More charges expected in Miami Co. ‘culture of corruption’ probe

Charges will be brought against a couple of non-county employees and likely will be unveiled on or soon after the Nov. 5 sentencing date of the former county maintenance director who pleaded guilty to charges including theft in office, according to Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson.

Wilson and a judge from Darke County were brought in to handle the case because the two county employees who have been convicted — a former Troy city councilman and a commander of the local American Legion — had personal relationships with local law enforcement.

Earlier this year, investigators hauled two truckloads of county equipment out of the homes of county maintenance director Jarrod Harrah and other employees. They also seized custom windows that investigators say the director had made for his home with county money, and alleged that employees salvaged county equipment for profit.

The latest details to emerge include allegations that one county worker used a county-owned wrench and fire hose to fill his pool from a fire hydrant near his home and that coins taken by workers from fountains on Courthouse Plaza couldn’t be fully accounted for.

Miami County Sheriff Charles Cox said the investigation was expanded to include vendors used by the county. Officials also are looking into allegations that some items, including a furnace, were given to the county at no charge in exchange for future business.

Harrah is set for sentencing Nov. 5 after pleading guilty to theft in office and tampering with records and evidence.

Harrah served on the Troy city council, was Troy History Museum president, the Miami County Young Republicans Club president and served on the Troy Main Street board of directors.

Bruce Ball, former maintenance department team leader and commander of the Troy American Legion, was sentenced to up to five years of community control, a $1,000 fine and five days in the county jail after pleading guilty to theft in office.

“He got caught up in the culture of corruption,” Wilson told the judge during Ball’s sentencing last month.

Miami County commissioners and others with knowledge of the investigation have said little since the probe began in March with allegations that employees were taking metal scrap from the county and cashing it in for themselves.

Denies charges

The latest details in the case come from a disciplinary action filed against former county maintenance worker Anthony Canfarelli and obtained by the Daily News using Ohio’s public records laws.

The paperwork was filed before Canfarelli resigned on Sept. 21.

It says “county policies permit county employees to utilize county equipment for personal use, with the prior authorization and approval of the employee’s supervisor.”

Canfarelli violated that policy when he tried to use the wrench and hose to take water from a public hydrant to fill the pool at his Pleasant Hill home, the report said.

Canfarelli told the Daily News last week that the accusations against him are false. He said he used a village hose and wrench to tap a village fire hydrant with permission from village officials and then paid about $18 for the water.

“It happened, but I paid for the water I took,” he said. “I have a receipt.”

He said he did borrow the county fire hose to fill his pool, but ended up using a village fire hose. He said it was common for employees to take tools home for personal use.

“I was always told I could use whatever I wanted from the county,” he said.

The report also says he changed his answers to investigators about whether he knew about the sale of county-owned salvage for personal use and misled them about how much change was taken out of the fountains on Courthouse Plaza.

People throw coins in the two fountains on the plaza. The maintenance department cares for the fountains and is supposed to turn the change over to the county general fund.

As for the sale of county-owned salvage, Canfarelli told the Daily News he once dropped off some scrap metal at Poling’s junk yard north of Troy but didn’t get paid for it.

“We just threw it on the ground outside,” he said. “It was my understanding it was too difficult to get the cash to the commissioners.”

Pertaining to the change from the fountain, he said he once saw Ball and co-worker Robert Scherer drying out coins on a table and they said they were going to give the money to commissioners once they dried them off. He said he told investigators what he saw, and that he didn’t know how much money was involved.

“The table was completely covered with pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I would assume they turned it back in to the commissioners office,” he said, estimating the amount at more than $100. “I have no idea how much was there. I didn’t count it, it wasn’t my job. I wasn’t involved at all, other than to see it when I came in and leave.”

The county report also faulted Canfarelli for being convicted of theft in May when he stole bags of mulch from the Troy Wal-Mart and did not notify his supervisors about the incident.

