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Water department chief faced discipline before



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



A probe is being handled by city police and an unidentified\ law enforcement agency.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A water department employee suspended in a case of mishandled funds has been in trouble with the city before.

Office manager Richard Griffing began 30 days off without pay today as part of an ongoing investigation. The suspension runs through July 9.

A letter in his personnel file from safety-service director Fred Harris says Griffing was found guilty this week of gross neglect of duty, dishonesty and nonfeasance regarding $26,036 missing from department accounts.

Mayor Hank Angelo said the action stems from findings in a special state audit the city requested for April 2000, when officials discovered money was missing. At that time, they weren't sure the matter was criminal.

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

Probationary appointment: He also was suspended in October 1976, when he was given a probationary appointment as a meter reader. According to his personnel record, he was suspended for two days after he was found guilty of administrative charges of neglect of duty and falsification of records.

Griffing's personnel file says he failed to provide meter readings for several accounts and falsified readings on eight other accounts.

Robert A. Marchand, water utility manager at the time, said in a March 21, 1977, letter that he would not recommend Griffing be given a permanent appointment to the position.

Letter cited problems: Records also state that on Feb. 5, 1991, Manuel Michelakis, water utilities director, sent Griffing a letter citing "many problems" in Griffing's division.

The 1991 letter says employees had not been at their work stations on time, had been using the telephone for personal calls and took longs breaks and long lunches.

The letter also states that Griffing was letting "certain employees curse or holler" at him.

Michelakis could not be reached Thursday to discuss the present situation.

Angelo said the investigation of the missing money will continue by city police and an outside law enforcement agency he declined to name.

No city officials were willing to comment on why Griffing was allowed to retain his post as office manager.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos said he will be working with the state auditor's department and possibly the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation or the FBI.

"We are moving on this as quickly as possible," Mandopoulos said. "... we are not going to cut any corners or leave any questions unanswered. We are going to get to the bottom of this."

Filed police report: Police records show Griffing filed a police report May 2, 2000, stating that money was missing from a deposit. He told police at the time he didn't know how much was missing but that a special audit would be performed.

The mayor updated city council on the matter in a closed session Thursday.

Griffing, who is brother of city auditor David Griffing, declined to comment.

As water office manager, Richard Griffing is responsible for overseeing collection and deposit of revenues and enforcing a policy that says the money must be deposited within 24 hours.

The city has determined he did not enforce the rule between April 3 and May 1 of 2000.

A letter from Harris to Richard Griffing says he did not ensure deposit of $2,755 in miscellaneous cash receipts from April 3-19 of that year or a deposit of $23,281 in utility cash receipts from April 13-20, 2000.

"By not performing your duties as office manager, you facilitated the theft of $26,036," the letter said.

City and state officials will not comment on why the amount mentioned is considered theft.

Issued finding: Harris' letter to Richard Griffing informs him state auditors have issued a finding for recovery against a former water department employee.

That former employee has not been charged.

It also notes that during the special audit, Richard Griffing told an auditor the department did not have any written policies or procedures governing collections.

"This was a false statement," Harris wrote. "A cash collection policy has existed since June 13, 1996."

David Robison, president of Warren Management Association, who represented Richard Griffing at his hearing, declined to comment.

davis@vindy.com; sinkovich@vindy.com




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