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City fights officer's reinstatement

Andy Ouriel • May 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Sandusky’s top administrator continues to contest a decision to reinstate a police officer who was fired for allegedly swapping nude photos with his supervisor’s wife.

City manager Nicole Ard recently filed paperwork protesting an arbitrator’s ruling to bring back Sandusky police Officer Todd Smith.

Ard refused to comment on the ongoing matter.

She did indicate the city’s legal counsel plans to file an appeal aimed at keeping Smith away from police operations.

Sandusky’s legal counsel can wait until early July to file the appeal.

Ard’s fight seemingly stems from her decision to fire Smith in April 2012 for dishonesty, insubordination and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The termination resulted from an early 2012 internal police investigation, questioning alleged antics involving Smith, Sandusky police Officer Stephen Ritterbach and Ritterbach’s wife, Jennifer.

Among the report’s findings: Jennifer asked Smith to have sex with her and Ritterbach in late 2011. Sometime afterwards, Ritterbach discovered the two exchanged nude images via text messaging, and he later threatened to shoot Smith.

Ritterbach and Smith’s tribulations mirror one another to a particular point.

Both were fired for their alleged actions.

Both received vindication from an arbitrator when, in separate cases, a judge mandated each one return to work and receive back pay, compensating them for all the time they missed in between getting fired and restarting.

But the similarities stop there.

City officials never disputed Ritterbach’s return, yet they’re protesting Smith’s comeback.

Why they’re battling Smith’s return — and not Ritterbach’s — is seemingly a mystery.

Ard fired Ritterbach for conduct unbecoming of an officer, harassment, making inappropriate comments, gossip, spreading false information about staff, dishonesty and insubordination.

Ritterbach, a former sergeant, returned to work in February, although he was demoted to officer.

The tumultuous saga continues to cause stress for all those involved.

“We’ll be happy when it’s over,” city commissioner Wes Poole said. “We are following the steps to bring this to an end. We are trying to do what we think is best for the police department.”

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