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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2008

New Sandusky County judge winding up his commissioner duties

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FREMONT - After defeating 20-year incumbent Brad Culbert on Election Day to become Sandusky County's new Probate and Juvenile Court judge, Brad Smith, president of the county commissioners, is making preparations this week to start his new job Feb. 9.

"I am working out the logistics about setting up various meetings with the internal people," he said. "I'm also reaching out to community agencies to schedule meetings with them as well."

While Mr. Smith makes plans for his new job, Justin Smith, chairman of the county GOP's central committee, is making plans to fill the commissioner's present position.

"We will be taking applications once Brad Smith legally resigns," he said. "It will give us the power to replace him for the remainder of the term. We have to wait five days but no longer than 45 days."

As a part-time county commissioner, Brad Smith's annual salary was $55,524.

County Auditor Bill Farrell said that as a Common Pleas Court judge, Mr. Smith's annual salary will increase to $121,350.

Judge Culbert has served three terms and more than 17 years on the county's Common Pleas Court.

His defeat came in the midst of his stare-down with the commissioners over who should pay the cost of county employee services rendered to the juvenile court to administer grant money the court received from the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

The commissioners, who are in a budget crunch, wanted Judge Culbert to pay the cost, which is about $7,000, using some of the court's grant funding.

Judge Culbert said he is legally restricted from paying the fees, which he called the commissioners' responsibility.

When he refused to pay, the commissioners refused to sign off on a new Department of Youth Services grant application due Aug. 15.

Both parties agreed to wait until as late as January for the state attorney general's office to rule who is legally responsible for the bill.

Representatives from the state Department of Youth Services said waiting too long to turn in the application could result in the county losing some of its grant funding.

Now that Mr. Smith will succeed Judge Culbert, the issue may be moot.

"It might make some of those issues go away," Mr. Smith said. The commissioners "haven't even discussed that. We'll have a follow-up conversation. My opinion is not going to change."

Judge Culbert said his position has not changed, either.

"I'm going to follow the law whatever it is and I'm confident the attorney general is going to come back and uphold my position."

Justin Smith said he and other Republican central committee members will discuss who they want to replace Brad Smith at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting in December.

"I believe the only legal requirement is that they be a registered Republican," he said. "I imagine the committee would look at their resumes and their experience, but this whole thing's kind of up in the air."

Brad Smith said he and the other commissioners will discuss who will replace him as president of the commissioners at a later meeting, but his likely choice would be Commissioner Terry Thatcher.

Justin Smith said whoever fills Brad Smith's vacancy will be up for election in November, 2010.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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