Former Canfield trustee can’t take a job he helped create

Former Canfield trustee can’t take a job he helped create

The chairman of the Canfield Township Board of Trustees seemed genuinely surprised when told Friday that hiring former trustee Paul Moracco to a newly created position of highway superintendent and project administrator likely violates Ohio ethics law.

The trustees would have been wise to have consulted with the Ohio Ethics Commission before hiring Moracco to the $60,000-a-year job. They should call the commission first thing Monday.

The timeline for the creation of the new job, coupled with Moracco’s resignation as a trustee and his hiring for the job, would be disturbing even if it weren’t illegal. Here’s the chronology.

Moracco has been a trustee since 1999 and was re-elected to a third term last November. Until April 25, he also worked at the Canfield Fairgrounds, retiring as superintendent of maintenance after 37 years of employment.

Off and on during much of the time Moracco has been a trustee, board members have discussed creating a new position of maintenance supervisor or administrator.

On June 9, the three trustees, Moracco, Bill Reese and Chairman Randy Brashen, met in closed session for more than an hour to discuss personnel matters. During that meeting they agreed to create the new position and to advertise for applicants. During that same meeting, Moracco hand wrote his resignation as a trustee.

On June 11, an advertisement for a Township Highway Superintendent/Construction Projects Manager Administrator ran in The Vindicator. R sum s were to be submitted by June 20. Twelve applications were received, including Moracco’s. Four applicants were interviewed, and trustees told a reporter that Moracco started work June 25.

Learning the ropes

During a conversation with an editorial writer Friday about whether trustees had considered that Moracco’s hiring might have violated Ohio ethics laws, Brashen said that while Moracco was in the office beginning last Wednesday, it was only to familiarize himself with operations and he wouldn’t be on the payroll until July 1.

That’s probably a good thing, because if Moracco never draws a salary for the new position that he helped create, he can probably avoid violating Ohio Revised Code 102.03, which prohibits any member of a board from profiting from an employment position that was authorized while he was on the board. Violation is a misdemeanor that can carry a fine of $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Reese and Brashen say Moracco never discussed with them while he was a board member his intention to seek township employment. That’s good, too, because if he had, that would have been a separate violation of ethics law.

But creating Moracco’s new job was discussed for years while Moracco, Reese and Brashen were trustees. The job was discussed in executive session for more than an hour, after which trustees reconvened in public for five minutes. During those five minutes, Moracco voted to create and advertise the job, then he resigned.

Perhaps one of the trustees’ lawyers or the county prosecutor’s office can explain how Moracco can take the job without violating Ohio ethics law. Our advice would be that the trustees acknowledge their error and that Moracco start applying for jobs off the township’s payroll. If Canfield needs a supervisor/construction administrator, trustees should dust off the 11 other r sum s.

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