The owner of the reopened alternative sentencing program has a lawsuit pending against the city.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Warren Alternative Sentencing Program has quietly reopened in the former city jail after closing earlier this year.
The program, housed in the basement of the Municipal Justice Building on South Street S.E., reopened last week. Nonviolent offenders pay a fee to stay there and have work-release privileges.
An official announcement has not been made, and a few city officials said they weren't told.
"I'm pleased we have reopened," said owner Anthony J. Carson Jr., who also serves as Trumbull County's purchasing director. "I believe there is a need for this type of facility."
He noted the center currently has 12 inmates.
Municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem agreed with Carson that an alternative sentencing program is needed.
"I think it's great that it has reopened," Gysegem said. "There is not enough room at the county jail. This program gives judges an alternative to jail and allows people to keep working while they serve their sentence."
An agreement between Carson and Mayor Hank Angelo, dated May 24, says a January 1999 contract between the two parties needed to be reformed because financial problems shut WASP down earlier this year.
Pending lawsuit: Carson has a lawsuit pending against the city, filed in February in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. It alleges that officials gave him erroneous information on how many inmates would be sent to the program, which he says operated at a loss for 18 months.
The case is assigned to Judge John Stuard and is scheduled for a mediation hearing July 25.
"I'm hoping we can get something resolved," said Atty. William Caulfield, who represents Carson.
Carson, of Cortland, seeks damages in excess of $25,000 and contends when he was negotiating an agreement with the city, officials "falsely or mistakenly misrepresented" to him that a minimum of 14 people per day would be sentenced to the program.
WASP at the time usually took in seven or fewer prisoners, Carson has said.
Judge Gysegem has said the municipal court was unable to provide WASP with 14 offenders per day because city police officers were laid off and arrests were down.
Because of this, the suit claims, Carson had to spend more than $100,000 to make improvements at the building, which he said closed in January.
The reformed agreement says both parties will submit their differences to a mediator as soon as possible.
Savings cited: The city says WASP saves money because it houses offenders that would be sent to the county lockup. The city pays the county to house offenders who don't qualify for WASP.
The county charges Warren $45 per prisoner per day to house up to 30 inmates. The fee is $60 per day for every prisoner above 30. The city currently owes the county $1.5 million. County officials say the city has not paid on the jail bill since 1999.
"We are negotiating," Sheriff Thomas Altiere said
As part of Carson's job as purchasing director, he helps the county negotiate the bill. Carson said he is able to keep the jobs separate.
Carson also holds the county's lease to house Central District Court in Cortland.
Hired in May: Carson, a former Warren councilman, was chosen in May from 30 applicants for the newly created job of county purchasing director. He makes $44,750 annually. Before that, Carson worked in county Auditor David Hines' office for three years as an appraiser, earning $35,877 per year.
Vindicator files show that Carson at one time served as business manager for Northeast Ohio Community Alternative Program, a lockup on Pine Avenue S.E. that accepts nonviolent offenders from common pleas courts in Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Portage counties.