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Bridgeport denies claims made in lawsuit

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM The village of Bridgeport has submitted its response to a recent lawsuit in which it denies allegations made that village officials refused to accept a resident’s initiative to lower marijuana offense in the village.

BRIDGEPORT — The village of Bridgeport has filed a response denying most of the allegations made in a lawsuit in which a Bellaire resident accused the village of refusing to accept a petition for the Nov. 2 ballot.

On July 16, William Schmitt filed the lawsuit against the village, village officials and the Belmont County Board of Elections. Schmitt alleges that the village mayor and clerk refused to accept his petition request that would reduce penalties for marijuana offenses in the village of Bridgeport.

Schmitt claims he attempted to submit the petition three times during business hours to no avail.

After the lawsuit was filed, the village hired outside counsel, attorney Donald Brey of Isaac Wiles & Burkholder, to represent it. Bridgeport Solicitor Michael Shaheen previously said Brey was hired due to a conflict of interest as Shaheen is a member of the board of elections who is also named in the lawsuit.

The village had until Thursday afternoon to respond to Schmitt’s complaint, which it did.

According to the response submitted to the Supreme Court of Ohio Thursday, the village denies most of the claims made by Schmitt including that officials refused to accept his petition.

The response states that on June 29, Schmitt first came into the mayor’s office and “demanded” to see Mayor Norma Teasdale. Carole Lyle, a volunteer secretary at the village, explained that Teasdale was in a meeting and Schmitt would have to return at a later time. Schmitt then allegedly told Lyle that he wanted her to accept something on behalf of the village which she informed him she was just a volunteer and had no authority to do so.

On July 12, Schmitt returned to the office and spoke with Teasdale where he attempted to submit the petition. Teasdale informed Schmitt that she was not refusing to accept the petitions but needed to speak to the village’s legal counsel before doing so. The response states that Schmitt did not wish to wait for Teasdale to contact the village’s lawyer and opted to leave and contact his attorney.

On July 17, Teasdale called Schmitt and informed him that they were available to accept his petitions if he still wanted to submit them. Schmitt then called Teasdale back a few minutes later and stated that their lawyers needed to talk but he would still file the petitions. The village claims Schmitt never returned to file the petition.

The village is requesting that the court dismiss the complaint, according to the response.

The village has until Monday to file briefs or evidence in support of their case then Schmitt will have a chance to respond up until the following day. The Supreme Court will then make a ruling or select a hearing date for the case.

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