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TRUMBULL COUNTY Report urged vendor switch



Published: Sun, September 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One county commissioner said he did not see the year-old analysis until last week.

By STEPHEN SIFF

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Maintenance Department could buy many items much more cheaply if it switched vendors, according to a year-old analysis.

On most of the items, the switch was never made.

For example, the analysis states that latex gloves could be purchased for $35 per thousand through the company that has the state purchasing program contract, but instead, the county stayed with Lid Chemical, which quoted a price of $40 per thousand.

Invoices from Lid Chem included in the analysis show the company had been billing the county $75 per thousand gloves.

The analysis also states that the county buys 15 gallons of laundry detergent from Lid Chemical at $195 when it could buy the same amount from Hearn Paper Co. of Youngstown for $99.

How it was done

In preparing the analysis, county purchasing director Tony Carson compiled invoices from three companies, indicating the amount of supplies being purchased and their price.

County Commissioner Michael O'Brien says he was not shown the report until last week.

Joseph Angelo Jr., another county commissioner, says he can't remember exactly, but he thinks he saw the report last year.

"I know we discussed it," he said.

Carson said he doesn't recall giving the report to commissioners. He said he did discuss it with department heads.

After looking over the report this month as part of an ongoing probe into maintenance department practices, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins expressed shock.

"According to Mr. Carson's itemization and summary of the invoices, the county purchased $13,411 for workhouse shop rags during the year 2000," Watkins wrote in a letter to commissioners. "Obviously, this seems excessive on its face!"

Carson declined to say if he felt some purchases were out of line. He said it is not his job as purchasing director to tell department heads what to order.

"They know the usage," Carson said. "I'm not there. They know what the usage is."

A review of invoices prompted other officials to note that the 330-inmate county jail has apparently been going through 100 rolls of toilet paper per day.

Reaction

After looking over Carson's analysis, O'Brien was troubled by both the prices and the amount of supplies being bought. He said he wished he had been shown the report last year.

"We expect department heads to make sensible, cost-effective purchases and it doesn't seem to have happened in this department," O'Brien said.

Carson conducted the analysis by compiling invoices from Kinzua and Envirochemical Inc., both of Cleveland and Lid Chemical of Canfield, then asking 10 other companies to informally submit prices on the same items.

Carson said he left it up to the heads of the maintenance and vehicle maintenance departments to decide if the companies were really offering the same product and if they wanted to change suppliers.

"What I did was give the information to the department heads who do the ordering," Carson said.

Accepted bids

In March, a little less than a year after Carson prepared his report, commissioners accepted formal bids for a six-month contract on eight items that Carson had comparison shopped.

The winning company, W.J. Service Co., of Warren, dropped prices from its informal quote to a few cents lower than what other companies had offered on many items.

Commissioner James Tsagaris' son works for the Elm Road company. Because of that, Tsagaris abstained when commissioners voted to accept the bid from W.J. Service Co.

Carson said W.J. Service Co. did not get to look at the informal quotes from the other companies.

Commissioners decided not to renew the contract with W.J. Service but to buy supplies through a state program after prosecutors and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation began looking into maintenance department purchasing practices.

Accountants from the state auditor's office also are looking through department records.

siff@vindy.com

sinkovich@vindy.com




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