Warren worker discipline put off ’til next week

WARREN — The decision on how much discipline, if any, city employee Dennis Griffing may receive for allegedly taking a stolen lawn mower held by police and using it will be decided by Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa when he returns to the office next week.

Cantalamessa had 10 working days from the June 22 disciplinary hearing at which the case was outlined and evidence presented to determine on whether and / or how Griffing would be disciplined. Because of the July 4 holiday, the 10-day period ended Monday.

Cantalamessa, however, has been away from the office.

“(I) will address the matter when I return next week,” Cantalamessa responded to a question from the Tribune Chronicle on Tuesday afternoon.

Erik Jennings, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, on June 29 asked Cantalamessa to delay the city’s internal disciplinary decision until after the criminal case for the $299 lawn mower is complete.

Cantalamessa, at the time, said the union’s request was under consideration. Nothing has been placed in Griffing’s personnel file indicating Cantalamessa has made a decision one way or another.

Griffing filed a not guilty plea to a charge of petty theft in Warren Municipal Court on June 15. A pre-trial hearing before Judge Thomas Gysegem is scheduled to take place July 25.

The 57-year-old is free on a $2,500 bond,according to Warren Municipal Court records. He remains on the job in the city’s operations department pending the outcome of the pre-disciplinary hearing.

A new push mower was taken from the city’s operations department, where it was incorrectly taken by department employees rather than placed into storage at the police department’s substation on Palmyra Road SW, city Law Director Gregory V. Hicks said.

It was part of a large cache of stolen property found by police, Hicks said. When employees loaded the stolen goods, the mower was placed in the back of a truck rather than in the trailer containing the other items, Hicks said.

When police found the owner of the mower, they tracked the mower to the operations department. It reappeared in used condition after it became known police were looking for it, Hicks said.

Griffing, 72 Kings Drive SW, previously was convicted in 2013 of stealing a large number of newspapers over a year’s time from Tribune Chronicle coin boxes. He still owes the newspaper $1,735.50 of the $2,235.50 he was ordered to repay in restitution.

He admitted to routinely stealing stacks of newspapers out of coin boxes and giving them to fellow city employees. He pleaded no contest to a charge of theft and was placed into a diversion program by Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchak. Griffing was told that if he completed the diversion program and made full restitution, the case against him would be dismissed.

Hired in October 1988, Griffing, brother of former city Auditor David Griffing, earns $19.67 per hour. He is an equipment operator in the operations department.