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Investigator: Is veteran legislator violating the law?

5:52 AM, Sep 27, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- State lawmakers are supposed to live in the district they represent.  It's the law.

But a Channel 3 News investigation found State Senator Shirley Smith living outside her district.

Records show Smith owns a home on Woodworth Avenue in Cleveland in District 21, the district she's represented as a state senator for almost five years.

But Channel 3 news hidden cameras found her living at a much more expensive home in South Euclid in District 25.

Smith was seen on three randomly-chosen days in July and August relaxing on her front porch and entering and exiting the home, which is located in a subdivision with homes valued near $300,000.

Channel 3 News looked for the senator on several occasions at her Woodworth Avenue home, but never saw her. Records show Smith owns the South Euclid home.

"I sold her the home," said Armin Guggenheim. "The title transferred 2 years ago and she moved in."

Smith ran for re-election in 2010 using her Cleveland address.

"I think it's hypocritical to represent people in a district and not live in that district," said former state senator Tim Grendell, who was recently appointed judge in Geauga County.

Catherine Turcer, of Ohio Citizen Action, said state lawmakers are not only required to live in the districts they represent, it's important to the voters who put them into office.

"We need legislators to live in their district to understand the challenges and problems of that community," said Turcer.

When questioned about her residency, Smith accused the Investigator Tom Meyer and Channel 3 News of not covering legislation she's sponsored over the years.

She also said the work she does is "for the people all over Ohio."

The senator sidestepped the residency questions, saying she was more interested in discussing the issues she's introduced in the legislature.

Smith was asked repeatedly about the South Euclid home.

"Do you live there?" asked Meyer.

"Do I live there?  Ummm, yes I do," said Smith.

Jane Platten, the director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said she would make the board aware of the Channel 3 News investigation, but she said it's up to the board whether or not to investigate the issue.

One neighbor on Woodworth Avenue says she sees the senator from time to time. A sign on the front door of her Cleveland home instructs deliverymen to drop off packages at a home up the street.

Channel 3 news found that packages were sent to her in South Euclid in her name.

Another resident, Josephine Roberson, lives near the senator's Cleveland home. She had no idea that Smith spent time in South Euclid.

"I don't think it's fair. I don't think she should be senator if she lives in another neighborhood," Roberson said.

Smith ended the interview with Meyer with, "Talk to you soon. Thank you," and walked away.  

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