will find that evidence amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The charges against Hastings involve allegations of falsifying his address on a Declaration of Candidacy form, claiming a $500 city refund for a vacant building he owned, altering documents related to that refund, and instructing a contractor to use city Dumpsters for construction debris disposal. The Highland County grand jury’s detailed counts are as follows:

Count One: Election Falsification On or about January 12, 2015, Hastings allegedly provided false information regarding his address on his Declaration of Candidacy form, in violation of Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3599.36.

Count Two: Theft in Office Between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015, Hastings, while serving as a public official, allegedly committed theft by tampering with records and by theft of property or services valued between $1,000 and $7,500, in violation of ORC 2913.42(A)(2) and ORC 2913.02(A)(3).

Count Three: Theft During the same period, Hastings is accused of knowingly obtaining or exerting control over property or services valued between $1,000 and $7,500, beyond the scope of the owner’s consent, in violation of ORC 2913.02(A).

Count Four: Tampering with Records Between June 24, 2015, and July 8, 2015, Hastings allegedly tampered with records with the intent to defraud, in violation of ORC 2913.42(A)(2).

A hearing for Hastings is scheduled for July 27 at 9 a.m. at the Highland County Common Pleas Court. Former Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove (ret.) will preside over the case after Judge Coss recused himself.

The investigation, headed by special prosecutor Robert Smith and assisted by Julia Korte, chief investigative attorney for the Ohio Ethics Commission, was extensive. Smith was appointed by Judge Coss following an application by Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins, who requested a special prosecutor to handle the case.

Search warrants executed as part of the investigation uncovered probable cause for forgery and theft in office, leading to the charges. Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited and Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera coordinated the search of the mayor’s office, the Safety and Service Director’s office, and the City Auditor’s office.

An affidavit filed by Sean A. Mahorney further alleges that Hastings asked Mahorney and his wife to use city Dumpsters for personal demolition work and then asked them to lie about it during the investigation. This allegation forms the basis of the obstruction charge initially filed against Hastings in January 2016, though this charge was later dismissed without prejudice to allow for further investigation.

Hastings has expressed his frustration with the investigation, calling it a “gross waste of taxpayers’ time and money” and claiming it has damaged the working relationship between the city and county. City Council President Lee Koogler has taken a cautious approach, waiting for further developments before deciding on any official action.

As the legal process unfolds, the residents of Hillsboro watch closely, hoping for clarity and resolution in a case that has cast a shadow over their city government.