Canfarelli pleaded guilty, but says he was misled into doing so by his attorney and maintains he accidently took too many bags of mulch and was cited by police when he returned to pay for the extra mulch.

“They were in a pile. I didn’t realize how many were there,” he said.

Surveillance video shows Canfarelli and his son loading 36 bags of mulch and paying for 20. When police questioned him, he denied taking more than 20 bags even though his son reportedly was on his way to the store to pay for the extras, according to the police report.

Canfarelli said he never witnessed the crimes of which Harrah and Ball were convicted.

“I had my own suspicions but I never saw any of that stuff take place,” he said. “I did nothing wrong during the whole thing and I’ve just kind of gone with the flow during all of it.”

Harrah’s fall

Items seized from Harrah’s home in May included lawn mowers and six custom windows made at taxpayers’ expense by a contractor who had a county remodeling contract, according to investigators.

“From lawnmowers to a tankless hot water heater he had hooked up in his house, to power tools to chainsaws to — Jiminy Christmas — you name it,” Miami County Chief Deputy Dave Duchak said. “Anything and everything from outdoor yard type things to tools, power tools. It’s pretty egregious.”

Other items bought through county purchase orders were given to businesses and other individuals, and some were sold, Sheriff Cox said.

Cox said tools were often bought in multiples – including five lawn mowers purchased in one year, some of which were recovered at employees’ homes.

The criminal case started with a tip in the spring and included surveillance of those involved.

Harrah’s personnel records show he initially received favorable job reviews following his hiring in November 2005, the same month he was first elected to city council.

He failed to file for re-election by the deadline in 2011, and left council in December. Around the same time, his work performance was diminishing and in February this year he signed a “last chance agreement” after receiving verbal discipline for falling behind, not being at work and lying about his whereabouts.

In comments made in a review and during disciplinary action, Harrah told commissioners he was having personal and health problems. The agreement required an alcohol assessment, participation in a consumer counseling program and a codependent counseling program. A notice in his personnel file dated May 10 stated those requirements had been met.

The criminal case will culminate with his sentencing Nov. 5. In the meanwhile, county records show that foreclosure filings began last week on his Troy home. He now lives in New Carlisle.

Troy City Council President Martha Baker, who served with Harrah on council for several years, said she was “disappointed and surprised” to learn of the allegations against him.

“I held higher expectations of him as a community leader,” Baker said.

Moving ‘forward’

Canfarelli and co-workers Stanley Maitlen and Rob Scherer were suspended with pay for more than than three months during the investigation. Their hourly pay was between $13.52 and $14.69.

Maitlen resigned last month before disciplinary charges could be brought against him. He did not return calls for comment.

Scherer was reinstated and cleared of any wrongdoing. He also did not return calls.

Ball was sentenced last month to five days in jail for one felony count of theft in office involving possession of a county-owned mower and blower. The items were returned and Ball paid no restitution, according to records. He said he had borrowed a push mower and leaf blower, but intended to return them.

“I had no knowledge of theft,” Ball said, but his lawyer said Ball had told investigators he had suspicions of theft occurring.

“I’m very apologetic for my actions and for any embarrassment it brought upon the commissioners, Miami County and the court,” the Air Force veteran said before his sentencing.

Wilson said he would recommend time in prison for Harrah, but suggest concurrent sentences because Harrah has cooperated with investigators. Each of the felony charges carries a maximum of three years.

Personnel records show that the county paid Ball $4,852 for owed vacation and other time. Harrah has not received a final payout pending his sentencing and a restitution order.

Neither Ball nor Harrah returned calls for comment.

The county commission last month hired a new facilities and safety director, Christopher Johnson, former business operations manager at Milton-Union Schools. A new department team leader, Dale Motter, was hired Oct. 4. The maintenance department takes care of 14 county buildings and has a annual budget of about $1.8 million.

“We look forward to being fully staffed in the maintenance department and moving forward in a positive way,” Commission President John “Bud” O’Brien said following the Oct. 4 commission vote.

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