► Akron Beacon Journal – 05/31/01 – Double billing allegations Print E-mail

Akron Beacon Journal – May 31, 2001 – Double billing allegations

Charges on judges dropped, But court, others still pursuing double billing case

By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger


COLUMBUS: Fifty-nine counts of theft in office filed against nine visiting judges, including Medina's Judge Cross and Phillip Baird, were dismissed in a Franklin County court yesterday. But the matter of judges' double billing the state and local counties is far from settled.


David Palmer, the citizen who brought the complaints, agreed to drop the charges for now after being promised he could work with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and be given full access to billing records at the Ohio Supreme Court.


Also yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court send a letter to Baird, stating he billed the state six times for working in two different counties on the same day in 2000 and would have to repay $2,400.


Although attorneys representing the judges said the dismissals were because of their client's innocence, the turn of events continues to raise embarrassing questions about the assignment of visiting judges by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.


For three years, Palmer has been pestering Moyer to investigate improprieties in the payment and expense reimbursement claims by visiting judges. As chief justice, Moyer picks and assigns visiting judges statewide.


Jay Wuebbold, a Supreme Court spokesman, said the court is developing a computer program to ensure all payments to visiting judges are accurate and it is working on a uniform method for visiting judges to bill the state.


Craig Wright, a former Supreme Court justice representing seven judges, including Cross and Baird, said Palmer had misread the public records and brought serious charges that tarnished the reputations of law-abiding judges who had never been charged with anything in their long public careers.


"I hope this is the end of this because it is a disgrace," Wright said.


Palmer said he will pursue charges against visiting judges if records at the Supreme Court indicate a pattern of abuse.


He said he was willing to quit pursuing judges who could prove they had not overbilled the state or those who, like Cross, had made a single billing mistake.


Franklin County Prosecutor David Buchman said he will work with Palmer to determine whether charges should be filed in the future.


"Out of fairness to Mr. Palmer, these are not straws pulled out of the air," Buchman said. "There are issues that need to be addressed."


Palmer filed charges against Cross for allegedly double billing the Supreme Court for working as a visiting judge in Huron and Lorain counties on March 8, 2000.


When the double billing was brought to her attention by the Akron Beacon Journal, Cross repaid the Court $402.


Baird was paid for 10 days by the court for spending the same five days in courtrooms in Summit and Stark counties.


Janet Robinson, the high court's human resources director, said Baird is being asked to pay the state back for those five days in 2000 and an additional day, April 3, in which he sent a bill for two days of work.


Baird submitted a bill to the court on March 21, 2000, for February that indicated in worked in Stark County for the last two days in February and the first three days of March.


Eight days later, Baird submitted another bill to the court for the month of March indicating that he worked in Summit County on Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 and the first three days of March.


Robinson said the court did not catch the double payment until the Beacon Journal brought it to the court's attention yesterday because Baird submitted the bills in two different pay periods. 


"He did double bill. He submitted in two pay periods. We're sending a letter out asking him to repay," Robinson said.


Robinson said the court notices the April 3 double payment after further review yesterday. Baird said he was aware of the April 3 problem and gave Wright, his attorney, a check for $402 last week to reimburse the court.


He said the dates are wrong on the five days in Summit and Stark counties.


"I got that straightened out, I thought. Summit should have been the third week in March," Baird said.


Jim Porter, assistant director for court services, said the Supreme Court overpaid judges $8,808 in the past two years.


The court has been repaid $7,060 and is still owed $1,748.


Those figures do not include the $2,400 the Supreme Court believes Baird owes.


Dennis Willard can be reached at 614-224-1613 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Doug Oplinger can be reached at 330-996-3750 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



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