'Do we smell that bad?' asked county Prosecutor Dennis Watkins in a letter to commissioners.
By PEGGY SINKOVICHand STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Prices paid by the Trumbull County Maintenance Department for janitorial supplies "appear unreal," Prosecutor Dennis Watkins told commissioners in a letter dated Tuesday.
"What concerns me are not only the huge increases seen in county expenditures for janitorial and maintenance supplies, but also the prices the county is paying and the incredible ordering of the same items over and over again," Watkins wrote.
He noted an Aug. 15 purchase of $488 worth of aerosol disinfectant from State Chemical of Cleveland, at a cost Watkins worked out to be $13.55 a can. So far this year, State Chemical has billed Trumbull County for $7,760 worth of air fresheners, at prices between $7.58 and $10.83 per can.
The same items can be purchased off a store shelf for anywhere from $1 to about $3.50 a can.
"Do we smell that bad?" Watkins wrote. "Where is this stuff? How much could we possibly use? The prices look unreal!"
Watkins also requested Tuesday that auditors from the state office look over maintenance department books.
Department practices are already being investigated by two assistant prosecutors and two agents from the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation, and employees borrowed from other county departments have begun an inventory of stockrooms and janitors' closets.
The director of the maintenance department, Tony Delmont, has been relieved of the responsibility of ordering supplies until investigations are complete.
In this and other letters to the county commissioners, Watkins has detailed a number of other quirks in the county's buying habits:
A 2000 analysis by Tony Carson, the county's director of purchasing, found the county bought $13,411 worth of shop rags from Kinzua Environmental of Cleveland. "What are shop rags?" Watkins wrote in a letter Sept. 18. "Obviously this seems excessive on its face."
Even as questions started to be raised about maintenance department purchasing, new orders contributed to a record month for Envirochemical in August. Envirochemical, also of Cleveland, billed the county $18,529 in August alone, Watkins noted. Envirochemical is one of several companies that sell toilet paper to the county. "I would suggest that you verify what we are receiving (Lid Chemical Inc., Tri-County Supply and Central Service & amp; Supply have been selling the county many of the same items)," he wrote commissioners.
Several companies have been selling merchandise to the county at record levels for the past year and a half, Watkins wrote.
For example, State Chemical's 2002 sales to the county have already exceeded last year's total sales of $11,746 by nearly $7,000. Watkins requested that commissioners stop payment on $2,120 it has been billed by the company.
County Commissioner Michael O'Brien said he is going to look into creating a central purchasing department for the county. He would not say if Carson would be involved in the new department.