December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Former Grafton councilman pleads no contest in Cavs ticket case

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

ELYRIA — Former Grafton Village Councilman Tom Smith pleaded no contest Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of persistent disorderly conduct for accepting $595 worth of Cleveland Cavaliers tickets from a village contractor.

Smith, 59, originally had faced two misdemeanor ethics charges in connection with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation probe into his relationship with Bowling Green-based Poggemeyer Design Group.

North Ridgeville Prosecutor Toni Morgan, who handled the case, said she was satisfied with the resolution, even if Smith didn’t plead out to ethics violations.

“I wanted him to plead to a criminal charge, but it didn’t necessarily have to be the one originally charged,” she said.

Smith was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $250, but both the jail time and the fine were suspended, according to Elyria Municipal Court records. Smith did agree to make a $600 donation to Grafton’s Parks and Recreation Department, his attorney, Paul St. Marie, said.

Morgan also said the plea agreement calls for Smith not to seek elected public office for the next four years. Smith, who did not return a call seeking comment, lost his most recent re-election bid in November.

“Mr. Smith was a dedicated Village of Grafton public servant for over 30 years. This situation, although unfortunate, should not tarnish his legacy,” St. Marie said.

According to a BCI summary of the investigation released late last year, Smith accepted the Cavaliers tickets in November 2009 and admitted to doing so during an October 2012 interview with investigators. He also told BCI that he played more than 10 rounds of golf that Poggemeyer paid for.

The report also concluded that the company paid $47.33 for an October 2008 meal Smith ate at the Olive Garden in Elyria, according to the report.

Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan said she continues to have concerns about Poggemeyer’s dealing with village officials, particularly since her effort to fire the company were rejected by the majority of Village Council. Poggemeyer continues to provide engineering services to the village.

“There’s a lot of red flags,” she said.

The investigation that led to the charges against Smith began when former Grafton Police Chief Lonnie Carroll asked BCI to look into the matter after then-Village Administrator Patrick Mudge raised concerns about the relationship Smith and a previous village administrator had with the company.

Flanigan fired Carroll without explanation in August 2012, and Mudge abruptly resigned last year. Flanigan has said Carroll’s firing was unrelated to the Smith investigation.

Smith works as a guard at the Lorain County Jail and sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said now that the court case has been concluded, an internal review of the matter will be conducted to determine what, if anything, will be done with Smith administratively.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.