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TRUMBULL COUNTY CORRUPTION PROBE 'Cloud of suspicion' lurks Commissioner wants completion of investigation



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county prosecutor says he's satisfied with the special prosecutor's work.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A Trumbull County commissioner wants a special investigator to complete his probe of county government corruption so a "cloud of suspicion" can be lifted.

Commissioner Paul E. Heltzel wrote to The Vindicator that the cloud that hangs over the county will not be dissipated until there is a "thorough and conclusive" investigation.

A county grand jury that heard evidence of the county being overcharged for cleaning products as the result of kickbacks by suppliers was released from duty in May. No indictments naming county officeholders have been announced.

"Unfortunately, the unresolved issues regarding the Trumbull County purchasing scandal affects every elected officeholder in Trumbull County," Heltzel asserted.

The "cloud of suspicion" will continue to hang around "until there is a definite resolution to this long unresolved scandal," he wrote. "This is not a proper environment for an effective government."

Such an environment, he said, lends itself to distrust of government, speculation about various county offices and a "general malaise throughout the government which affects county employees and voters."

Case transfer

The investigation has been turned over to Atty. Victor V. Vigluicci, Portage County prosecutor. He did not return a message left at his office seeking comment.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said he is satisfied with the work that Vigluicci has been doing.

"Time is going to elapse in a major investigation," Watkins said, noting that he is more interested in the quality of justice rather than the time involved.

"He [Vigluicci] needs further information," Watkins said Friday, pointing out that some of those who have pleaded guilty as a result of the in the probe have to provide information to Vigluicci about what they know before sentencing.

Watkins would not comment about Vigluicci's aspect of the investigation, but explained he has turned volumes of information over to Vigluicci, who is also preparing for trial in Ravenna on a triple homicide.

Heltzel's comments come after Gov. Bob Taft and suspended Warren attorney Maridee L. Costanzo were sentenced for wrongdoing this week.

Official corruption

On Monday, outspoken Costanzo pleaded guilty in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to carrying a concealed weapon, obstruction of justice and evidence tampering.

She was sentenced to a three-year prison term that runs concurrent to an eight-year federal prison term. The federal charges stem from her trying to have her estranged husband, Warren attorney Roger Bauer, killed.

Thursday, Taft pleaded no contest and was found guilty of failing to report 52 gifts worth nearly $6,000. He was fined $4,000 and ordered to apologize to the public and state employees.

If a sitting governor can be investigated as quickly as Taft, there is no reason why the county probe should remain incomplete, Heltzel said.

He called attention to Costanzo's remarks in which she said that she would appear before as many as 11 judges a day, and each judge expected her to either give them an envelope or support their financial campaigns.

Heltzel, an attorney, said no attorneys appear before that many judges in a day.

"My response is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the assertions and innuendo of Ms. Costanzo's colorful ruminations," he wrote.

yovich@vindy.com




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