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Published: Friday, 10/12/2007

Whitehouse candidate says theft conviction not an issue

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Billings
Billings
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

A candidate for Village Council in Whitehouse has a skeleton in his closet that would deter many people from seeking elective office: he s on probation for a theft conviction in Maumee Municipal Court.

Frank Billings pleaded no contest to a charge of unauthorized use of property on June 23, 2005, in connection with the theft of $2,315.90 from Whitehouse Animal Hospital.

Judge Gary Byers found him guilty and sentenced him to 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor conviction. The judge then suspended the jail time on condition that Mr. Billings pay restitution and court costs, serve three years probation, and perform 40 hours of community service.

The original charge against Mr. Billings, 52, was felony theft. It was reduced to the misdemeanor count, a not-uncommon occurrence for a first-time offender who makes restitution. Mr. Billings so far has complied with all the terms of his sentence, according to court records.

Mr. Billings campaign signs are placed throughout Whitehouse. He says he has been working hard for the council seat. We ve been putting in full days going door-to-door. My goal is to reach every home in Whitehouse.

If a citizen asks him about the theft offense, he says he s willing to discuss it.

I haven t been hiding this, he explained. I tell them the buck stops here. I tell them that it was not what it appeared to be, that the charges were dropped down and the money was paid back.

Mr. Billings cites unnamed persons he says are playing dirty politics to keep him off council. He maintains what he really wants to talk about is issues, such as making the village more fiscally responsible. The issue is, these people don t know how to do cost containment, he said, referring to Whitehouse officials.

Three four-year seats are up for grabs in the nonpartisan village election. Mr. Billings and another challenger, Michelle Tip pie, are up against incumbents Debby Curry, Ryan Grant, and Joe Wielinski. In another council race, Rebecca Fansler and James Miller are running to complete the remaining two years of an unexpired term.

Dr. William Lutz, the veterinarian-owner of the animal hospital, says he and Mr. Billings had been personal friends for a few years when he hired him to be office manager. The two of them met through the former Waterville Open Bible Church.

It was, unfortunately, an opportunity for him that he took, he said. I don t know what possessed him. If he had come to me, I would at least have loaned him the money, Dr. Lutz said.

In a deeply apologetic letter to Dr. Lutz on file with the Whitehouse police, Mr. Billings wrote: I have no excuses, I got behind in our bills & just didn t think of it as stealing or didn t want to believe that, I just some how thought I was loaning myself the money until my 2 checks came in, however now looking at it, it was stealing because it wasn t mine to loan [sic].

Mr. Billings is a registered financial representative, according to his campaign literature, with his own firm, the Billings Group. He and his wife, Maureen, have been married for 28 years and have three children, according to a campaign flyer.

Whitehouse solicitor Philip Davis says the village charter has no provisions precluding Mr. Billings from holding elective office. In 2005, Mr. Billings was appointed to a vacant seat on Village Council and had to resign because he had not been a registered Whitehouse voter for two years, as the charter required.

Says Dr. Lutz: He has all the makings to be a good councilman. I don t know if he would, but he has all the makings. Obviously, he has a downside too.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-206-0356.



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