3rd suit against engineer’s office raises cost against Trumbull Co. to $920,000

By Ed Runyan



A third settlement over wrongful termination at the Trumbull County Engineer’s office brings the total cost against the county to $920,000.

Nicole Klingeman, who was laid off by David DeChristofaro on his first day as Trumbull County engineer Jan. 5, 2009, has settled a civil suit claiming wrongful termination.

Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel said a confidentiality agreement prevents commissioners from discussing terms of the settlement.

The Vindicator has learned, however, that Klingeman, of Bristolville, received about $130,000, and her attorneys, the Chandra Law Firm of Cleveland, received about $300,000.

Court records say each side will pay its own attorney fees.

Subodh Chandra of the Chandra Law Firm said he is “not authorized” to discuss anything about the settlement other than to say “the matter has been resolved to the parties’ satisfaction.”

Klingeman was the first of three former DeChristofaro employees laid off on the same day to file civil suits over the layoffs, and was the last of the three to settle. Her suit was filed in March 2009.

The three suits have cost Trumbull County and its insurance about $920,000.

Matt Dohy, son-in-law of former county engineer John Latell, settled his federal lawsuit against DeChristofaro for $315,000 in November 2010.

Amanda Latell, John Latell’s daughter-in-law, settled out of court for $175,000 in May 2010.

County Human Resources Director James Keating said the settlements would raise the county’s insurance rates.

Klingeman said she was laid off in retaliation for her support of Randy Smith, DeChristofaro’s opponent in the 2008 Democratic primary election.

That was a violation of Klingeman’s rights of free speech and association and the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection rights.

Klingeman returned to her job as fiscal assistant at the engineer’s office in January 2011 and was awarded $79,423 in back pay for the two years she was laid off.

An attorney for DeChristofaro at the time, Charles Richards, filed a document with the Ohio Personnel Board of Review a few months before that, retracting an earlier position that Klingeman had been laid off because of lack of work or pay for her.

Chandra at that point called for DeChristofaro to resign.

DeChristofaro resigned in July 2011 after the Ohio Ethics Commission and Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigated whether DeChristofaro illegally used county resources, equipment and labor for political purposes during his time as county engineer.

In July 2011, DeChristofaro also pleaded guilty to felony theft and misdemeanor conflict of interest because of the campaign work. He spent a year on probation and paid $12,400 in restitution and for the cost of an investigation.

Smith became county engineer a month later.

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