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TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials decline lawyer



Published: Thu, August 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The attorney would be hired for a hearing separate from the case involving the sheriff's election certification.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners have declined to hire a lawyer to represent the county board of elections at an upcoming Ohio Elections Commission hearing on Sheriff Thomas Altiere's campaign finances.

"The issue is over, and I'm not going to spend any more of Trumbull County's money," said Commissioner James G. Tsagaris. "Sheriff Altiere has been voted in by the people."

The hearing, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Columbus, came about after the county board of elections unanimously voted to submit to the Ohio Elections Commission results of an investigation of the sheriff's financial reports from 1993 to 2000.

Investigation: The county board's investigation, which found numerous unanswered questions about how Altiere raised and spent campaign money, and a complaint filed by William Jobe, a private citizen, were combined into a single case, said Norma Williams, director of the county board.

The state elections commission recommended that the county board retain legal counsel for the hearing, she said. The county prosecutor asked commissioners to hire an outside attorney, saying a conflict of interest prevented him from representing the board.

"We are at a standstill," Williams said. "It will be up to the board where we go from now."

The board is not scheduled to meet until Aug. 28, she said.

Hearing: Williams said that she and several board members will likely attend the hearing in Columbus. The hearing is separate from Altiere's legal attempt to force the county board to certify his election victory. For that case, currently under review in the 5th District Court of Appeals in Canton, county commissioners allocated $15,000 for an outside attorney to represent the board of elections.

Commissioner Michael J. O'Brien made a motion at the commissioners' meeting Wednesday to hire the same attorney at $150 an hour to represent the board at the election commission hearing. The motion died when neither or Tsagaris or commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr. would second it.

"My position is that we should follow the recommendation of the county prosecutor and permit the case to follow its natural course and not impede it in any way," O'Brien said.

"The county is a party to this case," he said. "The recommendation of the prosecutor, and I concur with that, is that there is a county interest to be protected."

Commissioner Angelo said he opposed spending another $15,000 on legal fees. He said he also hoped the decision not to hire a lawyer will hasten the end of questions surrounding Altiere's election.

siff@vindy.com




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