MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Muskegon County leaders say they’re trying to learn whether two long-time county employees were on the job when they allegedly sent each other illicit texts about young children.
One of those two, Paul Hibbard, 45, is a former Sparta Village Council member who resigned abruptly from that board in September. He works for Muskegon County facilities management.
The other, Christine Workman, 38, of Norton Shores, is a former Muskegon County Family Court worker who most recently was assigned to the county assessor’s office.
Both face criminal charges and are on unpaid suspension.
In court records, state police said the illicit messages included texts about a “sexually suggestive” picture that the mom allegedly shared with Hibbard of her 3-year-old daughter, according to court records.
“More please,” Hibbard replied.
“I’ll figure something else out suggestive for next time!” she answered.
Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth said officials were comparing text messages with time cards.
“If it happened on county time, obviously it’s a misuse of county time and property, having those conversations during working hours,” Eisenbarth said. “Obviously, that’s where it affects the employment here.”
He suspended the two without pay immediately after learning of the allegations and said they’ll remain off the job at least until the courts are done with them.
“Both are good employees, great employees,” he said. “Everybody was shocked, everybody didn’t see this coming, very surprising to everybody and very sad obviously. They definitely need help.”
Hibbard has worked for the county for 20 years. He is accused of procuring or attempting to procure an act of gross indecency with Workman’s daughters, ages 3 and 6. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
Workman has been with the county a dozen years. A judge has removed her from her home. She is facing a misdemeanor neglect charge.
Both are married with children.
Hibbard resigned from the Sparta Village Council in September after a meeting that went long. Village Police Chief Andrew Milanowski said he doesn’t believe it was related to the charges, which came to light in January.
Sparta police stood by on Jan. 20 when Michigan State Police searched Hibbard’s home.
“They told us it was computer crimes, but that was about it,” Milanowski said.
The chief said he was surprised by the allegations.
“To me, it is (a surprise) because I didn’t think Paul would be anywhere near like that,” he said.
He said he hasn’t spoken to Hibbard since these allegations.
If it’s true, he said, “it just deepens the shock.”
Both suspects are to be arraigned on Feb. 9 in Muskegon District Court. Workman has refused to comment, other than to say her daughters were not sexually assaulted. Hibbard could not be reached for comment.