BCI is asked to probe purchasing practices
The prosecutor says Lid Chemical has refused to cooperate.
By STEPHEN SIFF
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A concerned Trumbull County prosecutor and the sheriff have asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to look into purchasing practices at the county maintenance department and the jail.
The investigation was requested by Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and Sheriff Thomas Altiere after both had members of their staffs look into the practices of Lid Chemical Inc., a cleaning supplies vendor.
The local inquiry was prompted by stories in The Vindicator in early August calling into question the county's purchasing records.
Altiere said he and Watkins wrote a letter to BCI this week asking that the agency handle the investigation.
What's in letter
Watkins states in the two-page letter obtained by The Vindicator that he became aware of questions regarding Lid Chemical about three weeks ago.
"During the past two weeks, the Trumbull County sheriff's office has assisted in obtaining further information regarding Lid Chemical Inc. and others, and as a result of the information received to date, there are questions remaining that cause me great concern. Especially since Lid Chemical has refused to cooperate and provide necessary documentation," Watkins wrote.
Watkins points out in the letter that the local inquiry shows the same people involved with Lid Chemical are also involved with a company named Tri-County Supplies, which also sells cleaning supplies and is also doing substantial business with the county.
"This company also is not in the phone book and uses a residential address as a business address," Watkins wrote.
"The commissioners office has said it did not know that Lid Chemical and Tri-County Supplies were related."
The letter further notes that the sheriff's department has ordered supplies from Lid Chemical.
"The jail made purchases from this company, so it wouldn't be right for our office to handle the investigation," Altiere told The Vindicator. "We really believe it would be better for an outside agency to look into the matter."
Altiere noted the maintenance department orders the cleaning supplies for most of the jail, but the jail's cook orders cleaning supplies directly from Lid Chemical.
"We don't want the public to think that anything strange is going on," Altiere said.
Watkins declined to comment because the matter is under investigation.
Last week, the prosecutor's office requested hundreds of documents related to county purchases from Lid Chemical and Tri County Supplies from the last several years.
Officials for Lid Chemical have not returned calls.
Since 1993, the companies, apparently based in the Canfield home of Terry and Linda Maiorana, collected $677,000 in county checks.
The documents requested by the prosecutor's office show what items were purchased from the company, which did not have a formal contract with the county.
In general, state law requires that contracts be awarded through competitive bidding for goods and services of more than $15,000 in a year.
The letter notes that Watkins' review reveals other vendors doing business with the county who did not have listings in the phone directory and used either post office box addresses or a residential address.
Watkins asked the county commissioners not to comment on the investigation, said Commissioner James J. Tsagaris. By law, commissioners must sign off on each county purchase.
"I sure hope they don't find anything," said Commissioner Joseph Angelo, adding he thinks it's best for an outside agency to handle the matter.
"I have to respect Dennis for what he is doing," Tsagaris said. "If he wants to investigate it, that is what he should do."
Commissioner Michael O'Brien could not be reached.