Conference Set For Smith, Lenz

A pre-trial conference has been set for next week in the case involving two Bridgeport Village Council members accused of making votes on council that financially benefited them.

Councilmen David Smith and Ben Lenz both were re-elected in the Nov. 5 general election despite being suspended from their elected offices since mid-August by Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge J. Mark Costine.

In a court filing Tuesday, Costine set their pre-trial conference for 11 a.m. Nov. 26.

Smith and Lenz had previously been scheduled for trial in probate court on Oct. 1, but Costine canceled all legal proceedings involving the pair pending the outcome of an investigation of the case by the Ohio Ethics Commission. The court did not indicate Tuesday whether the investigative report was received.

Greg Beck, a North Canton, Ohio, attorney who is representing Smith and Lenz, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Smith and Lenz were suspended from council in August by Costine after a group of 11 Bridgeport residents filed a lawsuit against them.

The suit alleged the two men – also both members of the Bridgeport Fire and Emergency Squad – have repeatedly voted, as members of council, on matters pertaining to the emergency squad, including voting to hire themselves as EMTs.

Bridgeport Village Council, meanwhile, conducted regular business at their monthly meeting Tuesday night as the four remaining council members – Marvin Husarik, Howard Porter, Richard Riley and Carole Lyle – all were in attendance.

Council unanimously voted to adopt Belmont County’s hazard mitigation plan, which could help the village to receive any government dollars available if disasters strike in Ohio. They also approved a resolution certifying Bridgeport’s tax levy rates to the Belmont County Auditor’s Officer,

Council also unanimously passed a resolution giving Mayor John Callarik the authority to sign papers with the Bel-O-Mar Regional Planning Authority.

Bel-O-Mar is expected to facilitate the funding of the demolition of four dilapidated structures in the village located at 114 Ohio St., 200 Scotts Lane, 28 Old Cadiz Road and 4th and Chase streets in Bridgeport.

Police Chief Andrew Klotz announced his department had received a total of $20,725 toward its K-9 unit in recent weeks, and that this money was enough to cover the cost of the dog, its training, the equipment it needs and a cruiser to transport it. Klotz thanked the community for “overwhelming support.”

Bridgeport resident James Brubach commended the council members present for their efforts at working together for the good of the village.

“You don’t how enjoyable it’s been the last three or four meetings to see a council at work, legislating … camaraderie … being polite, and being very on-the-spot … bringing the issues that need to be solved and bringing resolutions without any acrimonious results,” he said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to see the meetings conducted in this way.”