Engineer should seek larger probe

Randy Smith’s requested ethics investigation of his predecessor, David DeChristofaro, might be a good idea, but an even better one might be to go back and examine the hiring practices of DeChristofaro’s predecessor, Smith’s former boss John Latell, whose favoritism may have cost taxpayers even more.

Smith has asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate the relationship between DeChristofaro and the president of the company that started the restoration of the covered bridge in Newton Falls. Smith said it appears DeChristofaro concealed his relationship with Dave DiRusso, president of BECDIR Construction, during litigation involving the bridge and in deposition, according to an October letter to the commission.

DeChristofaro denied the claims. DiRusso said he was ”shocked” when he heard Smith’s request.

BECDIR sued the county for $1.4 million after it was removed from the covered bridge project. The county settled on $300,000 in April 2009 soon after DeChristofaro took office.

If something inappropriate caused taxpayers to settle for more than necessary, then indeed the situation should be investigated and restitution made.

An investigation is also warranted of former engineer John Latell’s hiring practices, which may have cost taxpayers more than $300,000.

In legal depositions, former Chief Deputy Engineer John Pecuri and office employee Annita Homlitas said the engineer had many more workers than needed. Before surrendering the office to DeChristofaro, Latell hired friends and relatives, whom were named in the Pecuri and Homlitas depositions. Among Latell’s hires were his daughter-in-law, Amanda Latell, and son-in-law, Matt Dohy.

The depositions were part of a lawsuit Latell’s workers filed after DeChristofaro fired them.

Smith should ask the ethics commission to investigate. The commission should attempt to find what advertising, searching and interviewing was done for the jobs Latell gave to his friends and relatives. The commission should find out why there wasn’t enough work to keep the employees busy.

Our position is simple: Elected officials should not hire relatives and if they do, they should take the relatives with them when they leave office.