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Published: Friday, 5/15/2009

Top Strickland aide steps down over $150,000 in unpaid taxes


COLUMBUS - Ohio's temporary development director abruptly stepped down Friday after it was discovered he owes about $150,000 in federal and state taxes.

But Mark Barbash will remain on the state payroll after taking several weeks of paid leave to deal with "what I believe are fundamentally personal matters that require my full attention at this time.''

He'll come back in his old job as chief economic development officer.

"I've been working with the Internal Revenue Service on issues involving the refiling of personal tax returns over several years,'' Mr. Barbash said in a statement. "In fairness to the important efforts of our department, our dedicated staff, and the citizens of Ohio, I do not want the distraction of my personal financial matters to get in the way of moving forward with our work.''

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, promoted Mr. Barbash to director of the Department of Development earlier this year after Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who doubled in that role, stepped aside to concentrate on a run for the 2010 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

"I believe that Mark is making the right decision for his family and the department," Mr. Strickland said. "He has worked to create Ohio jobs for more than two decades, and I know that he will continue to serve the people of Ohio well."

Before joining the Strickland administration, Mr. Barbash served as development director for Columbus from 2000 to 2007.

The development office confirmed a report in Columbus Business First that the IRS and the Ohio Department of Taxation had filed tax liens against Mr.

Barbash's suburban Columbus home and that foreclosure proceedings had begun.

Mr. Strickland promptly named Lisa Patt-McDaniel, the office's current workforce and talent division director, to replace Mr. Barbash as interim department director.

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