► City Paper [Toledo] – 05/23/01 – Are local judges double dipping? Print E-mail

The City Paper [Toledo] – May 23, 2001 – Are local judges double dipping?

By Alan Abrams
 
Judicial watchdog spurs inquiry
 
Three Toledo-area retired visiting judges – Judge Stephen Yarbrough and Judge June Rose Galvin formerly of Lucas County and Judge Richard McQuade, Jr. of Fulton County – have had felony theft-in-office complaints filed against them in recent weeks.
 
Two Franklin County judges have found probable cause to hear 57 felony complaints against nine judges – among them, Judge Richard McQuade, Judge Stephen Yarbrough and Judge June Rose Galvin, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
 
In addition, former Sylvania mayor James Seney, now chairman of the Ohio Rail Development Corp., has become embroiled in the controversy and has been questioned by the Ohio Ethics Commission.
 
The complaints that allege that Judge Richard McQuade, Jr; Judge Stephen Yarbrough and Judge June Rose Galvin double-billed taxpayers by seeking and accepting reimbursements for working in two counties on the same day, were filed in Franklin County court by former Maumee resident David Palmer
 
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s office referred Palmer’s misdemeanor complaints to Columbus City Attorney Janet Jackson, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
 
O’Brien told the Dispatch that the felony theft-in-office complaint would be handled by his office.
 
Palmer is a judicial watchdog who now lives in Powell in Delaware County.
 
Visiting judges are appointed to active status by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and are assigned by him to cases throughout the state.
 
Palmer said he first brought examples of double-billing to Chief Justice Thomas Moyer’s attention in 1997 but was ignored. The following year; Palmer asked state Auditor Jim Petro to examine the pattern of double billing and was told it was legal. So Palmer decided to take matters into his own hands.
 
After the first charges were filed against Judge Stephen Yarbrough last month, Palmer told City Limits that “This is just the first chestnut to fall off the tree.” He said the scandal could eventually include as many as 50 judges statewide who have possibly cheated taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
 
“There is no statute of limitations for theft-in-office,” said Palmer. “Even if you steal a dollar, it is a felony.”
 
When contacted by City Limits, Judge Stephen Yarbrough declined to comment. Judge Richard McQuade of Swanton and Judge June Rose Galvin – who now lives in Marblehead – have been called twice but didn’t return calls by press time.
 
Palmer said his ongoing investigations has “uncovered widespread corruption” by the judges” who have repeatedly bilked the taxpayers by submitting fraudulent and/or fabricated per diem and/or expense claims.”
 
Palmer told City Limits last week that he will be filing additional felony charges against Judge Richard McQuade. “I think they will amount to more than 100 separate felony complaints for theft-in-office beginning in 1992 and continuing through 2000.”
 
The initial complaints against Judge Stephen Yarbrough, who served as a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge, allege that on 21 occasions since 1998, Judge Stephen Yarbrough, sitting as a visiting judge, billed taxpayers for a day’s work or for meals in more than one geographically distinct location.
 
Palmer said the initial total of Judge Stephen Yarbrough’s “double or triple-billings is close to $8, 000,” and that he has more than 250 instances of Yarbrough submitting false expenses for meals since 1997.”
 
The Akron Beacon Journal reported recently that Judge Stephen Yarbrough has since reimbursed the state for six days in which he double-billed. But Palmer said he found 12 additional days in which Judge Stephen Yarbrough was paid twice for work in two counties on the same day and filed new charges based upon that evidence.
 
Jim Seney’s involvement stems from the fact that Judge Stephen Yarbrough rented a Columbus apartment with Seney but was routinely reimbursed $55 to $60 a night for lodging as a visiting judge in Franklin County. Columbus is the county seat of Franklin County.
 
Judge Stephen Yarbrough said he was paying Jim Seney to stay at the apartment. But documents obtained by Palmer show that Seney failed to claim the money received in rent from Judge Stephen Yarbrough on his required annual state financial disclosure statements.
 
Jim Seney told City Limits that he believes the Ohio Ethics Commission would soon “clear everything up.”
 

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