By Joe Gorman
The head of the Teamsters union representing employees of the Mahoning County Engineer’s Office said he expects to meet with Engineer Pat Ginnetti over the use of day-reporting county jail inmates to help fill potholes.
Rich Sandberg, head of Teamsters Local 377, also said he has not filed a grievance over the issue, as he said he was considering doing Monday.
Sandberg said he has always had a good relationship with Ginnetti and if he does anything, it will not be until after they meet sometime today.
Sheriff Jerry Greene and Ginnetti are using one rotating crew of four minimum-security inmates, or inmates in the county’s day-reporting program, to fill potholes. They’re being used to augment other county crews filling potholes because of the abundance of them so far this year due to the harsh winter.
Greene said that inmates were on the road filling potholes Tuesday, and he still supports the program.
Sandberg said he briefly talked to Ginnetti on Tuesday — and that Ginnetti apologized. Sandberg said he wished the union had been consulted before the inmates were assigned to pothole duty, and said if they had been, maybe something could have been worked out.
In an email, Ginnetti said he did not consult Sandberg before the program began because the use of inmates does not violate the union agreement with the Teamsters.
“This is not being done to replace any of my current staff, nor is it intended to take away their jobs,” Ginnetti wrote. “This is helping to assist and strengthen our workforce, during normal working hours, and provide a taxpayer savings by enabling us to repair more of our extremely damaged roadway system without spending more of our already stressed overtime budget. My crews have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year, and they continue to do so. I am not only proud of my crews, I am impressed by their commitment to the county.”
Sandberg said the reason the union is wary is because it wants to make sure that jobs are not being taken from workers by people who can do the labor for free. He said he understands why some people would be upset at his position, but he added he needs to make sure the workers the union represents are protected.
Ginnetti also said he has a “great working relationship” with Sandberg and understands his reaction and concerns. He said he’s confident the two can work out an arrangement that will benefit the residents of the county.
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said he supports the idea as long as Ginnetti and the union can work out using the extra help.