WARREN -- The city has done business with two of the companies that are part of a county prosecutor's probe into purchasing.
The city has bought cleaning and other supplies from two Cleveland companies -- Kinzua Environmental and Envirochemical.
Prosecutor Dennis Watkins told Trumbull County commissioners by letter last week that serious questions had arisen regarding the two companies, which sell janitorial supplies to the county.
There are three other companies the prosecutor's office is looking into regarding county purchasing -- Lid Chem and Tri-County Supplies, both of Canfield, and Central Service and Supply of Brookfield -- but the city hasn't done business with those.
Mayor Hank Angelo said his understanding of the law is that the bid threshold is $15,000 per product, not per company. He said Auditor David Griffing is checking with the state auditor's office to verify that.
The city has done $40,509 worth of business with Kinzua and $1,183 with Envirochemical this year.
Angelo said individual department heads determine when they need supplies such as toilet paper. Purchase orders are sent to the purchasing department.
Lisa Mazzochi, purchasing and administrative clerk, said she gets periodic quotes or requires department heads to get them to try to ensure the city is getting the best price.
"It's per commodity or project," Law Director Greg Hicks said of the $15,000 bidding requirement.
To the best of his knowledge, the city isn't violating any laws or requirements, he said
Nothing in the law specifies bidding if commodities fall into a single category, such as cleaning or road supplies.
"It's not as crystal clear as everyone would like it to be," Hicks said.
The city could buy $20,000 worth of salt or ice control material from a company if the contract is competitively bid, for example. It could also buy something such as truck washing detergent for $2,000 from the same company without bidding even though they both could be considered road supplies.
"We talked to the Ohio Municipal League to make sure we're thinking in the same vein," Hicks said.
John Mahoney, deputy director of OML, concurred.
"Commodity or project is the only way I've ever heard of it," he said.
A commodity is an item such as toilet paper or industrial cleaner, he said.