By Ed Runyan
A negotiated resolution has resulted in the Ohio Ethics Commission issuing former Trumbull County Engineer David DeChristofaro a public reprimand for his involvement in a lawsuit involving a business associate.
In exchange for agreeing to the reprimand, the ethics commission says it will not refer the matter for prosecution.
The Ethics Commission investigated the matter at the request of Randy Smith, current county engineer, and the Trumbull County commissioners.
In a two-page settlement agreement, the ethics commission and DeChristofaro say DeChristofaro participated “through comments, discussion, and attendance at meetings and mediations” related to a lawsuit involving BECDIR Construction of Berlin Center and its owner, David DiRusso.
That violated ethics laws because DeChristofaro and DiRusso were “joint venturers in oil and gas wells in West Virginia,” the agreement says.
DeChristofaro “acknowledges the facts demonstrate a violation, but he does not admit guilt,” the agreement says.
The ethics commission chose to negotiate rather than prosecute because DeChristofaro has been out of office for two years, the lawsuit began before he took office, DeChristofaro didn’t profit personally from the lawsuit settlement and the county commissioners agreed to the lawsuit settlement with BECDIR.
The lawsuit was filed by BECDIR against the county engineer’s office in 2006 over BECDIR’S renovation of the historic Newton Falls Covered Bridge.
Just after DeChristofaro became engineer in 2009, he and the county commissioners settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay BECDIR $300,000.
Smith said the agreement was unfair to the county, possibly costing the county $900,000 more than it should have.
Emails Smith gave to the ethics commission indicated that DeChristofaro and DiRusso had been business associates in gas and oil ventures as far back as 2007.
The ethics commission also was involved in the investigation that led to DeChristofaro resigning as county engineer in 2011 over personal and political tasks he asked his staff at the engineer’s office to do on county time.
DeChristofaro also pleaded guilty to criminal charges of theft and conflict of interest in that matter.