Sat., 10:55 pm: Settlement in Ethics Commission probe of former sheriff’s office employee

WARREN — The Ohio Ethics Commission found a former number two person at the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office broke ethics law and, in exchange for not referring the matter for prosecution, the chief deputy retired.

Donald Guarino was brought on by Sheriff Thomas Altiere in 2008 as chief of operations in charge of the jail. His attorney, John Pfau, said the 71-year-old Guarino, though disputing the allegations, was already getting ready to retire, so “why spend the time to try and fight this if they are all going to go away anyhow.”

A settlement agreement between Guarino and the Ethics Commission details the allegations against Altiere’s former top aide, who was found by the commission to have “participated in material employment matters involving his son.”

Guarino admitted the facts in the investigation done by the Ethics Commission demonstrated a violation, but he didn’t admit guilt.

An investigation into an allegation that Guarino “used the authority and influence” of his position to benefit his son, a deputy sheriff, found Guarino “participated extensively” in “numerous employment matters” of David Guarino, including assigning the younger Guarino to the office’s dive team, which resulted in the office paying $1,583 for equipment and training and $1,354 in increased overtime.

In addition, Donald Guarino approved sick and vacation leave and signed overtime request forms for David Guarino, according to the agreement.

Pfau disputes the findings, saying it was the sheriff who has “sole discretion” for hiring and promoting employees. In an affidavit with the agreement, Altiere said the decision to transfer David Guarino from corrections officer in the jail to the patrol division “was made solely by myself” and that he was not influenced by Donald Guarino, who also did recommend on the transfer.

David Guarino was hired in October 2006, about two-and-a-half years before the older Guarino was hired.

Pfau said David Guarino needed to pass physical and other tests to become a member of the dive team. It wasn’t Donald Guarino who determined who was on or not on the team, Pfau said.

Also, the equipment was paid for with the deputy’s clothing allowance and overtime is determined by contract, Pfau said. Donald Guarino performed the administerial function, said Pfau, but the “decision was already made to give him (David Guarino) overtime.”

In addition to Donald Guarino leaving the office, other conditions of the settlement say he cannot accept future employment from the sheriffs office, including having a special deputy commission.

Altiere did not return a message seeking comment.

After naming Donald Guarino as chief deputy in March 2008 following Altiere’s primary election win, Altiere said Donald Guarino was instrumental in helping him win re-election. The position Guarino occupied had been vacant due to a retirement.