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LOWELLVILLE Charges against mayor probed



Published: Thu, October 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The officer asked council to bring charges against the mayor to the state attorney general's office.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LOWELLVILLE -- The village solicitor and council are looking into a number of allegations made against Mayor Joseph Rossi by a village police officer who's asking that Rossi be suspended immediately for actions involving police activity.

Part-time officer Patrick Naples told council Wednesday night that he hasn't been scheduled for a day of work since Aug. 31, the day after an article about Naples and U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. appeared in The Vindicator.

The article pertained to an affidavit signed by Naples that was submitted by Traficant in U.S. District Court in August. In the affidavit, Naples, a former lieutenant with the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, pointed to alleged misconduct by Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor in a 10-count indictment against Traficant, D-17th, that includes racketeering, bribery and tax evasion charges.

Naples' affidavit said Morford shared confidential information with him. Naples also made allegations of misconduct toward Mahoning County Sheriff Randall A. Wellington.

In September, a federal judge denied Traficant's motion to submit affidavits of alleged misconduct by the prosecutor.

Not scheduled to work: Naples says that although he hasn't been suspended from work, Rossi hasn't allowed him on the schedule because of Naples' comments regarding Wellington.

"The mayor said he had to take me off the schedule to keep Wellington happy," Naples said before the meeting.

Rossi cut off Naples, who was reading a letter to council, during council's public request section of the meeting. After that, Councilman James Iudiciani motioned to adjourn the meeting, but the motion was not seconded and failed.

Rossi left the table and was replaced by Councilman Keith McCaughtry, acting as president of council. But Rossi stood by the door and interjected from time to time.

"I don't have to sit here and let him talk about me," the mayor said.

Bring up charges: Naples asked council to bring charges against Rossi to the state attorney general's office.

Those charges, listed in his letter, include dereliction of duty, obstruction of official business, intimidation of a witness in a criminal case, interfering with civil rights and making false allegation of police misconduct.

Naples told council Rossi oversees which felony investigations are sought by the department, has sat in on interrogations of suspected felons and has told Chief William Vance not to file an accident report.

Later, he also contended that there's pressure against writing tickets within the department and said he takes tickets straight to Struthers Municipal Court to prevent tampering.

Rossi denies any wrongdoing.

"He was taken off the schedule for a reason," said the mayor, pointing to an ongoing investigation of a police brutality allegation against Naples.

Police brutality claim: Rossi said he was contacted by a Lowellville woman who claimed police brutality during an Aug. 18 encounter when she was arrested by Naples.

The officer arrested the Lowellville woman that day on charges of assault, escape, disorderly while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

But Naples said Rossi approached the woman to inquire about any wrongdoing and prosecutors would not take the case, finding lack of evidence against him.

Rossi said after the meeting that he reviews the schedule but does not make changes to it.

"Basically he's just way out of line," said the mayor. "He'll pay the consequences for accusing me of being corrupt."

Neither the police chief, nor the Lowellville woman, could be reached to comment.

wheatley@vindy.com




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