Indicted Put-In-Bay Mayor Resigns, New Mayor Outlines Priorities

Feb 15, 2019

Former Put-in-Bay mayor Bernard "Mack" McCann pleaded guilty Friday to two misdemeanor counts of conflict of interest in a public contract in a deal with prosecutors, according to the Associated Press. 

McCann was indicted last year on six counts related to conflict of interest in public business. He resigned from his position on Wednesday but denied wrongdoing in his resignation letter. AP reports he agreed to leave office as part of his plea deal.

Interim mayor and former council president Jessica Dress says the news of McCann's resignation didn't come as a surprise.

"It was something I was prepared for, wasn't sure if it was inevitable or not," Dress said. "But I've been on council for about four years, and of course, I'm in the loop on things."

Dress described her relationship with McCann as professional and said they occasionally butted heads discussing village business, but it was nothing unusual for a mayor and council president. 

"We're going to be less distracted by politics and can focus more on the day to day business of running things," Dress said.

In addition to a major water project to protect the village's supply from algal blooms, Dress is hoping to beef up the police department before the summer tourist season.

"It's not a simple thing (to do), but our tourism continues to grow year to year," Dress said. "Unfortunately, we haven't always kept up in adapting our police department to the needs of handling those big crowds that come every weekend."

Dress says village police have already reached out to other agencies to help during busier weekends.

"The sheriff's office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and various entities to help on our biggest weekends when we see that big influx, namely Memorial Day, Fourth of July, any big weekends in July," Dress said.

At age 33, Dress is nearly 50 years younger than McCann and has been on the island for only five years. She believes a different perspective can work to her advantage. She also doesn't have any longstanding business interests on the island.

"The longer I'm around, the longer I realize that the issues we face month after month are a lot of the same issues that have been discussed over the past 20-30 years," Dress said.

A former journalist who married an island native, Dress believes she can combine what has worked well in other cities with the needs of the village. 

McCann's son and current councilman Bernard Michael McCann also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conflict of interest charges, according to the AP.

Before news of the pleas broke, Dress told ideastream that the younger McCann was "diligent and cares about the community" and saw no barriers to working with him. It's unclear how the guilty plea affects his role on council. McCann's daughter, a former village council member, also pleaded guilty.

Dress added, village officials, employees and the public were invited to attend a recent seminar held by a representative from the Ohio Ethics Commission to address potential conflict of interests.

"I think that was very enlightening," Dress said. "Being on our little island, it's very easy to get sucked in to not seeing the big picture. So I think that has been very enlightening. We've also had new legal counsel in the past year or so. We've invested in a bigger law firm with more resources, with all kinds of associates who have opinions and expertise in the area of ethics law."

Dress will finish out McCann's term this year and said running for re-election is possible, but she hasn't decided for certain.



Copyright 2019 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.