Double Pay On B’port Council

BRIDGEPORT – Two Village Council members cannot participate in tonight’s council meeting after Belmont County Probate Judge J. Mark Costine temporarily suspended them from office Monday over allegations of illegal and unethical actions, attorney Michael Shaheen said.

Bridgeport Council President David Smith and Councilman Ben Lenz are accused of violating state law by receiving two salaries from the village – one as a councilman and one as a member of the Bridgeport Fire Department, where both served for a time as paid EMTs before resigning their posts.

Shaheen said village records indicate both men voted to hire themselves to the paid positions while on council.

Smith did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Reached late Monday, Lenz said he would not comment on the matter.

Shaheen said he represents nine village residents who filed a lawsuit last week asking that both men be removed from council. Costine has scheduled an Aug. 28 hearing in the case, he said.

Along with possibly being removed from council, Shaheen said the accused, if found to be in violation of the law, could be ordered to pay financial restitution to the village and also could be responsible for the plaintiffs’ legal fees.