Bellevue fire chief quits to run for council

BELLEVUE Bellevue fire Chief Sherrard "Jiggs" Barr is used to heat. He's battled flames for most of his lif
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

BELLEVUE

Bellevue fire Chief Sherrard "Jiggs" Barr is used to heat. He's battled flames for most of his life and has extinguished countless fires.

But he said he was unwilling to take heat regarding his bid for a seat on Bellevue City Council.

Legal questions have been raised about his running for office while serving as fire chief.

Citing a wish to keep the controversy from interfering with the operations of the fire department, Barr resigned from his position on Thursday.

His last day was Friday.

"I felt it was in the best interest of the department and everyone involved due to the circumstances," Barr said. "A cloud has been raised over myself and the department over the controversy of the elections."

The controversy has to do with his decision to run for at-large councilman.

Barr, who served as fire chief for 19 years, recently learned that someone questioned his eligibility to run with the Sandusky County Board of Elections.

This led to election officials contacting the state to see if Barr's name was prohibited from appearing on the Nov. 3 ballot.

It wasn't.

His name is slated to appear on the ballot, but Bellevue law director David Wallingford is examining Ohio laws and local statutes to determine if Barr should face some kind of penalty for running.

Barr is likely considered a classified employee under Ohio law.

Ohio Revised Code forbids classified employees from running for political office. In some circumstances, that can lead to misdemeanor criminal charges.

But it's not clear Barr violated the law and even if he did, it does not necessarily mean he faces charges.

Wallingford said at least one legal opinion suggests the filing of charges against a candidate who ran for office when it was illegal to do so is discretionary.

Wallingford said there is some evidence to suggest charges are meant to be filed only when the candidate ran knowing he or she was prohibited from running.

Barr has said from the beginning he had no idea there might be rules against him running.

The only legal matter he was clear on was he could not serve on council while serving as fire chief. And from the start, Barr's said he would resign as chief if elected.

Barr said it was not an easy decision to step down -- he was going to stay on as fire chief for a while longer if he didn't get elected -- but it was the best thing to do in these circumstances.

He said he never meant to cause a stir and just wanted a chance to serve the people of Bellevue.

"I loved the job and really liked the people I worked with and loved serving the community -- it's been an honor and a privilege," Barr said.

Asked whether he would focus his attention on the elections, Barr said he was going to take a few days to think about what he wants to do.

He is convinced one of his opponents brought up his eligibility.

He is running against Kathy Loparo, Richard Sanders, Rose Mary Nascone and William Ruffing for three open seats.