Sheriff aims to fire two sergeants

By Ed Runyan

The Trumbull County officers are accused of misusing donations to a nonprofit organization.

WARREN — Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere has recommended termination for two sergeants accused of using a nonprofit narcotics organization for their personal gain.

Ernie Cook, chief deputy sheriff, said Sgts. Pete Pizzulo and Anthony Leshnack were informed of administrative charges to that effect Oct. 3.

The letter notifying them of the decision says they improperly converted donations to their personal use, Cook said.

Both men are exercising their contractual right to appeal the recommendation, Cook said, adding that Altiere is likely to be the hearing officer who handles the matter this morning at the sheriff’s office.

Cook said the scheduled hearing will be closed to the public.

If the hearing officer agrees with the recommended firing, the men could take the matter to an arbitrator, Cook said.

That is the last of the two appeals outlined in the officers’ contract, Cook said.

A couple of options for the hearing officer today are affirming termination of their employment or suspending them without pay until the matter is fully resolved, Cook noted.

Pizzulo and Leshnack have been on sick leave since Sept. 22.

Pizzulo is a detective and member of the Trumbull County Homicide Task Force, and Leshnack is chief of the sheriff’s civil division, which serves documents such as subpoenas and criminal paperwork.

The two men founded the Ohio Narcotics Officers Association in 2004 to solicit money for charitable organizations, especially those that educate the public and distribute information on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

The organization, through a professional fund-raising company, collected more than $1 million statewide — much of it over the telephone, Cook said.

Some of the money was paid to the fund-raising company, Cook said. The amount Pizzulo and Leshnack allegedly converted to personal use is not yet determined, Cook said, adding that no criminal charges have been filed against either man.

After complaints were received about the organization, Altiere asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to look into the matter. BCI’s investigation continues, Cook added.

County prosecutor Dennis Watkins has asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to the case, Cook said, but he doesn’t know if one has been appointed.

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