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FBI continues to subpoena Warren records



Published: Sun, June 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The law director says he doesn't know what the FBI is looking for.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The FBI has been keeping city officials busy with requests for numerous records.

Law Director Greg Hicks and Auditor Dave Griffing said agents have subpoenaed information on the former Mahoningside Power Plant on Summit Street and the demolition of the Hotel Regency on U.S. Route 422.

Also requested were documents dealing with the Country Club Estates development off East Market Street.

One subpoena dealing with Mahoningside was originally served to city officials in December, but FBI agents asked the city last week to review it.

"They want us to go back and make sure that we gave them everything," Hicks said.

The subpoena on the Hotel Regency demolition is seeking council records and copies of any and all subcommittee meetings.

"I have no idea what they are looking for," Hicks said. "We are just cooperating and assisting in any way we can."

Griffing noted that the FBI also asked for canceled checks relating to the demolition of Hotel Regency.

Officials have said the FBI asked for nine checks. They would not give any specific information about the checks.

Gathering records: Council clerk Darla Neugebauer said that she has already spent most of a day gathering meeting minutes regarding the hotel demolition and another entire day collecting minutes for Mahoningside but that she still isn't done.

She expects it will take quite a while to gather minutes addressing Country Club Estates.

Neugebauer said the FBI did not give her a deadline to gather the information.

The controversial housing development was the subject of a taxpayers' lawsuit filed on behalf of Citizens Involved In The Community.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in February 2000 that the city erred when it helped a Canton developer build streets and provide for utilities in the upscale development.

The court said the city unlawfully used taxpayer dollars to benefit a private corporation.

Power plant: The former Mahoningside Power Plant on Summit Street was razed in March 1999 after sitting vacant many years. High levels of heavy metals and PCBs, chemical residue believed to cause cancer, were found on the five-acre site on the west bank of the Mahoning River.

State and federal money was used for cleanup, which was handled by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and companies hired by the city.

Hotel demolition: In April, James Matash of Centennial Drive, Vienna, owner of M & amp;M Demolition Inc., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Cleveland. He is accused of agreeing to give money to an unidentified Warren official so his company would get the hotel demolition contract.

He is free on $50,000 bond after pleading guilty to charges of extortion and program fraud.

M & amp;M has handled many Warren jobs, including demolition of the hotel, which was destroyed by fire in 1999. Officials said arson was the cause.

The indictment accused Matash of agreeing to pay $5,000 to the public official to ensure he got the contract for $108,421.

The official has not been identified, but Mayor Hank Angelo has said that person no longer works for the city.

A portion of the demolition's cost, $83,421, was paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

City council voted at that time against using CDBG money, but lawmakers were told the formal bidding process was bypassed because of emergency safety concerns and because M & amp;M was already paid to do the work.

Matash was fired in 1996 as an equipment operator with the water department for using city time and property to facilitate the retaining and disposing of stolen property.

Records taken: The FBI took 10 sets of records from departments in the past year, including engineering, building and planning; community development; municipal court; and the auditor's office.

City police and the FBI are investigating missing money in the water department after a special state audit issued a finding for recovery of $26,036 against the department's former head cashier.

The audit hints that a scam could be responsible.

Water office manager Richard Griffing is on suspension without pay through July 9 because the city found him guilty of gross neglect of duty, dishonesty and nonfeasance regarding the missing money.




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