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WARREN WATER DEPARTMENT Officials investigate alleged truck misuse



Published: Tue, July 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A councilwoman said the allegation should be taken seriously because of the potential abuse of taxpayers' money.

By PEGGY SINKOVICHand AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- City officials are investigating allegations that two city water workers drove a department vehicle to Pennsylvania last week to purchase lottery tickets.

Gary Cicero, human resources director, confirmed Monday that he is investigating the allegation.

"We were told it was a blue department vehicle," Cicero said. He said the truck was seen in the Sharon area Friday.

Cicero noted he is still trying to determine who may have been in the truck. He said he did not know how long it would take to complete the probe.

"It's not right. It's absolutely not right," said Virginia Bufano, D-1st, chairwoman of the city council committee that oversees the water department.

Abuse of money: She said the allegation should be taken seriously because of the potential abuse of taxpayers' money.

If the investigation turns up wrongdoing, Bufano said, every effort should be made to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"Those employees need to be reprimanded," she said.

Water department director Manuel Michelakis was unavailable Monday.

Filling in for Michelakis Monday was Bob Davis, superintendent at the city's water filtration plant.

He said he's been made aware of the allegation and that, "If it's true, that's definitely not something we condone."

The city should be allowed to investigate the matter before people jump to conclusions, Davis added.

Although city water is not sold in Pennsylvania, Davis said, the department does buy some uniforms and supplies in the area near the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. However, city officials noted that the company usually delivers the uniforms to Warren and it is not common practice for employees to drive to the business.

State audit: This is not the first time in recent months that the department has been in hot water .

Most recently, a special state audit revealed last month that a scheme could be responsible for missing money.

The state has issued a finding for recovery of $26,036 against the department's former head cashier, Debra Dunewood, who has not been charged with a crime.

Water office manager Richard Griffing was put on unpaid leave for his role in missing money but has since returned to work.

He was found guilty of administrative charges of gross neglect of duty, dishonesty and nonfeasance.

The audit shows there was some delay in the depositing of receipts, along with an indication some money was not being deposited at all.

City police and the FBI are looking into the matter. City police said it would be a few months before their investigation would be completed.




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