TRUMBULL COUNTY Probe reduces sales of supplies
Employees from the maintenance department and the county jail have been asked by the prosecutor for written statements.
By STEPHEN SIFFand PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Purchases from four out of six companies that sell janitorial supplies to Trumbull County have dropped precipitously since a Vindicator investigation prompted county officials to look into purchasing practices.
County commissioners slammed the door on the companies about a month after the first in a continuing series of Vindicator articles about sloppy record-keeping and excessive costs at the county maintenance department ran Aug. 4.
During that month, purchases from Central Service and Supply, Tri-County Supply and Envirochemical Inc. all dropped by nearly half. Purchases from Kinzua Environmental dropped by 17 percent, county records show.
Purchases from Lid Chemical remained about the same, while purchases from State Chemical Manufacturing Co. actually increased by 31 percent.
Combined, the companies racked up $22,359 in August before the spigot was turned off, county records show.
Most of the bills have already been paid by the county auditor's office.
On Wednesday, Dennis Watkins, the county prosecutor, put a hold on paying any that are outstanding.
Who is investigating
Members of Watkins staff, agents of the state Bureau of Identification and Investigation, and now accountants from the Ohio Auditor's Office are investigating what Watkins has characterized as "excessive" purchases of maintenance supplies for the county jail and some county buildings.
He has also questioned the price paid for supplies, which in some cases are available much cheaper at local supermarkets.
For example, the county paid as much as $10.83 for 10-ounce cans of air freshener, which can be purchased off the shelf for anywhere between $1 and $3.50 a can.
The amount the county still owes on the purchases has not been determined, said David Hines, the county auditor.
"They are not going to be paid until this is resolved, one way or another," he said.
Employees responsible for ordering supplies for the county have been given until Wednesday to explain in writing why each supply order that hasn't been paid was necessary.
They also must explain when the goods were received, who handled them and where they are stored.
"I agree with the prosecutor that the purchases are outrageous and exactly who was ordering the products is the question," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien.
Will be questioned
Those to be questioned about supply orders include Tony Delmont, the county maintenance director, Patti Patros, his assistant, and Gary Box, a department employee, he said.
Joe Maiorana, the jail custodian, also places orders for supplies through the maintenance department.
Maiorana has said he is not related to Terry and Linda Maiorana, the owners of Lid Chemical and Tri-County Supplies, two companies that sell the county supplies.
Acting on the advice of the county prosecutor, commissioners ended all purchases from Lid Chem and Tri-County Supplies, both of Canfield, on Aug. 30, after Watkins expressed concern that the companies have unlisted phone numbers and do business from a post office box.
The Maioranas also have refused to share business records with the prosecutor's office, as did officials from another company the county is looking into, Central Service and Supply of Brookfield, Watkins has told commissioners.
The list was extended in the following weeks to include Kinzua Environmental and Envirochemical Inc., both of Cleveland.
Commissioners put a moratorium on all maintenance department purchasing Sept. 20. A sixth company, State Chemical of Cleveland, was subsequently added to the list.