Auditor Erica Hudson asked to resign

By John Estridge, Editor

Franklin County Commissioners called for Franklin County Auditor Erica Hudson to resign during their meeting Monday morning, Sept. 24.

Hudson has not been to her office through most of the summer. Franklin County Treasurer Rebecca Oglesby used the word malfeasance to describe the situation while addressing the subject of the auditor's office from the commissioners' meeting audience.

Franklin County Attorney John Worth, who is also the Republican party chairman for Franklin County, sent Hudson a letter Thursday, Sept. 20, from the Republican Party asking Hudson to resign. The Republican's central committee met after the commissioners' meeting to discuss the situation.

Commissioner Tom Linkel made a motion, which was seconded by fellow commissioner Scott McDonough and approved by commission president Tom Wilson for Worth to seek reimbursement for the county from Hudson or her bond on the $4,000 fine the county was levied earlier this summer by the Internal Revenue Service.

Commissioners said the county was hit with the fine because Hudson had instructed the women in her office not to open the mail, but to leave it on Hudson's desk. However, Hudson did not come into the office to open the mail. The notification about the tax problem was in the unopened stack of mail.

Linkel was the last person affiliated with county government to talk with Hudson and that was on Aug. 20 after that commissioners' meeting. Since that time, phone calls to Hudson's cell do not even go to voice mail but says the person with that number is unavailable, according to McDonough. Deputies in the auditor's office, who were at the commissioners' meeting Monday, said they have not heard from Hudson either.

At the Aug. 21 county council meeting, commissioners said they received a note from Hudson's doctor. Monday, commissioners said the note only stated Hudson would undergo testing to determine if she had a medical disability. They have not received any more information since that time.

Linkel said he added the subject of the auditor to the special meeting's agenda after he received a phone call from Oglesby, expressing her concerns with the auditor's office.

"Erica doesn't come in anymore," Oglesby said. "That was when the IRS ordeal (occurred) and the (meeting) minutes not getting done. Things are starting to collapse."

Oglesby said she was contacted by the Bath State Bank about the situation when she attempted to cash a Certificate of Deposit for the county.

BSB officials asked Oglesby who has the authority to do the signatures.

Veronica Voelker, the first deputy in the auditor's office, has started signing documents.

That has put Voelker in a bad situation, Oglesby said.

"The first deputy has the same powers as the auditor if the auditor's on vacation or something like that," Oglesby said. "I can see Veronica as first deputy making a decision, and if Erica comes in and doesn't like it, Veronica could get in trouble.

"We're in a gray area where we don't know who's in control of what," she continued. "Veronica is caught between a rock and a hard place."

Oglesby said she wants to invest money for the county but is unable to do so because Voelker is hesitant to put her signature on the necessary documents.

After the commissioners discussed the reasons the county was fined by the IRS and asked for an investigation, Oglesby then talked about malfeasance.

Malfeasance means misconduct by an elected official.

"Why not go one step farther and have the investigation done on her as to her malfeasance of office," Oglesby said.

Commissioners said Worth had already started that investigation.

Oglesby mentioned a former auditor, Faye Siedling, was forced from office in the 1990s after an investigation into her office at that time.

Once all the information is gathered, Worth said he will present the information to Franklin County Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm, the state's attorney general's office or state's inspector general's office for determination if criminal charges should be levied against Hudson.

Hudson is an elected official and as such does not answer to any other officials such as the commissioners, McDonough said.

Worth presented the commissioners with a petition asking Hudson to resign. The petition was unsigned but will be circulated.

In the letter from the Republican Party calling for Hudson's resignation, Worth wrote: "The recent actions that you have taken are a detriment to the good government of Franklin County, and you are causing considerable problems concerning the financial well-being of the county."