Published: Monday, July 23, 2007
Trumbull Co. engineer hires nephew
The county engineer
expects criticism for hiring a third relative.
By TIM YOVICH
WARREN Trumbull County Engineer John D. Latell Sr. has hired a third relative to work for the engineering department.
Atty. Kurt Latell of Girard, the engineer's nephew, takes over the position of Atty. Donald L. Ford Jr., who died in June. Ford was paid $35,000 annually for the part-time position. In addition, Latell said, Ford was provided benefits that included health insurance, retirement and longevity, totaling an additional $20,00 a year.
John Latell said Kurt Latell will be paid $100 an hour on an as-needed basis and $120 hourly for in-court work. He will not receive benefits.
There is no prohibition against an office holder hiring a nephew because the Ohio ethics laws don't consider the uncle-nephew relationship immediate family.
According to the Ohio Ethics Commission, a government official cannot hire a spouse, children or grandchildren. It also includes any other person related by blood or by marriage and living in the same household.
Kurt Latell, 40, is the son John Latell's brother, Anthony Latell Jr., former state senator from Girard. Kurt is a 1993 graduate of Capital University Law School and is a member of the Girard Civil Service Commission.
No problem with hire
Latell said he realizes he will "take a hit" when the hiring of his nephew is made public, but said he doesn't have a problem because his nephew is part of his extended family rather than immediate family.
"I'm not hiding behind anything," John Latell said. Latell said he thinks "there's no appearance of impropriety" in his hiring of his nephew.
Asked why he didn't seek proposals from other attorneys to provide legal work for his office, the engineer responded that some contract and workers' compensation cases need to be done quickly.
Kurt Latell of Girard has not been paid for any work as yet, according to the county auditor's office, where he is also listed as an acting judge and acting magistrate in Girard Municipal Court.
The auditor's office said he has not drawn a paycheck from either of the two court jobs since October 2005.
John Latell said his nephew has the capabilities and background to perform the legal work for his office.
John Latell said he will seek proposals for legal services at the end of the year. He has decided not to run for re-election as his four-year term ends Dec. 31, 2008.
This is not the first time Latell has hired relatives.
He hired his son-in-law Matthew P. Dohy of Girard as an engineering technician in June 2005 at $17.04 an hour and his daughter-in-law Amanda Latell of Girard as a stenographer in July 2005 at $14.71 an hour.
According to the auditor's office, Dohy is now being paid $17.21 hourly and Amanda Latell $15.63 an hour as a secretary.
John Latell has said that the engineering technician union job was vacant and the vacancy was posted internally. Dohy was hired after no one applied.
Randy L. Smith, county deputy engineer who is running for John Latell's position in the 2008 election, had said there were no applicants when the stenographer's job became available after it too was posted internally. Amanda Latell was then hired.
"I ask myself, 'What's wrong with that?' When I could bring a neighbor or a stranger that I don't even know whether they have the qualifications or not I wouldn't find out exactly until they're on-board. Because it's a son-in-law, I'm supposed to completely ignore him?" John Latell said of the hiring of Dohy and Amanda Latell.