MVSD explains high legal costs


By Jordan Cohen

news@vindy.com

MINERAL RIDGE

Legal expenses paid by the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, which skyrocketed last year, are expected to be somewhat less by the end of this fiscal year — but still high when compared with spending since 2013.

MVSD, the water supplier of Youngstown, Niles and McDonald, saw its legal expenditures climb to $185,535 after spending $103,000 less in 2015-2016 according to figures provided by Alan Tatalovich, MVSD treasurer. The previous year’s amount was $82,316.

By comparison, the district spent less than $36,000 on legal matters in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and $64,510 in 2014-2015.

In this fiscal year, the district has spent nearly $135,000 on legal matters as of April 30. Invoices for May are not yet available.

The current fiscal year ends June 30.

“We’ve had a lot of legal issues” said Richard Hale of Niles, a member of the MVSD board of directors. “Some were in court and others were contract or personnel issues.”

Thomas Wilson, MVSD legal counsel, said the higher expenses included the use of an outside attorney, William Evans of Akron, to handle two separate investigations.

“The first had to do with an allegation made by a (now former) employee that turned out to be blatantly false,” Wilson said. “The claim was that someone had left an inappropriate racist document on a desk.” Wilson said the investigating attorney found no substance to the allegation.

The second investigation involved Anthony Vigorito, at the time the district’s plant operations manager. Vigorito, the subject of an investigation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, was indicted on charges of tampering with records, non-compliance with the Ohio’s safe drinking water laws and forgery. Accused of falsifying training records of Youngstown Water Department employees, Vigorito pleaded guilty last December and gave up his water operator’s license as part of the plea agreement. The Youngstown employees also admitted falsification.

Wilson said there were no lawsuits or claims against the district as a result of the two probes.

The total amount paid to Evans was not immediately available, but the attorney charged the district $275 per hour. By contrast, Wilson’s rate is $150 an hour — a rate he said he has not increased since becoming MVSD legal counsel.

Asked to comment on the legal costs, Vernard Richberg, board president, declined to respond and referred the reporter’s inquiry to Wilson.

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