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Published: Monday, 9/20/2004

State nears end of probe into conduct of ex-official

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

An investigation into possible misuse of state equipment by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission's first executive director is expected to be concluded soon, an Ohio Highway Patrol spokesman has told The Blade.

Staff Lt. Michael Black said he was not allowed to go into specifics about the probe involving Jeffrey L. Busch, other than to say it is an "ongoing and pending investigation" that is expected to be finished in the coming weeks. The case is being done by the patrol's investigative unit in Findlay, Mr. Black said.

Mr. Busch was the state's choice to be the commission's first executive director when former Gov. George Voinovich opened its Lake Erie Office in Toledo in January, 1992.

Mr. Busch was placed on administrative leave Jan. 23 by the commission's chairman, Chris Jones, Ohio EPA director, after allegations surfaced that Mr. Busch used his computer for unauthorized purposes, Heidi Griesmer, Ohio EPA spokesman, said.

At the request of Mr. Jones, Mr. Busch resigned, effective Jan. 30.

Edwin J. Hammett, longtime chief of the Ohio EPA's northwest district office in Bowling Green, has served two days a week as the commission's interim executive director since Mr. Busch resigned.

Mr. Hammett retired from the Ohio EPA on June 30, and was recently named the commission's permanent executive director.

Mr. Busch was drawing a $69,264 annual salary at the time he resigned.

Mr. Hammett was being paid $80,433 a year to run the Ohio EPA's district office.

He will be paid an hourly rate of $41.62 as the commission's new executive director, with the expectation that he will work an average of 20 hours a week. That translates to a part-time salary of about $43,285 a year.

In addition to his 16 years with the Ohio EPA, Mr. Hammett worked 12 years at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. He also worked at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Conservation Foundation.

The Lake Erie Commission is comprised of directors from the Ohio EPA and five other state departments: natural resources, agriculture, transportation, development, and health.

It oversees a number of Lake Erie programs intended to educate people about the lake and protect it as a resource.

It administers a number of water-quality and ecosystem research grants.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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