Photo: Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, left, and Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin are shown at a city council meeting earlier this year.
Updated with comments from council President Lee Koogler.
The Hillsboro Safety and Service Director told investigators that he was out of town on the date that a document was drafted and stamped with his signature that authorized the refund of a $500 fee payable to Mayor Drew Hastings, according to information requesting a search warrant that was executed Wednesday.
Todd Wilkin’s assertion and other allegations in the case are included in the search warrant that was obtained Wednesday by the Highland County Sheriff’s Office authorizing deputies to conduct a search of the city building Wednesday night.
According to a document filed Thursday after the Wednesday night search, Highland County Sheriff’s Deputies reported that they had seized inspection letters, vacant building registrations, auditor property data, emails between city administrative personnel, and copies of memos and checks.
Along with allegations regarding the vacant property refund, investigators are also looking into claims that Hastings improperly used city dumpsters to dispose of trash from private properties he owns.
Thursday afternoon, Hastings said, “I look forward to defending myself and refuting this. Let’s resolve this trash can issue.”
According to an exhibit filed in court in requesting the search warrant, “Todd Wilkin told officers that it was not his signature and he did not authorize the payment or his signature to be used for the reimbursement.” The search warrant was signed by Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss.
The affidavit states that under questioning by Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited and an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Wilkin said he had received a request from administrative assistants Debbie Sansone and Heather Collins to reimburse Drew Hastings the $500. Wilkin told officers that he sent an email outlining the proper procedures for reimbursement.
The document does not make clear when Wilkin was initially interviewed by Whited and the BCI agent. Whited turned over the information to Sheriff Donnie Barrera and Sgt. Randy Sanders on Wednesday, according to the document.
According to the document, Whited said he had checked with the Paint Creek Joint Fire District, and “no records were found on any inspection in 2015 for the property at 135 North High St. in Hillsboro,” a requirement before a vacant property fee can be reimbursed.
The affidavit also includes a claim from city employees that “Drew Hastings or persons driving Drew Hastings’ truck have dumped building materials and carpet into the city owned dumpster located on Railroad St. in Hillsboro,” as recently as Dec. 3 or 4.
The document also states that a retired city employee told Whited “that he had assisted the mayor, Drew Hastings, while on city work time, in (a) city vehicle remove items from Hastings’ properties at 108 Gov. Trimble Pl. and 107 West Beech St. in Hillsboro to dispose of them in the city dumpster on Railroad St. in Hillsboro.”
The Gov. Trimble Place property is the former city building, which was purchased by Hastings before he became mayor. Part of the building was sold to the Paint Creek fire station. The rest of the structure includes an empty bay which Hastings has talked of developing, and the office of The Times-Gazette under a lease agreement in 2011 prior to his election.
The document concludes, “Based on the information given along with affiant’s experience and training, affiant believes that evidence of Forgery and Theft in Office will be located at the city of Hillsboro Administrative Offices…”
The search warrant was granted to seek records, documents, papers or data related to city personnel, equipment or property “utilized in the clean-up of properties located at 132 East Walnut St., 107 West Beech St. or 108 Gov. Trimble Place…” and “to seize, open and view any data, photos or other information stored in or accessible through any computers, external drives or other data storage devices located on the property.”
Reached Thursday, Wilkin said he has been advised not to comment on the issue. Hastings on Wednesday called the charges regarding the $500 refund “ludicrous.”
Earlier Wednesday, a citizen complaint was filed in Highland County Probate Court by local residents Craig Jackson, Ariana Jackson, Lisa Leeth, Kirby Ellison and Betty Bishop.
In regard to the $500 refund, the complaint states that City Auditor Gary Lewis “issued the refund to (Hastings’) business, Firehouse Square Partners, pursuant to the false letter” which Wilkin now says he did not sign or authorize to be stamped with his signature, according to information in the search warrant issued Wednesday.
Lee Koogler, president of city council, said Thursday in regard to the investigation, “My position is to step back and wait for the results before weighing in. Depending on the outcome, we’ll see how the city marches on.”
A hearing on the citizen complaint is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 23 in probate court.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.