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Cleaning Up In Bridgeport

Residents of Bridgeport have received far more than their share of unpleasant surprises regarding village government during the past few years. Still, news this week must have come as a shock: Mayor David W. Smith has been indicted.

Smith abused his office by taking money from the village and using municipal employees to run errands for him, according to Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s office. The mayor was to be arraigned today in Columbus.

Ironically, Smith served as mayor during the period when the auditor’s office discovered a variety of irregularities for which others were blamed. In December 2018 then-Auditor David Yost’s office ordered the village’s former fiscal officer, Agnes Hess, to repay $12,835 for improper payments she received. Later that year, the auditor’s office declared the village’s records were such a mess they were “unauditable.”

Village finances were so far underwater that last year, Bridgeport residents began paying a 1% income tax intended to get the budget back on an even keel.

Now comes the news about Smith. Though he is, of course, innocent until and unless proven guilty, he is accused of four separate offenses.

“Between June 2016 and November 2019, while serving in the Mayor’s Court, Smith allegedly removed both cash payments and corresponding traffic tickets waiting to be processed for his personal gain. It is believed that the losses to the village are greater than $20,000,” Faber’s office reported. In addition, Smith is alleged to have used a village employee “to handle his personal errands, including childcare and banking while on village time.”

If the auditor’s office’s accusations are correct, Smith is guilty of breathtaking abuse of the trust in which Bridgeport residents placed him by electing him mayor.

Coming on top of the previous round of malfeasance in village government, the new revelation may leave Bridgeport residents wondering if they can trust anyone.

Charges involving Smith should be resolved as quickly as possible. Once that is accomplished, Bridgeport residents can get down to what clearly will be a tough task — undertaking a thorough deep-cleaning of municipal government, perhaps with help from the state.

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