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Top aide to Lt. Gov. Taylor resigns

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The top aide to Ohio's lieutenant governor has resigned after irregularities were found in her timesheets, a spokesman for the office said Friday.

Laura Johnson, who had served as Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor's chief of staff since 2011, stepped down Thursday at Taylor's request, said Taylor's spokesman Chris Brock. Johnson's administrative assistant, Heather Brandt, also resigned.

The matter has been referred to the Ohio inspector general and State Highway Patrol to review.

Brock said Taylor's office discovered Johnson's timesheet irregularities several weeks ago while responding to a public records request made in April by the Democratic-leaning blog Plunderbund. The blog asked for payroll records, timesheets and parking logs.

Records showed the two women's reported working hours and their parking garage and building entry logs do not match, according to Taylor's office. There were also days when both women reported work hours either before entering or after leaving the state parking garage.

For example, Johnson reported working 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 22 but according to parking and building logs, she got to work at 9:45 a.m. and left at 3:20 p.m. Brandt's Jan. 14 timesheet recorded her working from 8:20 a.m. to 6:05 p.m., but logs indicated she entered state premises at 11:15 a.m. and left at 4:15 p.m.

In a memo to investigators, Taylor said the hours the women's cars were recorded as being in the office's parking garage was "significantly less" than the hours they said they had worked in a four-month time period.

Johnson did not immediately respond to messages sent to her Facebook page. A phone number for her was not immediately available.

Johnson had been given some flexibility to work from home when needed after she had a baby in 2011, Brock said, but Taylor said in a statement that the pattern of discrepancies was disappointing.

"As a working mom, I know it's hard to juggle both family and a job so I've tried to be supportive of my own staff as they juggle those demands," Taylor said. "Unfortunately, the flexibility I've tried to show the chief of staff of my personal office hasn't been appropriately respected and the workings of the office have suffered."

She told the patrol and inspector general that the women claimed more hours working away from the office than she anticipated in the period that covered Jan. 1 to April 29 of this year. She said in the memo that both were given "some flexibility" due to personal issues each was experiencing. The memo did not identify the issues.

Brandt said in her resignation letter that she was stepping down "due to an unhealthy hostile work environment." But Brock said he was not sure what Brandt had meant.

No one answered a phone number listed for Brandt, and a message sent to a non-state email address listed on her resignation letter was not immediately returned.

Taylor, a former Ohio auditor and state lawmaker from suburban Akron, has served as lieutenant governor since 2011. She and Gov. John Kasich are running for re-election this fall.

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AP Statehouse Correspondent Julie Carr Smyth contributed to this report.

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