MAHONING COUNTY Caruso: Officials doing more with less

The outgoing director of special projects will become the executive director of Burdman Group Inc.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Before leaving as Mahoning County's director of special projects today, Joseph Caruso urged the commissioners to let the public know the good work the overwhelming majority of county employees are doing.
Caruso becomes the second high-ranking official to leave the county this year. Constance Pierce left as human resources director in January. She was replaced by Atty. James Petraglia.
At the public comments portion of the commissioners' weekly meeting Thursday, Caruso released some pent-up emotions and frustrations he said he has kept inside for some time.
He said the commissioners are doing a good job of trying to dig the county out of the financial mess.
He said county government, if run as a corporation, would be a $300 million enterprise, and the county taxpayers, like himself, are shareholders.
Good job
Caruso said the commissioners are guilty of "doing a good job," but also guilty for not telling the taxpayers of how the majority of county workers are "adding value to the corporation."
He said Mahoning County compares favorably with peer counties such as Lake and Trumbull, and most offices are providing as good or more services with less money and people.
He said the county auditor's office has just nine workers to help oversee a budget in 2004 of $54 million. Lake County, which has a similar size budget, has 34 workers in its auditor's office.
The county owns more than 800,000 square feet of building space, and there are only eight people in the facilities management office available to handle the cleaning of those buildings.
Caruso, who served as assistant county administrator from 2003 until February of this year, said the county does more with less every day, adding, "We do good things with the money that comes in to this county."
He said it is certainly acceptable for those on the outside to be skeptics of county government, and he challenged the public to do so, but "for this county to move from being a good county to a great county, we need more optimism."
Private sector
Caruso will leave the public sector to become executive director of Burdman Group Inc. Burdman Group handles fiscal operations, human resources, marketing, clerical, maintenance, grant writing and other fund-raising projects for a variety of vocational rehabilitation programs in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. The programs serve people with disabilities and economical disadvantages. Burdman Group also offers residential programming to individuals with mental illness in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Burdman, whose administrative offices are on Broadway Avenue in Youngstown, also oversees operation of the Sojourner House Domestic Violence Program.
Commissioners led a standing ovation in the packed commissioners' meeting room for Caruso, 37, saying his wealth of government experience would be missed.
Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti, board chairman, said he and colleagues John McNally IV and David Ludt, as well as others in the commissioners' staff, would take on the special projects duties Caruso handled. He was paid $66,955.
The director of special projects oversees the county's Community Development Block Grant programs, works on economic development projects, and facilitates grant-writing projects for the county and its political subdivisions.
The director also looks for ways to increase state and federal resources to come into the county.
Caruso was laid off in 1996 because of budget cuts brought on by the loss of the half-percent sales tax. Commissioners rehired him in October 2000 as special projects director. He is married and has three daughters.

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