Ex-engineer offers services to planning panel

WARREN — When the former Trumbull County engineer heard the man who took over his job wanted to cut ties to a county department, he offered his services — at no cost to the county — to the Trumbull County Planning Commission.

Trish Nuskievicz, executive director of the planning commission, said she was touched when David DeChristofaro, who was engineer from 2009 to 2011, offered his assistance. Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith on Tuesday informed Trumbull County commissioners he is seeking a legal opinion from the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office to see if he can legally stop providing certain engineering and survey expertise on planning commission projects.

Smith argues the relationship between the two offices is an “undue burden” on his office. Smith wants to know if Ohio Revised Code “affords my office the ability to forgo engineering and survey services to the commission when the scope of my resources are being impaired and aforementioned challenges are interfering with my regular duties,” according to the letter he provided commissioners.

DeChristofaro stated in an email to Nuskievicz that he “could not believe Randy Smith would even consider refusing to assist your office with engineering or surveying services needed for the good of the public.”

DeChristofaro said he didn’t find working with the planning commission to be a burden, and looked at the relationship as a cooperative one that benefited all the players, including the taxpayers. Communities with strong planning commissions create more progressive communities, DeChristofaro said.

“I know how critical it is that planners, engineers and surveyors work closely together to promote infrastructure improvements and economic development,” DeChristofaro wrote.

Smith declined to comment about DeChristofaro’s proposal.

Nuskievicz said she won’t know if she can take the former engineer up on his offer, and will wait to see what Smith does next before committing to a plan to ensure the commission has access to engineering services.

But, Nuskievicz said, she was greatly relieved by DeChristofaro’s offer.

“It is good someone out there cares about this county as much as we do here. When we request engineering or surveying services, it isn’t as a favor to the planning commission, those are services they are providing to the citizens of Trumbull County, for the development of the county,” Nuskievicz said.

The commission hasn’t needed engineering or surveying services since Smith’s announcement, Nuskievicz said. But, she said she has directed her employees to follow their routine procedures. Smith’s office also has requested any communications between the two offices be in written form.

Nuskievicz said she will follow all of the procedural rules in the county’s subdivision regulations.

“Each agency has a job to do. We will all continue doing our jobs,” Nuskievicz said.

DeChristofaro was the engineer in Niles for 20 years and served as county engineer before resigning in his first term in conjunction with a plea deal. Although the record of the conviction was expunged last year, DeChristofaro pleaded guilty to a charge of felony theft and misdemeanor conflict-of-interest in July 2011. He was accused of using materials from his county office to send thank-you cards and Christmas cards to Democratic precinct committee members.

DeChristofaro was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution and $7,400 for the cost of the special investigation.