► Columbus Dispatch – 05/25/01 – A retired Lucas County jurist was paid by two counties on the same day Print E-mail

Columbus Dispatch – May 25, 2001 – A retired Lucas County jurist was paid by two counties on the same day

Jon Craig
Dispatch Statehouse Reporter
 
One felony charge was tossed out, but a judge found probable cause for an accusation of double-billing – a misdemeanor – yesterday against retired Lucas County Judge Stephen Yarbrough.
 
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Charles Schneider gave Judge Stephen Yarbrough’s attorney, Michael Close, and Assistant City Attorney Ted Barrows one week to come up with material to defend or prosecute a charge that Judge Stephen Yarbrough billed Marion and Franklin County common pleas court for the same day’s work.
 
“A lot seems to have turned on what may or may not have happened on Sept. 9, 1999,” Judge Schneider ruled, saying he wants to see court dockets and other records for that day when Judge Stephen Yarbrough served as a visiting judge.
 
Michael Close argued that there is nothing in Supreme Court rules barring Judge Stephen Yarbrough from billing two counties on the same day for a partial day’s work [Judge Stephen Yarbrough billed both counties for 8 hours of work on the same day].
 
Records from a third county court show Judge Stephen Yarbrough was paid $390 by the other two county courts that day.
 
David Palmer of Powell has filed criminal theft-in-office complaints against nine visiting judges appointed by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.
 
Palmer says the nine judges double-and triple-billed 32 counties for more than $50,000 in meals, travel, lodging and daily stipends [wages].
 
Palmer also filed three new felony theft-in-office complaints yesterday against Judge Stephen Yarbrough. Four judges, including Judge Stephen Yarbrough, have returned some of the expense money, according to Ohio Supreme Court officials.
 
Also yesterday, Palmer lodged two new misdemeanor complaints against two retired Common Pleas Court judges, Judge Richard McQuade of Swanton in Fulton County and Judge Bruce Huffman of Fremont in Sandusky County.
 
In those complaints, Palmer alleges the judges failed to report travel expenses for the year 2000 on financial disclosure statements they filed last month.
 
“This is a big, ongoing pile of crap,” said Judge Bruce Huffman, who noted he once filled in for another judge [Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger] on a civil suit filed by Palmer [false – Palmer was the defendant].
 
“It kind of scares me because he’s pretty upset. This guy is pretty obsessed,” said Judge Bruce Huffman.
 
Neither Judge Richard McQuade nor his attorney, retired Justice J. Craig Wright, could be reached for comment.
 
Palmer said that since 1997, he has complained to state officials that dozens of visiting judges – including Judge Richard McQuade and Judge Bruce Huffman – “are stealing expense money. Now they claim they don’t even have any expenses.”
 
Palmer said he has documented at least 250 instances of Judge Richard McQuade overcharging for meals in Lucas County [Toledo]. He said he has documented at least 185 instances of improperly billed meals for Judge Bruce Huffman in Lucas County.
 
“I have never double-billed,” Judge Bruce Huffman said.
 
“They are ‘cereal’ thieves, obviously,” Palmer joked, “and it’s almost as if they’re eating the breakfast of champions.”
 
Judge Stephen Yarbrough and Judge Richard McQuade and seven other retired visiting judges are expected to appear at probable cause hearings Wednesday and next Friday at Franklin County Municipal Court before Judge Anne Taylor.
 
Douglas R. Stephens, director of judicial and court services at the Ohio Supreme Court, said Chief Justice Thomas Moyer “has the authority to stop assigning” cases to the visiting judges.
 
But, Stephens said, as with any accused individual, the judges are presumed innocent until proved guilty.
 
“It’s up to the courts to decide” if wrongdoing has occurred, Stephens said.
 

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