The story has been updated to reflect the accurate review process with the Board of Elections.
Nelsonville City Council voted Monday to find member Greg Smith to not be a continuous resident of Nelsonville and suspend him from the council, after reviewing evidence for the question of Smith’s continuous residency.
Nelsonville City Council voted unanimously — minus Smith who was not permitted to vote — to immediately suspend Smith as a full member of the body. The information involved in the case may be presented to the Athens County Board of Elections (BoE) for review of Smith's residency requirements. The Board would then determine if they would to hear the case or refer it to the Prosecutor. According to BoE Director Debra Quivey, the BoE has not received any information for review as of Wednesday afternoon.
The official decision delivered acknowledged that Smith is a resident of Nelsonville at Adams Street, but is not a “continuous resident” as the charter dictates.
“It is Nelsonville City Council’s decision ... that councilperson Greg Smith does not meet the requirement of being a continuous resident of Nelsonville ... as such, he is removed from the office of Nelsonville city councilperson subject to the review of the Athens County Board of Elections,” City Council President Tony Dunfee said, reading the official written decision.
Smith told The Messenger on Friday he would appeal and bring it to common pleas court.
“I’ll spend any amount of money to prove I’m a resident of Nelsonville, Smith said.
Council Member Dan Sherman told The Athens Messenger if Smith appeals the decision, he will fail.
“Greg’s jailhouse law degree won’t work this time,” Sherman said.
Smith’s attorney, Daniel Klos, of Columbus, told The Athens Messenger he believed his client was the subject of politically-motivated action.
“There is a political motivation here that should not be,” Klos said.
During the Friday evening executive session, Klos told Smith he believed Nelsonville City Council would find him in violation of the statute.
“These people — they’re not going to find you not guilty,” Klos said to Smith.
At the Friday night evidentiary hearing, evidence and testimony were provided by both sides. Multiple written statements were presented during the meeting, as well as a witness who received a subpoena and testified in person.
Nelsonville City Council presented a statement signed by Brittany and Nathan Tyson, the son and daughter-in-law of Beth Tyson, who The Messenger previously reported had a financial debt to Smith.
The written testimony alleged Smith moved in with the Tyson family in 2008-2009 after Smith met Tyson on a website. The testimony alleges they lived in Belpre until the passing of Nathan Tyson’s grandpa in 2017.
The testimony further alleges that Smith then took out a loan on his retirement to help Beth Tyson purchase Carl Thieman, Beth Tyson’s father’s, house in Waterford, in Washington County.
The Athens Messenger previously reported that Thieman’s obituary lists Smith alongside Beth Tyson as residents of Belpre. The obituary was presented as evidence during the hearing.
Nathan and Brittany Tyson allege that Smith and Beth Tyson both live in Waterford and Beth Tyson still owns the house at 208 Elm Street in Belpre. A search on the Washington County auditor’s website confirms that Beth Tyson is still listed as the owner of the Belpre property.
Klos said Nathan and Brittany Tyson’s testimony did not demonstrate residency.
“I don’t want to characterize their testimony —other than it does not offer evidence that supports a violation of that statute,” Klos said to The Messenger.
“It’s irrelevant,” Smith interjected into the interview.
Nelsonville City Council also heard the testimony from Clinton Stanley, 49, of Meigs County, who testified under subpoena.
Stanley testified that several years ago, he was in the Belpre Kroger, where he ran into Smith, who Stanley knew from his time on Nelsonville City Council in the 1990s.
Stanley testified that he approached Smith to say hello, and Smith introduced Beth Tyson as his girlfriend.
Nelsonville City Council also presented several whitepages results that list Smith as a Belpre or Washington County resident.
During Klos’ opportunity to present evidence, he presented to the council an affidavit from Melanie Smith, Greg Smith’s wife.
The affidavit stated that Melanie Smith knew Greg Smith was caring for a disabled person. However, the affidavit does not state affirmatively that Greg Smith is a permanent resident of Nelsonville.
“While these activities prevent Greg from always being home, Greg always and often returns home,” Melanie Smith said in her affidavit.
The statement continued, saying Greg Smith recently took care of her when she had surgery.
“After being married to him for 43 plus (sic) years, I am sure that it is his intention to always return home,” Melanie Smith wrote in the affidavit.
Sherman told The Messenger on Monday that he wasn’t sure Melanie Smith’s testimony was a benefit to Greg Smith.
“Who says ‘Greg comes home often?” Sherman said. “What does that even mean? I think that was more damning than anything.”
Klos also presented Nelsonville Council with a series of bills, statements, and payments registered at his Nelsonville address on Adams Street, including credit cards and insurance payments. Klos also provided Smith’s voting registration on Adams Street in Nelsonville.
After Klos presented the Athens County Auditor data showing Smith’s ownership of the Adams Street residence, Council Member Cory Taylor expressed his concern that this did not prove residence.
Klos agreed that the homeownership did not demonstrate residency, however, is subject to the interpretation of the statute.
“As a matter of law, that the ownership of a house is not an expositive whether someone resides therein,” Klos said.
Klos told The Messenger no evidence was presented that proved Smith did not intend to return to Nelsonville.
“There is no other evidence that he didn’t intend to return there,” Klos said. “The rest is anecdotal.”
The Friday and Monday meetings were also fraught with procedural questions by the defense, who argued the meeting was not valid per the terms of the notice or charter.
Klos began the Friday meeting by immediately arguing a point of order, saying the notice provided to his client was insufficient for the scope of the hearing that was occurring and said he had not received notice that they would be voting on his removal, only deposition of evidence.
The original notice stated the body would be meeting to “hear and view any and all evidence in this matter.”
“You’ve gone beyond the scope of the notice,” Klos said.
Dunfee dismissed this concern.
“We’re going on with the administrative hearing,” Dunfee said. “I don’t care.”
Taylor emphasized the council was referring the issue to the Board of Elections.
“You can get an appeal through them,” Dunfee said.
Klos and Dunfee also disagreed about whether the Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn needed to be there as a special prosecutor or not. Klos said on Friday the city charter demanded it, but Dunfee said Blackburn told him he didn’t feel he needed to be present.
During Monday’s meeting, Klos attempted to call a final point of order, saying the trial was not valid because Smith was not given an opportunity to review evidence in advance. He also tried to argue the record was not closed on Friday, adding to the invalidity of the hearing.
Dunfee dismissed his challenge, saying this is not a criminal hearing but rather an administrative hearing. City Attorney Garry Hunter said the record was closed.
Blackburn told The Athens Messenger there is nothing within the Nelsonville city charter that required him to be present during the hearing, but the council was free to invite him if it believed he was needed for assistance.
“When it’s appropriate, we’ll be more than happy to be involved,” Blackburn said.
Klos said he believed his client needed to be offered a fair hearing that abides by due process.
“They may not like him — he may be a bit of a curmudgeon,” Klos said. “But this is about whether he meets the statutory requirements for council.”