Struthers street foreman to retire under a cloud
The Struthers community leader cited health concerns as his reason for retirement.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
STRUTHERS -- Ronald A. Carcelli is withdrawing from public life.
After 29 years with the city, Carcelli, Struthers street foreman, submitted a retirement letter, effective Jan. 1. But he has already worked his last day for the city.
Carcelli, who could not be reached Wednesday to comment, is using his unused sick and vacation time that will permit him to keep his job in title only through the end of the year, said Mayor Daniel C. Mamula. Carcelli's last day was Aug. 13.
He cited health issues as the reason for his retirement.
Leaving school board: Carcelli also cited health issues in a letter sent Wednesday to the Mahoning County Board of Elections stating he was withdrawing his name from consideration as a candidate for the city school board.
The incumbent board member was up for re-election this year and filed nominating petitions earlier this month.
Carcelli acknowledged in March that he was questioned about a $128,546 road paving contract awarded by the city in 1995 to Tone Crack Sealing and Supply Inc.
Also, other city officials said FBI agents asked them about the State Street project, whether Carcelli and his brother, Councilman Robert D. Carcelli, D-at large, had any involvement in the contract, and if the brothers received any benefits from the deal.
Charges: James R. Sabatine, who once owned Hardrives Paving and Construction Inc., pleaded guilty Aug. 13, Carcelli's last day on the job, to charges of engaging in a pattern of racketeering and filing a false income tax return related to the Struthers contract and others.
Also, Edward Pannutti, Sabatine's asphalt plant supervisor, was charged in a criminal information Aug. 16 with two counts of mail fraud accusing him of generating fake invoices for asphalt not used on the Struthers street job and Mahoning County road projects.
Carcelli said in March that he had no involvement in the State Street contract nor did he personally benefit from it.
John Kane, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boardman office, declined to comment on whether Carcelli's retirement had anything to do with the criminal investigation.
Federal agents visited Struthers City Hall three weeks ago for at least the third time this year in search of documents related to Hardrives and its subsidiaries, Mamula said.
"They were making sure we didn't have any additional records," Mamula said. "You never know what they're looking for."
Robert Carcelli, who denies any wrongdoing, served as secretary-treasurer of the Laborers International Union of North America Local 125. Renee Smith, who operated Tone Crack, worked with Carcelli at the union as its office manager.
The Struthers-Hardrives investigation is an off-shoot of the federal probe of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, who faces a 10-count indictment on charges of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
Struthers officials said federal agents asked them if Traficant, D-17th, had a hand in the road project. The officials said they had no knowledge of any involvement by the congressman.
Admissions: Sabatine admitted in court he bribed Traficant with $2,400 in exchange for the congressman's help in securing a rail line and a steady supply of raw materials to his asphalt plant in Youngstown. He is expected to be called as a witness against Traficant when the congressman goes on trial Feb. 4.
Sabatine also admitted his involvement in a scheme with Smith to fraudulently obtain government paving contracts that were set aside for minority businesses in Ohio from July 1995 to November 1998.
Smith, who is black, would submit false certifications to make it look like Tone Crack was doing the bulk of the work and instead, Hardrives would do it, according to court documents.
Sabatine and Smith also worked the scheme in Champion, Goshen and Kinsman townships, as well as Struthers, the government said.
Sabatine's company got $515,076, and Tone Crack pocketed $81,788.
The government's subpoenas also ask for any documents Struthers has related to Prime Contractors Inc., a former Canfield construction company.
Traficant's indictment says Anthony R. and Robert Bucci, Prime principals, gave the congressman free labor and materials at his Green Township horse farm in exchange for having him intercede on their behalf with government agencies.
John Sveda, Struthers safety-service director, said the search for Carcelli's replacement will not begin until Jan. 1. Around that time a promotional test would be given to any of the department's four laborers interested in the position.
"Actually, until the first of the year, there's no vacancy; he's still an employee of the city of Struthers," Sveda said.
A department laborer is acting as group leader in Carcelli's place, Sveda said.
"We have worked around situations like this in the past," he said.
XCONTRIBUTOR: Paul Wheatley, Vindicator staff writer