Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings indicted on falsification, theft, tampering charges

Hastings was served indictment at Bob Evans
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings indicted on falsification, theft, tampering charges
Posted at 2:29 PM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 15:39:18-04

HILLSBORO, Ohio -- Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings was indicted on four felony charges by the Highland County grand jury Tuesday, concluding a multi-month investigation.

Hastings, also a standup comedian, is charged with election falsification, theft, theft in office and tampering with records.

A statement from Ohio Auditor David Yost said the claims "involve allegedly listing a false address on his Declaration of Candidacy form; for claiming a city refund of $500 for a vacant building he owned and for altering documents related to the refund and; for instructing a contractor to use a city Dumpster to dispose of construction debris."

Yost said Hastings has "long complained about the length of time a careful, proper investigation takes. The investigation is now complete, and the evidence will be made public appropriately, in a court of law.

"I am confident the jury of his peers will find that evidence amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt," he continued.

Hastings was served with a notice of the indictments while he was having lunch at Bob Evans in Hillsboro, the Times-Gazette reported.

A deputy asked him to step outside, presented him with the notice of indictments, and told him to appear at the Highland County Justice Center before July 27 to be fingerprinted and photographed, the mayor said later.

In April, Hastings shared his contempt with the Associated Press.

"They are definitely troubling, to put it mildly," said Hastings, whose language is rarely mild. "I am flabbergasted as to what the hell could have incited this type of witch hunt, political targeting, whatever you want to call it. ... I just know I've been a real lightning rod."

Hastings ran for Mayor of Hillsboro in 2011 as an anti-establishment Republican -- not unlike presidential candidate Donald Trump -- scoffing at political correctness. He declared that "America is going to hell in a handbasket" but said he could help revitalize Hillsboro.

He won the election with 62 percent of the vote.

Hastings — a frequent guest on radio's syndicated "Bob & Tom Show" who appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" and Comedy Central — has been praised by The Hillsboro Times-Gazette for improving the city's finances and for downtown progress.

But others see a heavy-handed, self-serving mayoral style. Highland County Press publisher Rory Ryan described a "sordid history of city government the past four years" in a December 2015 column.

After Hastings won re-election last November with 59 percent of the vote, former Mayor Betty Bishop, campaign manager for his opponent, told The Times-Gazette that voters might not have yet recognized the issues with Hastings, "but they will."

"There are a lot of strongly held opinions in Hillsboro on a lot of things, including the mayor," said Laura Curliss, a former Hillsboro deputy law director and now a Yellow Springs attorney. She thinks the probes dating to December have gone on too long, appearing to be in search of "anything (to) nail the guy on."

Hastings' bluntness can go too far for some. Asked publicly about marijuana use in his past, he replied: "I did everything but gargle the bong water." He apologized to upset black residents after a Facebook post last year that said "blacks have all but formally declared war on whites."

The first investigation came three years ago, when Ohio's attorney general responded to a challenge on whether Hastings was a city resident, concluding there was no cause for action. A lawsuit alleging official misconduct was filed in December 2015, but a judge dismissed it as moot because allegations stemmed from Hastings' first term. Another judge appointed special prosecutors in January.

Dan Sewell from the Associated Press contributed to this report.