WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – In March, WKBN’s story into the possible misuse of government surplus equipment by Trumbull County Sheriff’s deputies resulted in an internal investigation.
Today, the results of that investigation are out. The internal investigation started with just a video of horse manure on a Bobcat at a Trumbull County garage, leading Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere and his staff to look into whether or not county employees used the equipment on their private properties.
Major Thom Stewart spent the last two months interviewing all the deputies involved: Ty Kata, Major Harold Firster and Deputy Wix, as well as other county employees.
“Based on my investigation, I could find no evidence that any of our deputies misused any of our equipment,” Stewart said.
Stewart said neighbors of those deputies saw no unusual work being done with the equipment and even reported that work done in the neighborhood was hired out. The report did find that deputies were storing equipment on their personal property to prevent theft at the facility on Panther Drive.
“Major Firster, they were scared about leaving stuff down there,” Stewart said. “That’s why they moved things to different areas. That’s why they moved things to different areas until Mr. Smith made that available.”
On March 6, Sheriff Thomas Altiere ordered all the equipment moved from their properties to the Cortland Warehouse. Stewart said that unless more evidence comes forward, the investigation is closed.
As far as the surplus program goes, Trumbull County’s maintenance superintendent called most of the equipment junk, and Stewart admits they are going to be more discreet about what they decide to go pick up from now on.
“It’s like a crap game, you don’t know what you are getting, so you go down there, you get it, and then you come back…this needs a belt, this needs this, and that’s where the problem in lies,” Stewart said.
So how much did all that junk cost? According to expense reports which Kata submitted and WKBN obtained through a public records request, Kata spent $7700 on money for food, gas, tolls and hotel rooms while transporting the equipment. The county also spent nearly $1600 in overtime for deputy Kata. Kata also personally received 852 hours in compensation time for his service, according to the reports.