‘Fired’ employee could get full pension

Griffing will mark 30 years with city in October

WARREN — City operations employee Dennis Griffing — whose job was terminated but who will continue to work until or if he is convicted on a petty theft charge — may be able to stay on the job past his 30th anniversary date with the city.

If Griffing, 57, is able to work past his 30th anniversary date, the longtime city employee will be able to collect his full pension, according to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System website. If he retires before reaching 30 years, he will be able to retire at a reduced rate.

His termination has been delayed until after a criminal conviction takes place as a result of an agreement between Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 740, which represents Griffing.

Griffing has been charged with a misdemeanor petty theft offense as a result of an investigation into an allegation that he took a $299 lawn mower that was being held in storage as evidence in a series of home burglaries that occurred in the city earlier this year.

He is alleged to have taken the lawn mower for his personal use after it was mistakenly taken to the operations department. The lawn mower was returned after it became known that city officials were looking for it, according to police reports.

Griffing pleaded not guilty to the petty theft charge in Warren Municipal Court in June. His next court appearance is Wednesday before Judge Thomas Gysegem, court records show.

An employee with the city since October 1988, Griffing will have 30 years in October.

Last month, shortly after the city held a disciplinary hearing about the theft, the union sent a letter to Cantalamessa asking that any disciplinary action be delayed until after legal action takes place.

Warren City Law Director Gregory Hicks said the courts like to have cases completed within six months, but various motions may be filed that could stretch the case over a longer period of time.

When asked why Griffing’s termination was not immediate, Cantalamessa said he wanted to avoid an arbitration hearing.

“This was done to avoid the possibility of paying him back pay and the cost of arbitration if he is not convicted for some reason,” Cantalamessa said.

Earlier this summer, the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District was required to repay former operations manager Anthony Vigorito $15,318, after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of forgery, noncompliance with Ohio’s Safe Drinking Water Act and tampering with records. Vigorito was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence plus 100 hours of community service, a year of probation and a $3,000 fine.

The MVSD had placed Vigorito on unpaid leave for two months as the charges, some of which initially had been felonies, went through the courts. After Vigorito pleaded to reduced charges, he asked to be paid for the two months he was on unpaid leave and sick time, which would have been a combined $26,493. The district agreed to pay $14,924 in back pay, plus 4 percent interest accumulated over the two months he was off. He was not paid for the sick time.

Cantalamessa did not respond to a question about whether what happened to Vigorito affected his decision on delaying Griffing’s termination date until after a conviction is completed.