County engineer wants planning commission report disclosed
WARREN — Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, who the director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission accused of orchestrating professional retaliation against her after the two butted heads, is demanding the release of a report created to investigate her claims against him.
“The investigation is now complete and has been reduced to a written report, which has been provided to the planning commission. It is my belief that this report should be made public as soon as possible. Given the public’s cost for the investigation and the creation of the report, which by all accounts is substantial, transparency demands that the report be made public,” states a letter Smith wrote Friday to the editor of the Tribune Chronicle.
Trish Nuskievicz, the director of the planning commission who is on medically approved leave, wrote a letter in July to the former chairman of the planning commission board, outlining alleged behavior by Smith and his associates.
In the letter, Nuskievicz said the leave was necessary because she developed “serious health-related conditions that have been caused from working in a very hostile work environment.” Her condition is a result of “intense psychological abuse, bullying, retaliation, discrimination and general harassment brought about by Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith and his associates,” Nuskievicz stated in the letter.
The report was created by an outside investigator with the County Risk Sharing Authority of Ohio, a not-for-profit corporation that offers property and liability insurance to its members, to look into Nuskievicz’s allegations.
Smith disputes the claims. And now, he said he wants the report released because he believes it will clear his name.
“The claims made in the letter caused Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith considerable public scrutiny and not only put Engineer Smith, but also his staff, in a negative, false public light,” states a Friday letter penned by attorney Matt Blair on Smith’s behalf.
The letter is addressed to Robert Marino Jr., the president of the planning commission board.
“It is absolutely imperative that the public has confidence in its elected officials. And, when their integrity is challenged, not only is a thorough investigation warranted but also the results of the investigation should be made public,” the letter from Blair to Marino states. “Please consider this letter as a formal public records request for a complete copy of the investigative report… Engineer Smith sincerely hoped that he can obtain the report through a public records request as opposed to being required to subpoena the report.”
At its January meeting, the board heard from the investigator behind closed doors. After the meeting, they took no action. At its meeting Feb. 12, the board met privately for less than an hour to discuss “personnel” and when they reconvened, took no action.
The board will not, at this time, waive attorney-client privilege and is keeping the report confidential, Marino said.
“At this time, the Trumbull County Planning Commission Board will not publicly comment on the report and is working with legal counsel to ensure the operations and services of the commission are functioning in an efficient manner,” Marino said.
The letter from Blair also requests Nuskievicz be disciplined if the allegations in the letter are deemed “baseless and untruthful.”
Nuskievicz is barred from speaking about the issue, under threat of termination.
Nicholas Coggins, the commission’s head of economic development, is the interim director.
Shortly after Nuskievicz wrote the letter to the former chairman, Smith filed a lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court against her and her wife, Heidi Nuskievicz, claiming defamation. Heidi Nuskievicz then filed a counter suit.
Smith claims the couple made malicious statements about him. The counter suit states the original suit was only filed to “exact revenge and retribution” against the two.
The case is being heard before visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove because Smith is an elected official.
Nuskievicz used vacation and sick time for the first few months of leave, but is no longer being paid. She was earning $84,138 annually.