Van Wert county officials charged for break-in

By Josh Ellerbrock -

VAN WERT — Van Wert County Auditor Philip Baxter and two deputy auditors were served with criminal indictment papers recently related to an alleged Van Wert County courthouse break-in.

All three defendants — Baxter, Julienne Rolsten and Juliann Zinn — have been charged with counts of breaking and entering, fifth-degree felonies, for an incident on May 30.

Rolsten faces additional charges of unauthorized use of property, a fifth-degree felony; and tampering with records, a third-degree felony, over a two-month period. Baxter’s additional counts include unauthorized use of property, a fifth-degree felony; and intimidation of the victim, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Back in August, Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas M. Riggenbach announced a criminal investigation involving the auditor’s office. At that time, Riggenbach contacted the Bureau of Criminal Investigation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Since that time, a special prosecutor out of Henry County, Gwen Howe-Gebers, has been assigned to the case, and Judge Timothy Campbell, a retired visiting judge from Greene County, has been ordered to hear the case in Van Wert County Judge Martin Burchfield’s stead due to a potential conflict of interest.

According to reporting by the Van Wert Independent, indictment charges align with a break-in that occurred at the Van Wert County Treasurer’s Office on May 30.

The two county offices — the auditor’s office headed by Baxter and the treasurer’s office headed by Treasurer Nathan Vanderbroek — have had a public tiff since at least August, at which point an independent auditor was hired by the Van Wert County commissioners to put the county’s books in order.

The two department heads are both relative newcomers to the position. Vanderbroek has held the position since replacing retired Treasurer Beverly Fuerst in September 2018 after being appointed to the position unanimously by the Van Wert County Republican Central Committee. Baxter has held the county auditor’s seat since being elected to it in 2018.

The first appearance in court for the county officials is scheduled for Wednesday.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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