LIMA — Mayoral candidate Sharetta Smith has a history of civil lawsuits filed against her, according to court records The Lima News obtained from Lima, Toledo and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Smith told the newspaper the suits are the result of several things — poor decisions made as a young adult, her struggle to better herself by obtaining a college education, and health issues involving herself and her children. She said she has not shirked her responsibilities in paying back that debt and fully disclosed her financial struggles to the Tennessee Supreme Court when seeking a law license, which it granted.
“Some will argue that my personal financial challenges disqualify me from public office. I disagree, and I believe the 80% of Americans who are in debt — the four out of five Americans who also owe money — would disagree as well. I fully disclosed my debts and lawsuits in my application for admission to practice law in Tennessee. After reviewing my disclosures, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted me a license to practice law,” Smith said in a statement to The Lima News.
Before coming back to Lima, Smith served as a magistrate in Chattanooga. Prior to that, the Perry High School graduate admitted she struggled while living in Lima. She wrote about those challenges in a Feb. 5, 2016, guest column under the headline — “I love Lima, but I cannot pretend.” It was published as a part of a weeklong series in The Lima News: “Lima: In black and white.”
In that column, Smith noted: “As a young adult, I made mistakes — pregnant at 18; three children by the time I was 21, all born out of wedlock. I lived in Section 8 housing, bought groceries with food stamps and ran down to LACCA to get my electric paid when I found myself with more month than money. I started college, quit, then started again. Over and over I looked for opportunities to create a different kind of life for myself and my children. But I could not find that life in Lima.”
She completed college and earned a law degree, but it came at a cost.
“I graduated with about $40-50,000 in debt and then I went to law school and accumulated even more debt to pay for law school. I had living expenses as well as being able to pay back my student loans as well as being able to care for my children. I know, while people will say, ‘well she’s a lawyer’ and I was only making $42,000 a year, and even as a magistrate I was only making $60,000. In addition to being a single mom with three children, I also was diagnosed with cancer during the time when I did not have any health insurance, and so those medical bills that you see are a result of having to undergo medical treatment and those have been satisfied. Not only did I have medical bills, one of my children also has a chronic illness (sickle cell anemia),” Smith said. “Not only did sickle cell and cancer take an enormous toll on our health — they also left a tremendous negative financial impact,” Smith stated.
During her journey to becoming Mayor David Berger’s chief of staff, she faced numerous legal challenges.
“I owe outstanding debts. I take full responsibility and I’m grateful that most of these bills have now been paid, and I’ve entered into payment plans to pay off the others. I have never ignored my responsibilities and I never filed for bankruptcy. I will meet my obligations, however, slowly but surely,” Smith stated.
Smith had a civil suit filed against her in Perrysburg Municipal Court in April of 2003. The Toledo Clinic filed the suit seeking a judgment of $842.
“In all likelihood, it was probably a medical bill for my child,” Smith said.
Jefferson Capital Systems LLC, a collections agency, also filed a suit in Perrysburg Municipal Court against her in June of 2020. They were seeking $10,592, but that case was dismissed in February of this year for “want of prosecution.”
Smith had a couple of civil lawsuits filed against her in Toledo Municipal Court by Apple Tree Nursery School, one filed in October of 2004, seeking $3,877 plus court costs and the other in February of 2006. Both suits were dismissed without prejudice at the plaintiff’s costs for want of service as she was not served with papers because she had moved from her previous home.
“I was not aware that was hanging out there,” Smith said.
A check of the Lima court records indicates a couple of civil lawsuits filed in 2006, one from The Learning Castle Day Care, the other — an eviction judgment filed by The Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority.
In the Learning Castle Day Care case, a judgment of $561 was ordered against Smith, which she paid.
In Tennessee, Attorney Kenneth Rannick sued Smith in April of 2008 and won a judgment of $800, which she paid
In a lawsuit filed by Erlanger Health System in December of 2011, Smith was ordered to pay $11,710, which she paid.
Erlanger Health System filed another lawsuit against Smith in March of 2014 where she was ordered to pay $636, which she did.
First Heritage Credit filed a lawsuit in March 2015 for $4,147 which she also paid.
In a lawsuit filed by David Lyons in May 2015, Smith was ordered to pay $6,250. That case is listed as “pending” in court documents.
“My understanding was that I didn’t have anything outstanding,” Smith said.
Smith still apparently faces two other pending lawsuits, one filed by Erlanger Health System in January 2016. The lasts entry on that case was in February of 2017 listing “Return-D1-NOT FOUND HOUSE IS VACANT”.
“I was told exactly what you — say that they tried to serve me. And, I was no longer living there by that time I had moved back to Ohio,” Smith said.
Another lawsuit was filed in October of 2017 by Stone River Inc., Assignee of Crest Financial Services LLC. The last court entry was submitted in February of 2018 as “Return-D1-NOT FOUND”.
“I also called this Crest Financial Services. I have no idea who they are. I looked them up on Better Business Bureau — they have like 32 complaints, and the phone number that’s listed is disconnected. And it also says that they’re out of business. So I don’t know what that is,” Smith said.
At one point Smith’s car was also repossessed in the parking lot of the Lima Municipal Center.
“Yeah, but I ended up getting my car back. It was behind on the payments,” Smith said.
Smith’s struggles with finances have served as a learning experience for her.
“As a candidate for mayor, I stand knowing that I’ve lived a full life dealing with issues that regular, working people deal with every single day. I stand fully committed to do everything in my power to fight for all of us to have a fair chance at having a decent quality of life,” Smith stated.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.