State audit of engineer’s office should not be political football

Mahoning County Engineer Patrick Ginnetti is suggesting that a state performance audit of his office is not worth the $100,000 cost, to which we say that Ginnetti would be singing an entirely different tune had Ohio Auditor David Yost hailed him as the epitome of a creative, responsible public servant.

Instead, the audit uncovered operational deficiencies in the engineer’s office that cost the public more than $500,000. Hence, Ginnetti’s strong reaction to the recommendations from the state auditor.

Of course, there’s a political aspect to this situation that would explain why an elected official would not welcome any suggestions for making his office more efficient and cost effective.

Ginnetti is a Democrat; Yost is a Republican who is seeking re-election this year and is being challenged by Democrat John Patrick Carney, a state representative from Columbus.

The performance audit of the engineer’s office has become a cause celebre for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Chairman Chris Redfern wasted no time in accusing state Auditor Yost of being anti-middle class because one of the key recommendations in the audit is for $384,000 in annual concessions from members of Teamsters Local 377.

Union officials also blasted the state auditor and likened the concession recommendations to the collective-bargaining reform law pushed through in 2011 by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

The law, which would have taken away numerous rights enjoyed by state workers, was subsequently rejected by Ohio voters in a referendum.

But while the local and state Democrats attempt to demonize the Republican state auditor, the recommendations in the performance audit that would slash operating costs will resonate with the taxpayers.

Indeed, we question why Ginnetti agreed to a new three-year contract with the Teamsters recently rather than wait for the release of the audit. After all, it was the engineere and county commissioners who sought an independent review of the office with an eye to improving the operation.

Now, because of the new labor agreement, any concessions cannot be considered for three years. That’s unfortunate, given the economic challenges confronting Mahoning County residents because of the national recession.

It is noteworthy that one of the recommendations — requiring employees to pay their share of the Public Employee Retirement System contributions — is included in the new contract.

However, Ginnetti admitted there would be no savings to the public treasury because he agreed to increase the wages of the employees by the amount they are now contributing.

‘A wash’

The engineer calls that “a wash.” But county government should not have been paying the employee share of the PERS contributions in the first place.

As the details of the state performance audit of the engineer’s office become known, private-sector taxpayers will rightly wonder why Ginnetti and his Democratic Party colleagues are so opposed to it.

County commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler can’t be pleased with the controversy swirling around the state auditor’s review. They are attempting to persuade voters to approve two sales-tax issues on the November ballot.

It does not matter that the engineer’s office does not receive any sales-tax revenue. It operates with public dollars, and that’s why Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler should worry.

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