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WARREN Judge rules charges stand



Published: Wed, July 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city auditor's case will go to trial in September.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A visiting judge has declined to dismiss misdemeanor charges against the city auditor.

Judge Thomas Campbell of Trumbull County Central District Court in Cortland, who has been appointed to hear the case, ruled Tuesday in municipal court that a jury should decide if David Griffing is guilty of dereliction of duty.

Atty. Samuel Bluedorn, who represents Griffing, asked during a hearing Tuesday to have the charges dismissed, saying there was no legal basis to charge Griffing.

Prosecutors have accused Griffing of not making sure that money from the city water department was promptly deposited. Bluedorn said that responsibility is not listed among a city auditor's duties in the Ohio Revised Code.

"It is the treasurer's job to be the custodian of all monies for a municipal corporation," Bluedorn said.

Bob Johnson, who is serving as a special prosecutor in the case, disagreed, saying it is Griffing's duty to "supervise and watch the money."

"There were people that brought it to his attention that the deposits were late, that there were discrepancies in bank deposits and that bills were being paid late," Johnson said. "It was his duty to look into it."

The judge did grant Griffing's request to have the trial postponed. Set to start July 11, it has been rescheduled for Sept. 19.

Brother also charged

Griffing's brother Richard, manager at the water department, also is accused of dereliction of duty. His case is set for trial Sept. 5.

The charges were filed in April after a yearlong investigation of the water department by the FBI and city police.

Last year, the state auditor's office issued a finding for recovery of $26,036 against Debra Dunewood, the department's former head cashier.

She has not been charged with a crime. She was approved for a disability retirement in February 2001.

The audit says Dunewood sometimes delayed depositing money, showing a potential scheme to divert cash and delay deposits until sufficient subsequent receipts were accumulated to cover the amount diverted.

The city recovered the funds through its bonding company and has implemented additional security measures.

Those measures include security cameras wherever employees deal with money in the department and random rotation of the duties formerly performed by the head cashier.

Meanwhile, four members of the city auditor's staff; Gary Cicero, human resources director; Manuel Michelakis, former director; and other workers at the water department were subpoenaed to report before a grand jury that was to convene last week.

Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public.

No indictments have been issued.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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