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Department has a history of problems



Published: Fri, June 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Missing money and employee problems are not new to the department.

By AMANDA DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- This is not the first time the city's water department has come under scrutiny.

The state auditor's office has issued findings for recovery in a special audit requested last year by city officials, when missing funds were discovered.

Though the final report has not been made public yet, some "internal control weaknesses" found by the state were listed in the personnel file of Richard Griffing, the department's office manager. He has been suspended 30 days without pay.

History of problems: Vindicator files show a history of problems with the department.

An employee was demoted in 1994 after it was determined he stole $600 for what officials called a gambling problem. He was ordered to make restitution and was eventually promoted.

In August 1995, a Warren woman was fired after failing to appear at a disciplinary hearing to respond to accusations she stole more than $500 from collected water bills.

Richard Griffing was suspended in November 1996 without pay for three days for allowing an employee to act as cashier without signing on as one, and without working out of a separate cash drawer.

Two other employees were suspended without pay that month after cash-handling procedures were violated.

The city cited James Matash in December 1996 for using city property and time to "plan, facilitate, conduct and encourage the receiving, retaining and disposing of stolen property."

Two other employees were also disciplined for their role in that case.

Matash, 38, was indicted recently by a federal grand jury. The government says he gave money to an unnamed city official to secure a demolition contract on the Hotel Regency.

Matash, of Vienna, owner of M & amp;M Demolition Inc., pleaded innocent in April and is free on $50,000 bond.

Mayor Hank Angelo said it's hard to say why the department has been marred by controversy.

He characterized 95 percent of employees as "excellent," saying the other 5 percent cause problems that give the city a black eye.

"This should not be a reflection on all city employees," he said.

davis@vindy.com




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