Secret documents reveal alleged wrongdoing at engineer’s office

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — State officials on Friday unsealed a search warrant executed at the office of Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith on Thursday.

The documents allege Smith and others in his office violated ethics rules and sections of the Ohio Revised Code.

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted the Ohio Ethics Commission with the search, which followed the filing of a lawsuit last week by Attorney David Engler seeking Smith’s removal from office. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of engineer’s office union steward Kendell Lee Stauffer Jr. of Girard.

The lawsuit claims seven counts of misconduct in office by Smith, including having an unlawful interest in a public contract, improper employee activity, filing false financial disclosure statements and mail fraud to intentionally deprive the public of honest service.

“We would not have filed the lawsuit on behalf of the employees who work there if we didn’t think there was grounds for removal from office. Everything that we allege, we had an actual document that backed it up and I think since we filed the lawsuit, more information has come out that makes our positions even clearer,” Engler said.

Smith was appointed engineer Aug. 17, 2011, following the resignation of David DeChristofaro, who also was accused of ethics violations while in office.

“Our hope is that he actually will leave office quietly, perhaps he could forestall the rest of the ethics complaint, or process, and just get out office and let Trumbull County move on,” Engler said.

According to an affidavit filed Tuesday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, a complaint was received by the Ohio Ethics Commission on Oct. 12, 2013, alleging:

  • Smith hired business associate Donald Barzak as director of governmental affairs /grants and special projects coordinator.
  • While serving as Trumbull County Engineer, Smith had/has contracts with oil and gas companies operating on or around Trumbull County land.
  • Smith named Gregg Alberini Sr. highway superintendent and is now supervisor over his son, Gregg Alberini Jr., who is employed by the office.

The affidavit also alleges that Smith and Barzak own four properties together, three in Cortland and one in Fowler.The Ohio Ethics Commission received copies of loan contracts with Sky Bank listing both Smith and Barzak as owners. Barzak is the CEO of the Barzak Agency, which is a full service financial firm. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits Smith from using his public position to authorize a public contract in which a business associate has an interest, the affidavit states.

Smith has public oversight and regulatory compliance over oil and gas companies and/or contractors operating on Trumbull County roadways. The engineer’s office enters into Roadway Use Maintenance Agreements with oil and gas companies doing business in their counties.

It is alleged that Smith has oil and gas lease agreements with BP, which is a company his public office regulates. The affidavit states Smith’s financial disclosure statement from 2011 shows he received $390,727.35 in income from an oil and gas lease with BP for properties in Hartford and Fowler. The Ohio Revised Code prohibits Smith from participating in matters involving companies with whom he has a lease agreement, the affidavit states.

The affidavit also states that Gregg Alberini Sr. promoted his son Gregg Alberini Jr. to temporary foreman on a project and authorized a raise in his pay, which is a violation of the Ohio Revised Code.

It states that the Ohio Ethics Commission received a second complaint alleging Smith has a private business, Randy L. Smith, Inc. which has contracted with the Trumbull County Board of Health to engage in work while being in office as the engineer.The company provides professional engineering and surveying.

The affidavit states he received payments from the board of health while serving as engineer and he continues to perform services for the board of health. The affidavit states that on his 2011 financial disclosure statement, Smith stated Randy L. Smith, Inc. is no longer in business and a final payment was received in 2012 for services rendered in 2011. However, the allegation submitted to the Ethics Commission included a copy from the board of health dated Jan. 9, 2012, for engineering services related to the review of the 2012 LaFarge Landfill Renewal Application totaling $7,200.

According to the search warrant unsealed Friday, investigators seized computer hard drives; email logs of Smith, Gregg Alberini Sr., Jack Simon and Donald Barzak; personnel files of Gregg Alberini Sr., Gregg Alberini Jr. and Barzak; files pertaining to Smith’s land leases; and computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka said “it’s unfortunate for the whole department,” but said commissioners can’t comment any further while the investigation continues and any lawsuits work their way through the courts.

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