Commissioners say they would not have appointed Carson to the jail review committee if they thought there was a conflict of interest.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office has been asked to determine whether it is appropriate for the owner of a private jail to serve on the county jail review committee.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere sent a letter to Prosecutor Dennis Watkins asking for a legal opinion on whether Anthony Carson, the county's purchasing director and owner of Warren Alternative Sentencing Program, can serve on the committee.
The committee reads over contracts and meets with city officials about billing issues, the sheriff said.
"Mr. Carson currently maintains a landlord-and-tenant relationship with the city of Warren," the letter says. "He rents the former city jail and runs the Warren Alternative Sentencing Program. I feel that the perception of Mr. Carson representing the county on such issues as inmate billing, billing collection and inmate per-diem costs could constitute a conflict of interest."
Carson has been on the committee for more than a year. The sheriff declined to state why he decided to send the letter now.
Carson could not be reached to comment. Watkins said he will review the sheriff's letter but declined to comment further.
Picked for know-how
Commissioners say that they were aware of Carson's ownership of WASP and that they would not have appointed him to the jail review committee if they thought it constituted a conflict of interest.
"We wanted to make sure we had someone that is fairly knowledgeable about the operation of jails," Commissioner Michael O'Brien said. "Tony is in the business."
If the prosecutor determines that Carson should not be on the committee, he will probably be replaced with someone from the prosecutor's office, O'Brien said.
"I think that Tony Carson has been an integral part of it [the committee] so far," Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr. said. "I don't see any conflict, and I think he has just done a great job for the county."
Angelo credited Carson with negotiating a settlement in a long-standing dispute over how much the city of Warren owed Trumbull County for housing prisoners.
"Before Tony Carson got on board, the city of Warren owed us hundreds of thousands of dollars," Angelo said. "Through his negotiations, we got a bill that got paid."