Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith facing state ethics probe

WARREN – The state Attorney General’s Office confirmed Wednesday the existence of an Ohio Ethics Commission report related to Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith and said a special prosecutor is investigating whether any charges should be filed against the county official.

Attorney general’s spokesman Dan Tierney told the Tribune Chronicle Wednesday his office “was asked by Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins to take a look at the (Randy Smith) file, and we have done so in the last couple of weeks.”

Tierney confirmed that Daniel J. Kasaris, a senior assistant Ohio attorney general, is heading the probe of Smith but emphasized no charges have been filed as of yet.

Kasaris did not comment on the case, referring any questions to Tierney.

When reached by the Tribune Chronicle on Wednesday, Smith declined to comment.

On May 24, Watkins , in response to requests from Smith critics, issued a statement saying his office was “not in possession of any (ethics commission) report” relative to Smith.

But in that same release, Watkins referenced a Nov. 18, 2013, letter he wrote to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office regarding an ethics commission investigation. According to the release, Watkins’ office was disqualified, “due to a conflict of interest, from engaging in, assisting in, or evaluating any investigation of Engineer Smith’s office” because Smith is a statutory client of the prosecutor’s office.

“Therefore, the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office has no records or reports regarding the above subject matter, and this office could not conduct a review of any such reports or information even if requested,” Watkins wrote.

Watkins would not comment outside the May 24 release.

On April 3, 2014, commission and BCI investigators searched Smith’s office on North River Road, and the county’s Data Processing Department, collecting employee personnel files, computers, cell phones and other electronics, paperwork and a hard drive with shared directories and emails of engineer’s office employees.

Smith has maintained he does not know of any open investigation against him. At a March 9 commissioners’ meeting, Smith and engineer’s office attorney Matt Blair both said the Ethics Commission closed recent investigations of the engineer’s office without any findings.

Kasaris was involved in the prosecution of the recent high-profile political corruption case involving the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place in Mahoning County and also last year looked into alleged illegal activity among government officials and others in Niles.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com