► Columbus Dispatch – 05/25/01 – Visiting judge to face double-billing charge Print E-mail

Columbus Dispatch – May 25, 2001 – Visiting judge to face double-billing charge


Visiting judge to face double-billing charge
Friday, May 25, 2001
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 A. Yarbrough.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Charles A. Schneider gave Yarbrough's attorney, Michael A. Close, and Assistant City Attorney Ted Barrows one week to come up with material to defend or prosecute a charge that 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," Schneider rules, saying he wants to see court dockets and other records for that day when Yarbrough served as a visiting judge.
Close argued that there is nothing in Supreme Court rules barring Yarbrough from billing two counties on the same day for a partial day's work.
Records from a third county court show Yarbrough was paid 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 Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer.
Palmer says the nine judges double-and triple-billed 32 counties for more than $50,000 in meals, travel, lodging and daily stipends.
Palmer also filed three new felony theft-in-office complaints yesterday against Yarbrough. Four judges, including Yarbrough, have returned some of the expense money, according to Supreme Court officials.
Also yesterday, Palmer lodged two new misdemeanor complaints against two retired Common Pleas judges, Richard B. McQuade, Jr. of Swanton in Fulton County and 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 Huffman, who noted he once filled in for another judges on a civil suit filed by Palmer.
"It kind of scares me because he's pretty upset. This guy is pretty obsessed."
Neither McQuade nor his attorney, retired Supreme Court Justice J. Craig Wright, could be reached for comment yesterday.
Palmer said that since 1977, he has complained to state officials that dozens of visiting judges--including McQuade and 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 McQuade overcharging for meals in Lucas County. He said he has documented at least 185 instances of improperly billed meals for Huffman in Lucas County.
"I have never double-billed," Huffman said yesterday.
"They are 'cereal' thieves, obviously," Palmer joked, "and it's almost as if they're eating the breakfast of champions."
Yarbrough, 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 Supreme Court, said 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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