HILLSBORO, Ohio (AP) — A small southwestern Ohio city has been rocked by the indictment of its second-term mayor, veteran standup comedian Drew Hastings.
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost announced four felony counts against Hastings last week after an investigation led by a court-appointed special prosecutor from his office. The charges included election falsification, involving his disputed residency, and tampering with records.
Hastings, who was elected twice by large margins, says he has done nothing wrong other than try to lead the city without the “consent of an established political structure.” He has blasted the investigation of him that began early this year as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
However, the publisher of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro said the charges could signal the end of Hastings’ time as mayor in the city of some 6,600 people.
“The “witch hunt” defense is as old and hackneyed as what passes for his jokes. The ‘victim’ card is also overplayed. Any deck of cards only has two jokers, at most. Sooner or later, you have to show your true colors,” Rory Ryan wrote in an opinion column.
Lee Koogler, president of Hillsboro city council, told The Times-Gazette of Hillsboro that city government will continue to function.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” said Koogler, like Hastings, a Republican.
Paulette Donley, chairwoman of the Highland County Republican Executive Committee, said it was important to “be patient, and support our community.” She said the politics of the case can’t be ignored.
She said people have been calling her to ask how to support Hastings.
“People here dearly love him,” she said.
Bill Alexander, a Democratic councilman, said he felt badly for Hastings and thinks he has done much for the community, but doesn’t believe he was targeted for politics.
“I have confidence in our court system to come to a fair resolution,” Alexander said.
Hastings’ first court appearance will be Aug. 1 before retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove, appointed to hear the case after a local judge recused himself.
Hastings managed to find some humor after he learned of the charges while having lunch at a restaurant.
“The sheriff’s office served my indictment while I was eating at Bob Evans,” Hastings posted on Twitter. “That is the fastest service I’ve ever gotten at a Bob Evans.”