City policies directed at impropriety

NILES — Several new policies, including hiring standards, were put into place this year in the wake of an investigation by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s Office that led to charges against the city’s former mayor.

The rules proposed by city council President Robert Marino also cover fraud, financial impropriety, employment outside of the city and vehicle use. And although Ohio law already covers many of the points, Marino said he proposed them to reinforce the expectations on city employees.

Department heads are expected to provide the policies to employees.

Marino, who announced he would not seek another term when his ends at the end of 2017, said he wanted to leave the city with the policies after everything he learned from representatives of Yost’s office.

“We want everything to be more transparent, to make sure decisions are being made in the best interest of the city,” Marino said. “There should be an open process. We needed to correct some of the old practices and continue moving forward.”

Councilman Barry Steffey Jr., D-4th Ward, who said the policies were “long overdue” when Marino proposed them in September, said he thinks they are good for Niles.

“These policies are essential to ensure that we provide fair hiring practices to the most qualified candidates based on merit only,” Steffey said.

The policies were created to try to prevent illegal and unethical behavior like that is alleged against Ralph A. Infante in a 56-count political corruption and gambling indictment against the former mayor.

Infante, mayor from 1992 to 2015, in part, is accused of instructing city employees to complete landscaping work and mechanical work as favors for private citizens and ordering a city employee to use city resources to landscape a former city councilman’s property. He also is accused of using city property and on-the-clock employees to help him with re-election petitions, fundraising letters and invitations, and hiring relatives.

Infante has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The policies state elected, appointed and city employees cannot use city property or facilities to benefit themselves, businesses or family. Other points in the policies prohibit city officials and employees from gaining personal advantages through their positions, or accepting anything of value from people or corporations with ties to the city. The indictment accuses Infante of both.