Vermilion police Officer Dennis Terry was contracted to work for the Lorain Police Department beginning in January, Vermilion Police Chief Chris Hartung said Tuesday.
But Lorain Law Director Pat Riley said the city won’t address what Terry has been brought in to investigate.
“He’s participating in an ongoing criminal investigation,” Riley said. “We don’t discuss criminal investigations.”
Lorain police Lt. Mark Carpentiere said the Lorain Police Department has no comment on Terry or the nature of any investigation he’s involved in.
But attorney Mike Duff, who represents Lorain contractor Don E. Buchs, said Terry was one of two police officers with whom he and his client met last week after raids on two of Buchs’ properties by Lorain police and Lorain Building Inspector Ralph Cantu. The other officer was Lorain police Detective Buddy Sivert.
“They are working on corruption in the city of Lorain, and they believe Mr. Buchs has knowledge of some of that, which he doesn’t, but they insist he does,” Duff said.
Cantu and Lorain police searched the property known as the Stoveworks and property Buchs owns on Old Lake Road for evidence that the contractor may be violating state environmental laws, the Lorain Property Maintenance Code and a 1993 consent decree Buchs reached with the federal government in which he agreed to abide by environmental regulations.
According to the affidavits Cantu wrote when seeking the search warrants, Buchs may be using both properties as dump sites for construction and demolition debris.
City demolition contracts Buchs received through the Lorain Community Development Department between April 2005 and March 2008 are under federal scrutiny because the city allegedly didn’t seek competitive bids on them.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General determined that 11 contracts, valued at $164,675, awarded to Buchs were supposed to have been put out for bid under federal guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Justice notified Riley in April that the federal government is considering suing the city, which could lead to Lorain being forced to pay up to $615,025 in damages, fines and restitution.
Riley has said the city is reviewing the matter and he plans to meet with federal prosecutors next month.
Buchs also is a friend of former Lorain Community Development Director Sandy Prudoff, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal charges in connection with the ongoing Cuyahoga County corruption investigation.
Duff has previously said police want Buchs, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, to cooperate in their investigation into Prudoff and the raids on his properties were designed to force him to do so.
The federal charges against Prudoff focus on consulting work he was paid for but didn’t perform for Alternatives Agency, a Cleveland halfway house that features prominently in the federal corruption probe. Court documents in the federal Prudoff case don’t mention Buchs or Prudoff’s work for the city.
Prudoff was put on leave in September 2009 after city officials learned he was a target in the federal investigation, and he retired a few weeks later. Since then, the city has fielded numerous requests for information from the FBI and HUD investigators for Community Development Department documents, including those relating to Buchs and his companies.
Prudoff’s plea deal calls for him to serve two years in prison, but leaves open the possibility that he could face state and local criminal charges.
John Ricotta, Prudoff’s attorney, said Tuesday that he isn’t aware of a Lorain police investigation involving his client.
Terry isn’t unfamiliar with Lorain or the city’s Community Development Department.
In the mid-1990s he was among the FBI agents who investigated federally funded loans made by Community Development to Gumina Construction from the mid-1980s into the early 1990s. Carl Gumina and his son, Frank, were eventually convicted of federal charges, sentenced to five months in prison and ordered to make restitution of nearly $150,000 in that case, court records show.
Hartung said he’s doesn’t know exactly what Terry, who has been with Vermilion police since 2007, is doing in Lorain now.
He said he received a call from Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera in January requesting Terry’s help with an investigation. Hartung said Rivera wanted Terry because of his expertise in investigating white-collar crime.
Terry continues to perform work in Vermilion as well, including working patrol shifts and assisting with the ongoing investigation into the November 2009 shooting death of Jeremy Simko at his North Ridge Road home, Hartung said.
The city of Lorain is paying Terry the Vermilion Police Department’s standard subcontracting rate of $25 per hour, Hartung said, but he doesn’t know how many hours Terry has put into the Lorain investigation.
Lorain Auditor Ron Mantini said he has no record of Terry being paid as either a city employee or contractor.