Emails shed light on resignation of fiscal officer

WELLSVILLE – The resignation of Wellsville Village fiscal officer Dale Davis on Jan. 12 during a special meeting of village council brought any discussion of the process leading up to the disciplinary action pursued against him to an abrupt end.

However, The Review has obtained copies of documents that shed some light on the chain of events that ultimately led to a motion to terminate Davis, which was rescinded only after he agreed to immediately step down from his post as fiscal officer.

Rudzik Excavating of Struthers, which has been carrying out the sewer force main and pump station project on Second Street in Wellsville since October of last year, submitted an application for payment to the village on Nov. 2 totalling $197,004 for work completed to that date. The total includes $36,666 billed to Rudzik by B&J Electric of Poland, for a 150 kw generator, a lug kit and other supplies being used on the project.

John Sabo from GGJ Engineering of Eastlake, who is serving as engineer for the project, signed off on the document on Nov. 20. At that evening’s village council meeting, a motion to pay Rudzik the $197,004 was approved. The money for the payment would come from an Ohio Public Works Commission grant and the remainder of the village’s State and Tribal Assistant Grant (STAG) funds. Village Mayor Susan Haugh added her signature to the payment application on Dec. 6.

On Dec. 17, however, project manager Brian Studer from Rudzik Excavating sent an email to Sabo and Mayor Haugh informing them that no sign of any payment to Rudzik had appeared on the OPWC’s online payment schedule. They had no information regarding the STAG funds due to paid to them either.

Studer states that Rudzik’s subcontractors, such as B&J Electric, had provided services and materials to the project without payment for more than two and a half months, and that the subcontractors were considering liens against the project.

“I am being asked to pull our people from the site and halt all vendors and suppliers from delivering materials until we are in receipt of the first payment,” Studer writes. “Please consider this your seven day written notice that as of 12/24/12, work will cease to continue on the Wellsville Pump Station and Force Main Improvement Project until this issue is resolved.”

Studer sends another email to Sabo on Dec. 21 saying that Rudzik has received no reply from either Wellsville or GGJ, as well as no evidence of payment. “This email will act as our Notification to Stop Work as of 12/24/12 at 4:00 pm,” Studer writes. “We cannot continue to expend our funds in an effort to complete this project without compensation for work completed.” Studer ends by demanding, at minimum, written certification from the offices of Mayor Haugh or GGJ Engineering specifying when the payment will be made. If either payment or an explanation is not received by Dec. 31, he adds, Rudzik would seek to terminate the project.

Later that day, Dec. 21, Sabo replies to Studer’s email, informing him that a payment of $74,861.52 was entered on the OPWC’s payment site the previous day. The remaining $122,142.48 would come from the village via its STAG funds. “It is my understanding that the fees have been approved and we anticipate that those funds will be transferred to the village any day if not already,” Sabo writes.

By this point, word of the payment delay had reached Davis, who replied with a sharply-worded email on Dec. 22, asking why he, as fiscal officer, had not been informed of the situation until the previous day. “I find this ironic since everyone seems to know my email address and phone numbers for everything else they want or need,” he writes. “Being kept in the dark on issues like this and then having them dumped in your lap at the last moment is not appreciated.” He ends by demanding that “all parties” be available on Dec. 24 to discuss a solution.

That evening, Studer replies to Davis’ message with equanimity, writing, “I had no knowledge of you [sic] existence until I received this email.” Studer promises to be available Dec. 24 to work out the problem. He also pledges to copy all subsequent correspondence regarding the finances of the project to Davis, “unless instructed otherwise.”

Davis’ email to Studer on the morning of Christmas Eve was, at two sentences long, brief and scathing: “Who did you think was going to sign your checks? Who did you think signed your contract?” Studer replies to Davis by asking that their correspondence be copied to “ALL parties involved,” conspicuously closing his message with, “Respectfully.”

One of the parties involved, Haugh receives copies of the exchanges between Davis and Studer, which have been copied to Sabo at GGJ as well. “First and foremost, I apologize for the snide comments Wellsville’s Fiscal Officer made in his most recent email,” she writes. “It was unprofessional, as well as unnecessary, when trying to remedy this situation.” She goes on to ask Studer who received the first payment application on Nov. 2 and if the issue has been resolved.

Currently, Studer says the first round of payments requested have indeed been made, and that Rudzik is waiting on funds from a second payment application, in the amount of $125,132.40, that was approved by village council at their meeting on Jan. 15.

Studer was surprised to learn of Davis’ resignation when he was asked about the matter on Friday, saying he had not been informed of the departure, which took place two weeks ago. “Anytime you lose a fiscal officer in the middle of a project, you would hope that there would be individuals in place to pick up the pieces where they may have fallen,” he said via phone. He also expressed hope that the transition to acting fiscal officer Cassie Bloor goes smoothly, with no further interruption of payments.

Asked for further details on the Davis matter, Haugh would only say, “He resigned.” After declining further comment, she apologized and added, “It just has to be handled that way.”