One commissioner wants to discuss getting bids on supplies once the probe is over.
By STEPHEN SIFF
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- After the suspension of business with three companies that sell janitorial supplies and nagging questions about county record-keeping, the Trumbull County prosecutor has asked commissioners to cease making purchasing decisions until an investigation is complete.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Prosecutor Dennis Watkins asked commissioners to buy all janitorial supplies through the state purchasing program until a system is in place to make sure the county is getting what it's paying for.
"State purchasing may be legal, but that doesn't mean it's cheaper," said Commissioner Joseph Angelo. The county could get some products, such as toilet paper, at a lower cost from local companies, he said.
About the program
The state purchasing program allows counties to buy items from a vendor selected by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services through competitive bidding. Using the program relieves a county of the obligation to go out to bid, generally required for purchases more than $15,000.
"I will go along with the prosecutor's request, but after this investigation is over, I would like to talk to him about going out for bid for these products so we can get the lowest price," Angelo said.
Over the past three weeks, the prosecutor has asked commissioners to stop doing business with three companies that have collected about $800,000 from the county since 1993.
The companies, Lid Chem and Tri-County Supplies, both of Canfield, and Central Service and Supply of Brookfield, do not have street addresses or listed phone numbers.
Officers of all three companies refused to share business records with his office, Watkins said.
None had formal contracts with the county, nor were they subject to the competitive bidding process.
Order by officials
Several weeks ago, commissioners ordered the county purchasing director to prepare to go out for bids for some of the most-used cleaning supplies. It would have been the second time the contract was bid.
"My office, along with yours, is cognizant of attempts to save additional taxpayer dollars through competitive bidding," Watkins wrote to commissioners Tuesday.
"It is my opinion that the county should proceed cautiously and prudently, on an interim basis, to purchase all the janitorial supplies ... through state purchasing until such time as an inventory of items can be reconciled."
He also suggested commissioners assign two workers the responsibility of monitoring ordering and receipt of supplies. Working with only one supplier will help the county improve inventory control, he wrote.
"We need to make adjustments to make sure whatever is ordered is delivered, accounted for and verified," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien.
Plans to bid janitorial supplies have been put on hold pending the prosecutors' request, he said.
"I don't think this is bad," said Commissioner James Tsagaris.
"I think it is going to cost us money, no doubt about it, but I think the prosecutor has a right to check. It took him 10 years to investigate, so it is about time."