Bridgeport mayor pleads guilty to theft in office
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Bridgeport Mayor David Smith pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft in office and conflict of interest after more than $20,000 in village funds went missing.
He will be sentenced Aug. 10.
Smith, 49, of 205 Jacquette St., Bridgeport, was indicted in February on four charges including tampering with records, theft in office and two misdemeanor conflict of interest charges.
It was alleged that between June 2016 and November 2019 while serving in Bridgeport Mayor’s Court, Smith removed both cash payments and corresponding traffic tickets that were waiting to be processed, using the money for his personal gain.
The losses to the village reportedly are greater than $20,000.
The misdemeanor charges are related to Smith’s apparent use of an employee of the village to handle his personal errands, including child care and banking while the employee was on village time.
Smith relinquished his duties as mayor in February.
Smith appeared Wednesday before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra. Leigh A. Bayer, assistant legal counsel from the Ohio Auditor of State’s office, said a tampering charge and one of the conflict of interest charges were dismissed. The state will remain silent during sentencing and recommend Smith’s bond of $10,000 be maintained.
Smith faces a maximum of three years in prison. Vavra said the charges do not carry a mandatory prison sentence.
“There is a possibility of restitution,” Bayer said, adding Smith would also be responsible for audit costs.
The full restitution would be $24,467, which includes the $2,460 for the audit, Bayer said.
Smith’s attorney, Steven Stickles, said the full figure had not been received and restitution had not been part of the plea agreement. He said it would be further discussed as sentencing approached.
“We’ve discussed this matter at length over the past two days,” he said.
“You will be permanently disqualified from public employment, or employment in any position of trust,” Vavra said to Smith.
“The theft in office with a conviction, which won’t occur until the sentencing’s finalized, would prohibit him from being in public office,” Bayer said afterward. “It’s technically filed when the judge files his judgment entry, so that’s when the conviction will be finalized.”
A pre-sentence investigation, victim impact study and Eastern Ohio Corrections Center evaluation were ordered.
After Smith relinquished his mayoral duties, then-Bridgeport council president Marvin Husarik took on the role of acting mayor but stepped down from council in March. Since then, Councilwoman Norma Teasdale has served as acting mayor. Teasdale referred all questions to Michael Shaheen, the village solicitor.
The village held a special meeting Tuesday to select a new council member. Shaheen said Smith’s status was not part of the meeting.
“It had nothing to do with the meeting and none of us knew he was going to plead today,” Shaheen said. “It was never an issue for us because he voluntarily relinquished all involvement. We’ve not had any contact with him since the day he did that.”
Shaheen said he expects the village to be contacted by the state auditor’s office regarding restitution.