TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials raise questions over lack of bidding
One commissioner said he was in favor of bidding out food service, but it never was.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and STEVEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Officials are at a loss to explain why business worth about $200,000 a year providing food to the Trumbull County Jail was never offered to the lowest bidder.
"I've always said, and I've told the commissioners, that anytime they are going to use a company and purchase more than $15,000 a year, they must go out for competitive bid," said James Misocky, first assistant county prosecutor and attorney for the commissioners.
"That is our office policy."
Since Jan. 1, the jail has spent $112,000 on food from Acme Steak Co. Inc. of Youngstown, which has gone from doing no business with the county last September to becoming the primary food supplier at the jail.
The contract to provide food for roughly 300 inmates at the jail has never been bid.
"We were informed it was not necessary to bid it out," said Michael O'Brien, a county commissioner.
He said this opinion was delivered to him from Misocky several years ago, when food purchases at the jail were divided among five vendors.
"I've always been in favor of bidding food service out, but it never was," O'Brien said.
Food contracts for the juvenile detention center, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities board and Trumbull County Family Court also have not been bid out.
O'Brien said Sheriff Thomas Altiere is responsible for making sure the food contract at the jail is handled properly.
"My understanding is that it was bid out," Altiere said. "That's how we got the best prices."
Like the sheriff, Commissioner James Tsagaris said he thought vendors had been given a chance to bid on a contract to sell food at the jail, although they had not.
Last September, Tsagaris and Anthony Carson, the county purchasing director, contacted officials at the jail, the juvenile detention center and other county departments, suggesting they begin buying from Acme Steak, which they say offers better prices.
"I don't steer contracts. I try to put a better contract in place to save money," Carson said.
He also said Misocky had told him it was not necessary to seek bids for the contract.
"I didn't say that. I've always said if you are going to spend $15,000, you have to go out to bid," Misocky said.
In Mahoning County, the contract to provide food at the county jail is bid out in accordance with state law, said Nicholas Modarelli, assistant county prosecutor.