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Disgraced former Trumbull County Engineer David DeChristofaro, who was convicted in 2011 for using taxpayer money and county time to send Christmas cards to political supporters, was publicly reprimanded Wednesday for participating in a $300,000 lawsuit settlement opposite his private business partner.
DeChrstofaro, 56, of Niles, was issued a public reprimand by the Ohio Ethics Commission for participating in settlement negotiations involving his business partner David DiRusso over the Newton Falls covered bridge restoration project.
The settlement includes a stipulation that the ethics commission will not ask the Trumbull County prosecutor to pursue charges against DeChristofaro based on several factors, including that DeChristofaro never profited from the settlement.
The $300,000 settlement was agreed to by the county and DiRusso’s BECDIR company shortly after DeChristofaro took office in 2009. The ethics commission settlement says DeChristofaro “participated through comments, discussion, and attendance at meetings and mediation related to the lawsuit.”
BECDIR sued because they were taken off the restoration project and another company finished it.
DeChristofaro and DiRusso are business partners in joint ventures in oil and gas wells in West Virginia, the ethics commission settlement says.
The ethics commission agreement, signed by DeChristofaro, says he “acknowledges the facts demonstrate a violation, but he does not admit guilt.”
The investigation was prompted by a letter from DeChristofaro’s predecessor, Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, who alerted the ethics commission to possible violations in January.
The commission agreement says mitigating circumstances for refraining from pursuing criminal charges include that the lawsuit was filed and negotiations took place before DeChristofaro was in office. They also noted the county commissioners were involved in the settlement and they, along with county attorneys, approved the settlement.
The agreement also notes that DeChristofaro has already been criminally prosecuted for acts committed during his time two-year stint in office.
DeChristofaro was convicted in 2011 on a felony theft charge and a misdemeanor conflict of interest charge. He was sentenced to years probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for using county time and money to send Christmas cards to political supporters. He also sent thank-you notes for his daughter’s wedding.
He then tried to reimburse the county using money from his campaign finance committee.