CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Lt. Bryan Smith was appointed as interim Cuyahoga County Sheriff Monday, but he only had the title for a few hours and was removed from the position because of a residency requirement law in Ohio.
State law requires the sheriff to live in the county in which they serve for at least one year immediately prior to the qualification date, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Smith, who has worked for the county since 1997, lives in Lorain County, according to the Lorain County Auditor’s website.
Since the appointment last week of Lt. Smith was an interim appointment, the Law Department opined that the residency requirement did not apply. “After further reflection and discussion, and out of an abundance of caution, we chose to appoint Lt. Bryan Smith as the Interim Chief Deputy Sheriff and Sgt. David Schilling as the Interim Sheriff,” said Armond Budish’s Chief of Staff Bill Mason.
He was set to make $117,000 annually as sheriff after replacing Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, who resigned officially Aug. 2.
Pinkney, who was the first African American sheriff in the county, left with an annual salary of $128,000.
Pinkney submitted his resignation in May after serving in the position for four years, which gave the county about two months to vet Smith.
Cuyahoga County is the only county in Ohio that appoints a sheriff instead of electing one.
Meanwhile, the jail has been plagued with missteps and controversy.
During Pinkney’s tenure, nine inmates died and there were complaints about physical abuse, cleanliness and other issues at the Cuyahoga County Jail.
One of the most compelling signs of turmoil are shown in videos that reveal several cases of mistreatment to prisoners, including one instance involving a restrained female inmate assaulted and sprayed by corrections officers with pepper foam.
Another high profile incident included video that showed an officer strapping in inmate Terrance Debose to a chair and pushing him in a secluded cell and beating him.
Warning: This video shows violence and may be difficult to view.
In another video released, an inmate who overdosed on opioids was lying on a mat motionless for more than two hours while nobody bothered to check on him.
Pinkney previously said he didn’t have full responsibility of running the Justice Center, but he is taking much of the blame for the scandals that have plagued the prison over the last 12 months.
He chose his words carefully while testifying before Cuyahoga County Council, repeating the theme often of how hiring, firing and other pivotal jail decisions were made “up the ladder.”
That points directly at the administration of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.
It was clear during Pinkney’s testimony that council members found it hard to believe jail director Ken Mills was ever hired given his lack of experience. Again, Pinkney stressed that he didn’t have hiring authority for the position.
The jail is designed for about 1,700 inmates, but it averages around 2,100, and has peaked at more than 2,400.
Pinkney said the only solution is a new jail, and that he was never given authority by Budish to do his job.
A tentative executive session with Pinkney is set for Aug. 13, so that more specific questions can be asked without the answers being public where they could be used against the county in pending lawsuits from former inmates who allege mistreatment.