WARREN FBI investigates how contracts were handled
A former city employee whom the FBI is investigating is accused of doing favors for the man who eventually took his place.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Wayne Dabelko's associations with city officials paid off, a former co-worker contends.
Dabelko, who was hired last spring as head of the city's building department, received favors from the city when his company was still in business, the former co-worker alleges.
Dabelko received several city contracts while he owned Commercial Construction of Griswold Street N.E., according to city documents.
Commercial Construction, along with several other area contracting companies, is named in a federal subpoena.
The FBI has taken several sets of city records from the engineering, building and planning department and other offices, including documents related to construction projects, city officials have said.
Permit: When contacted by The Vindicator, Michael Overton said that in 1996, when he was a city building inspector, Dabelko's company was given permission to work on four homes on Williamsburg N.W. but only one permit was paid for.
The homes are at 3429, 3441, 3453 and 3465 Williamsburg, built by Sunshine Inc., a nonprofit agency that builds homes for low- to moderate-income families.
Overton charged that his supervisor at the time, Jim Lapmardo, told him to put all four homes on one building permit, charging Dabelko's Commercial Construction for only one permit.
Prices for permits vary, but Overton said he thinks each permit would have cost about $350.
"If I didn't do what I was told, I could have faced insubordination charges," Overton contended. "I knew it wasn't right, and I told Jim that. Jim just said that usually it has to go to council to waive the fees, but to do it this way for this one time."
Overton worked as a city building inspector but took disability retirement in April 1999 after a car wreck. He said that was the only time he was told to write a permit in that manner.
Building permits are issued for all construction jobs, including those done on city buildings, schools and churches.
Response: Dabelko said he doesn't remember if he paid only one permit fee.
"I'm not sure how that was done," Dabelko said Friday. "I didn't get much money from those jobs -- they were not big-money makers."
Mayor Hank Angelo said he did not know about the waived fees.
"I just found out about this a few days ago," Angelo said. "I want to make sure something like this doesn't happen again."
Lapmardo, who no longer works for the city, is the former building official who oversaw Overton and other inspectors. He took disability retirement from the city around the time he became the subject of an FBI investigation.
Dabelko replaced Lapmardo.
Lapmardo has not been charged, but the FBI has identified him in affidavits as the person who either offered a bribe to or accepted one from James Matash, a Vienna contractor.
Lapmardo could not be reached.
Matash, who owned M & amp;M Demolition, was recently convicted in federal court for agreeing to pay Lapmardo $5,000 to secure the city's demolition contract for the Regency Hotel on U.S. Route 422.
Judge Lesley Brooks Wells of U.S. District Court in Cleveland sentenced Matash to one year and one day in prison and three years' supervised release, and fined him $3,000.
Probe: FBI officials have said other contractors are being investigated and that indictments are inevitable.
Debts: Records from the Trumbull County treasurer's office, meanwhile, show that Dabelko, of Everett-Hull Road, Cortland, owes the county $17,354 for the closed-down Griswold property.
The property will be listed in an upcoming sheriff's sale unless Dabelko attempts to make some payment.
An additional $2,005 will be added to the bill in March if no payment is made, officials said.
Dabelko is contending with some financial troubles.
Dabelko's wages have been attached, meaning the city payroll office sends 25 percent of his paychecks to the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas each pay period.
Documents were filed in 1998 in the court showing that Dabelko at that time owed $6,252 plus court costs to Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City and $23,273 to the Mirage Casino-Hotel in Las Vegas.
A law clerk working for Columbus attorney Mark Sheriff, who is representing the Mirage, said interest charges bring Dabelko's total to more than $37,000.
Cleveland Atty. Robert Lurie, representing the Taj Mahal, said Dabelko paid $2,700 toward that debt, but since then, interest charges have piled up, bringing that total to about $6,800.
Dabelko said he is in the process of filing bankruptcy.
"I've learned my lesson," Dabelko said. "I don't go out there anymore."