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Two Suspended Bridgeport Council Members Won't Be Back Anytime Soon

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The judge has extended the temporary restraining order that has already kept the pair of council member out of their seats for a month.

First of all, they determined who is going to prosecute the case.

Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter told the judge he's been portrayed as unwilling to take the case.

"And nothing could be farther from the truth," Berhalter said.

He said it's just that the Ohio Revised Code says he can't.

"The statute is clear in this matter, that if there is a village solicitor, and they're not the one accused of malfeasance or misfeasance, then they shall prosecute the case," Berhalter said.

But the village solicitor has bowed out of the case due to a conflict.

So the judge ordered the prosecutor to take it over.

"So the court is going to order, Mr. Berhalter, you to participate and represent the plaintiffs in this matter," said Judge Mark Costine of Belmont County Probate Court.

The next issue was the trial date.

They noted that the Ohio Ethics Commission is investigation this case and some other matters in Bridgeport.

So the judge granted a stay, meaning the case won't go to trial until they receive the Ethics Commission's findings.

Next, the defense attorney for the two council members asked that the temporary restraining order keeping them off council be lifted.

He noted that there's still a quorum in their absence with the four remaining members, but just barely.

The plaintiff's attorney said the current council is doing just fine.

"The daily operations of the village are running smoothly," insisted Attorney Michael Shaheen. "All four council members are cooperating. I believe all four council members appreciate the seriousness of the situation."

The the judge kept the restraining order in place.

And that was welcome news for Shaheen.

"What I didn't want to see happen with a small village was, they go to the trouble and expense of putting ordinances together, putting the law together, then you have to go back and un-do it because later on somebody would suggest that the vote wasn't proper," he said.

And before the hearing, both sides met about a possible settlement.

They apparently didn't reach an agreement.

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