WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — Trumbull County commissioners are addressing concerns over the purchase of several trucks for a county office.
There were heated discussions during Wednesday’s Trumbull County commissioner’s meeting, mainly dealing with agenda items pertaining to the county’s Sanitary Engineer’s Office and the purchase of nine trucks for a total just over $400,000 in November.
“Everything that is being alleged in there is completely twisted, completely misunderstood — everyone in this situation acted in good faith,” said county Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa.
In a letter to commissioners dated Jan. 4, assistant prosecuting attorney William Danso wrote, “We are concerned that this purchase could be construed as violating the competitive bidding provisions,” adding that the office would be requesting an opinion from the Attorney General.
“Had the board of commissioners been doing things properly, to where we’re voting on things after they’re approved as to form and process, this would have been prevented — and I’ve been trying to accomplish that for some time now,” said county Commissioner Niki Frenchko.
Sanitary engineer Gary Newbrough said the office needed new trucks.
The department’s purchasing capabilities were limited during the pandemic, and starting May 2021, the department tried to to purchase vehicles through state purchasing five times. By the time commissioners passed resolutions, the trucks were no longer available.
Newbrough said the department attempted to purchase trucks through national purchasing, too, but bought them from Klaben Ford since the dealership had trucks available. The commissioners approved the move in November.
“We knew they were slightly higher that what they were going to be for state purchasing, but we discussed that at length before they authorized us to get them,” Newbrough said.
“Nothing that I can see was done intentionally improperly, maybe ‘dotting an I, crossing a T’ type of stuff, but after the extenuating circumstances that went with that — and if anyone’s tried to buy a vehicle lately and tried to order a truck, they know how hard it’s been since COVID,” said county Commissioner Denny Malloy.
During the meeting, Cantalamessa and Malloy said the issue was addressed during a workshop meeting the day before, and they were expecting another letter from the prosecutor’s office.
“There’s another letter that’s coming with new information that the prosecutor received after that opinion,” Catalamessa said.
“Correct,” Malloy said.
Danso confirmed to first news that another letter pertaining to the purchasing issue is forthcoming.