St. Paris appoints police chief to replace terminated Barga

St. Paris has appointed a police chief after the village council voted to terminate the former chief in November.

Eric Smith was appointed at a village council meeting Monday night. He begins his role on May 1, according to a press release from the village, and will bring his certified Dual Purpose Canine with him.

According to village documents, Smith will be paid $47,500 a year with an additional $6,235 per year canine care allowance.

Smith has 25 years of law enforcement experience in eastern Ohio, including three years as the Bethesda Police Department police chief. He is also a graduate of the Eastern Ohio Law Enforcement Academy in Bethesda.

The village’s former chief, Erica Barga, was terminated in November after being placed on paid administrative leave following allegations of insubordination and neglect of duty, according to village documents.

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Mayor Brenda Cook alleged Barga had “engaged in numerous incidents of insubordination and disrespectful treatment of her supervisor,” the complaint obtained by the Springfield News-Sun said.

In the complaint, Cook alleged that Barga was argumentative in multiple meetings since 2019, frequently canceled, postponed or failed to show at regular meetings, did not provide a regular update of police department activity or schedule, did not work the minimum hours required, and used paid leave benefits inappropriately.

During the hearing, Barga stated that “she was probably argumentative (during meetings with the mayor), but provoked by the mayor” and that she thought the mayor’s conduct and directives given to her were “not reasonable and lawful,” the complaint said.

She was placed on leave Nov. 2 and terminated Nov. 24 after the village council voted 4-2 to uphold termination charges during a public hearing that was held over three nights.

The News-Sun reached out to Cook for comment on the new appointment and did not receive a response.

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