WARREN Auditor OKs payment of cruiser repair bill

The auditor said he wanted more information about the vehicle repair bill.
WARREN -- The city auditor says the repair bill for a police car will be paid today.
Councilwoman Susan E. Hartman, D-7th, said she'd make a motion at council's regular meeting tonight asking the law department to file a writ of mandamus against Auditor David Griffing to order him to pay the repair bill.
A writ of mandamus is a court action asking a judge to order an official to perform a particular duty.
Paperwork problem
The cruiser was damaged by flooding earlier this year when an officer drove it to his home in Howland. The police department took it to Crown Ford for repair but didn't file the proper paperwork before the work was done.
Council has passed legislation correcting the paperwork problem, but the $5,400 bill needed Griffing's signature to be paid. The cruiser remains at the dealership.
"We were guaranteed the bill would be paid last week," Hartman said at a finance committee meeting Tuesday. "If it's not paid tomorrow, I'll be making a motion on the council floor to file" court action.
Griffing, who didn't attend the finance committee meeting, said he requested additional information, which was provided by Tuesday afternoon. The information included a copy of the internal police investigation and a copy of the policy about officers' taking cruisers outside city limits, which the police department provided Tuesday.
He's also requested a letter from the administration saying officials are satisfied the situation was properly addressed and a letter of information from the law department. Griffing expects the bill to be paid today.
"The only difference between yesterday and today is that I have the documentation I requested," Griffing said. "That's all I've been asking for all along."
He said additional questions about a purchase order are nothing out of the ordinary.
"It's nothing against the particular officer. It's nothing against the police department," the auditor said. "I just wanted to make sure I had the proper documentation like I do with every other invoice."
Questions about delay
But Hartman says those questions aren't about whether the city has the money in the appropriate accounts to cover the bill, which is what the auditor is charged with determining.
Councilman Robert Holmes III, D-4th, a retired city employee, said there were purchase orders that sat on someone's desk for months while he worked for the city.
"I think we're making a whole lot out of nothing," he said.
Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, said that's not the issue. He thinks Griffing lied to council members in promising to pay the bill last week. Council members should be able to take the word of a department head or elected official, he said.
"It has to do with truthfulness," Fonce said.
Griffing said he informed council members the bill would be paid after his questions were answered.
Tax abatement
In other business, finance committee members discussed enabling a tax abatement to be worked out with Superior Walls of Ohio Inc. and Trumbull County commissioners. The South Pine Avenue manufacturer plans to expand with a roughly $1,228,000 investment.
The expansion would involve hiring about 25 additional full-time employees by June 2003. The company is asking for a 75 percent abatement for 10 years.
Holmes, legislation sponsor, said he would seek passage of the legislation at tonight's council meeting. Fonce said he wants to hear from school board officials about where they stand on the abatement.

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