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Audit Finds $80,000 in Bonuses by Ken Blackwell Illegal

Seventeen employees of Ohio's former elections chief must return more than $80,000 in bonuses and severance payments he approved. The individual amounts range up to $9,700.

State Auditor Mary Taylor says the payments authorized by ex-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell were illegal based on an attorney general's opinion issued last year that said he did not have the authority to award them. Both Taylor and Blackwell are Republicans.

Blackwell says he's willing to go to court to challenge the findings. He says the bonuses and severance packages actually saved taxpayers money in some cases, because employees agreed to not to seek taxpayer-backed unemployment benefits on the sums they received. (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)