Commissioners lacked control in waste district

Allegations of waste and questionable practices in the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Management District falls directly at the feet of both Trumbull County and Geauga County commissioners who hold seats on the board of directors.

Allegations at the two-county agency that had been created to oversee solid waste disposal and recycling have surfaced involving inappropriate actions of its director, who is now on leave, coupled with personnel who have no work to do.

Trumbull and Geauga county commissioners last week appointed an interim director, recently retired Geauga County Administrator David Lair, at a price tag of $65 per hour for 25 hours per week, while Director Greg Kovalchick takes sick leave due to “stress,” according to documents in his personnel file. Kovalchick had been under investigation for inappropriate actions, including allegations of creating a hostile work environment, possible gender discrimination and other employee complaints.

Kovalchick first was assigned to work from home until his Aug. 31 retirement, but then opted instead to use sick time. The board of directors promoted Kovalchick in early 2017 from within the agency to his current role as director. He earns $70,000 per year.

In the meantime, questions have been raised about the job duties of employees hired under Kovalchick’s watch, and approved by the board.

The two-county solid waste district is governed by a board made up of the three Trumbull County commissioners — Dan Polivka, Mauro Cantalamessa and Frank Fuda — and the three Geauga County commissioners — James W. Dvorak, Timothy Lennon and Ralph Spidalieri. Polivka serves as board chairman. It is the board that approves all hiring in the district.

Fuda has begun raising questions about workers who he says have no work to do. Some complaints against Kovalchick include allegations that he created positions with pay similar to employees who have been at the district for 20 or 30 years, hired unqualified people and created positions with little to no work load.

A few examples include Kovalchick’s creation of an assistant director position that was approved by the board of directors, who hired Tom Hartzell in June 2018 at $21.84 per hour.

Kovalchick also hired Joe Merlo at $17 per hour as special projects coordinator in December. The job description for Merlo’s new position was drafted AFTER the decision was made to hire him, according to minutes from the board of directors meeting.

The examples don’t stop there.

Even Lair couldn’t take issue with Fuda’s assessment about lack of work load, noting that the new hires don’t, in fact, have a lot of work to do.

But rather than combining work load and cutting unneeded staff, he says he will help the employees zero in on their skills and find them tasks.

Really?

That any governmental body could have been allowed to operate with such waste and disregard for fiscal responsibility is unconscionable.

Without oversight and accountability, public employees will continue to believe it is acceptable to hire workers without clear job descriptions and convincing proof of their need. The responsibility for that oversight and accountability lands directly at the commissioners’ feet. As we have said many times before in this space, private business would never operate in such a manner.

For certain, patience of residents and voters should be running thin by now. It’s time for these elected commissioners to take ownership and responsibility for their actions and start being the guardians of the taxpayer money as they were elected to be.

editorial@tribtoday.com

COMMENTS