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Village of Bridgeport Wins Ohio Supreme Court Case

BRIDGEPORT ­– The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled in favor of the village of Bridgeport in a lawsuit filed by a Bellaire resident alleging the village refused to accept a petition for the Nov. 2 ballot.

William Schmitt filed the lawsuit against the village, village officials and the Belmont County Board of Elections in mid-July. Schmitt alleged that the village mayor and clerk refused to accept his petition request that would reduce penalties for marijuana offenses in the village.

The village denied the allegations, stating that officials had not refused to accept the petition but insisted on speaking with the village solicitor before accepting it. They also stated that Carole Lyle is not the clerk but just a volunteer secretary for the village, meaning she had no authority to accept anything on behalf of the village.

Schmitt provided video evidence of his encounters with the village officials and stated that he gave the village multiple opportunities to accept the documents and attempted to deliver the petition on three occasions. He stated he was never contacted by the solicitor.

On Tuesday, the court filed its decision in the matter, stating that the requested writ of mandamus has been denied along with Schmitt’s request for costs and attorney fees.

“Because Schmitt failed to file the petition with the village clerk, we deny the writ. We also deny the request for attorney fees and costs, and we deny as moot the motion to establish the amount of security for costs,” according to the document on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website.

Concurring that the writ should be denied were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon Kennedy, Patrick Fischer, Pat DeWine, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart. Concurring in part while dissenting in part was Justice Jennifer Brunner.

Schmitt, who owns The Holistic Cloud in Bellaire, said even though he was disappointed with the decision he will continue to fight for the decriminalization of marijuana throughout Ohio. He said he already contacted the Bridgeport fiscal officer, who holds the consolidated position that covers duties of the treasurer and the clerk for the village, to set up an appointment to get his petition date stamped to allow him to collect signatures for the initiative.

He said he plans to resume his quest and will work to have the ordinance placed on next year’s ballot.

“This will not stop me from decriminalizing marijuana in the town, it’s just going to delay us one extra year,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason, and with this court ruling came out a lot of good things for our movement and shows how the Bridgeport officials are circumventing the people’s will at the moment. I fully expect to have those signatures turned in within a few days of the village clerk contacting me back. There’s overwhelming support in Bridgeport, Ohio, by its people, and even the police support this decriminalization measure, so it’s very unfortunate that Bridgeport council is standing in the way of the people’s vote.”

When asked about the department’s position on the matter, Police Chief John Bumba did not commit.

“We have never said that we support or do not support it,” Bumba responded.

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