Purchasing probe nets results but remains incomplete



Purchasing probe nets resultsbut remains incomplete
Sparked by a series of Vindicator stories targeting questionable purchasing practices in Trumbull County government, the county prosecutor two years ago this month launched a full-throttle investigation that has yielded significant success.
It has led to indictments of several key players in the bribery and kickback scam, brought tighter controls and wholesale reform to county buying policies and netted massive savings for county taxpayers.
The case, however, is far from closed. Local and state investigators must continue with all appropriate speed to identify and prosecute anyone else who aided and abetted in this unseemly and costly attack on clean government.
Comparative analysis
Earlier this week, we learned just how mammoth a financial toll the scam involving inflated prices of janitorial supplies took on the county's strained coffers. In 2003, with reforms firmly in place, Trumbull County spent $83,833 for cleaning supplies, according to the county auditor. Compare that figure with the $579,353 spent in 2001 for the same supplies -- at grossly inflated prices to finance bribes and kickbacks -- and one gets a clearer picture of just how severely the Trumbull County taxpayer was slammed.
Perhaps more troubling is the toll the scandal has taken on the public trust of some of its officials. Since the investigation began, six people, including vendors and former Trumbull County Maintenance Director Tony Delmont have been indicted. Prosecutors say Delmont bought hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of overpriced and unneeded cleaning supplies in exchange for bribes from vendors. Delmont pleaded guilty this spring to theft in office, money laundering and five counts of bribery.
Though the former purchasing director's affidavit does not identify anybody by name, it does say the sheriff and/or commissioners directed him to give thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to various elected officials.
To this day, it has not been proved which specific officials directed him and which ones received the "gifts" or whether Delmont was lying in his sworn statement.
A renewed appeal
That is why we renew our call for all due diligence by all authorities taking part in the investigation. In addition to the prosecutor's office, they include the state auditor's office and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the FBI. The success achieved thus far is praiseworthy, but as long as the credibility of some of the county's most prominent elected public officials remains in doubt, the investigation remains incomplete.
In May, we argued that a dark cloud remained over the county because too many questions over responsibility and accountability in the purchasing scam remained unanswered. Three months later, the questions remain, the cloud lingers.
By year's end, we hope that any other individuals with clear links to the scheme are targeted and prosecuted or that the investigation concludes with no additional findings of guilt. Until such closure is achieved, Trumbull taxpayers' trust in their county government will continue to be compromised.

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