Trumbull County government will pay for ex-engineer’s sins

If you wonder why public officials are held in such low esteem by the citizenry, just look at what transpired in the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office during the tenure of David DeChristofaro. The political venality of the Democratic engineer has resulted in the county’s insurance carrier paying out more than $900,000 to settle claims of wrongful termination filed by three workers against him.

The firing of Nicole Klingeman, Matt Dohy and Amanda Latell had nothing to do with their job performance. It had everything to do with politics.

DeChristofaro’s resignation in July 2011 — he took office in January 2009 after winning election — has spared him the public berating he so richly deserves. Humiliation is not enough punishment.

This shouldn’t be the end

As we have urged in previous editorials, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission need to determine if criminal charges against the former county engineer are warranted.

DeChristofaro resigned abruptly, just days before trial was to begin in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court on a taxpayer’s lawsuit to remove him from office.

The deposition from DeChristofaro’s secretary, Jennifer Bindas, was the nail in his coffin. Bindas revealed that she did a week’s worth of campaign-related work for her boss while on county (read that public) time. Much of the work, over a period of time, was done using county materials and equipment.

But it was DeChristofaro’s blatant illegal action against the three employees that will ultimately cost county government money.

Does anyone doubt that the county’s insurance carrier won’t raise its premiums after paying out $920,000 to settle the three claims?

Klingeman was laid off by DeChristofaro on his first day in office. She had supported his opponent in the 2009 Democratic primary, Randy Smith. Smith is now county engineer.

Dohy is the son-in-law of former county engineer John Latell, who supported Smith. Amanda Latell is John Latell’s daughter-in law.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that DeChristofaro was intent on punishing those he perceived to be his enemies. The court was not convinced by his claim that there wasn’t enough work for them to do.

Last week, Klingeman settled her civil suit claiming wrongful termination for $430,000, according to information received by a Vindicator reporter. The parties to the settlement are not permitted to make public the details.

A circle of abuse

The Chandra Law Firm of Cleveland represented Klingeman. Subodh Chandra, a former federal assistant prosecutor who ran for the Democratic nomination for Ohio attorney general against Marc Dann of Liberty, who won the office only to resign in disgrace, deserves a great deal of credit for not letting DeChristofaro get away with his petty politics and with his abuse of power.

It is ironic that Dann’s resignation also involved abuse of power.

What is it about Mahoning Valley politicians who let the power of the office go to their heads?

In every instance of government corruption, the public loses. It either costs money, as in the case of Trumbull County, or trust.

In November 2010, Dohy settled his federal lawsuit against DeChristofaro for $315,000.

Latell settled her lawsuit for $175,000.

DeChristofaro must be called to account for his violation of the public’s trust. His resignation was not enough.

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