By Jordyn Grzelewski
Trumbull County Planning Commission
Notice of Illness/Disability; Retaliatory Conduct Complaint for Whistleblowing
In a letter read aloud to the Trumbull County Planning Commission board Monday, the commission’s executive director alleged she has been the victim of “psychological abuse, bullying, retaliation, discrimination and general harassment brought about by the Trumbull County Engineer and his associates.”
Further, Executive Director Trish Nuskievicz requested medical leave to seek treatment for health conditions “that have been caused from working in a very hostile work environment.” She also requested the assistance of the commission and the county human resources director “to alleviate the consistent attempts to discredit, attack and dissuade me from execution of my job responsibilities and to target the elimination of my job.”
Board chairman Jim Shader, to whom the letter was addressed, declined to comment on the matter.
In the 31/2-page letter, Nuskievicz detailed alleged issues related primarily to county Engineer Randy Smith that she said began on about September 2016 over a development project in Liberty Township.
Nuskievicz said Smith and county Commissioner Frank Fuda repeatedly raised the issue of securing a variance for the project developer.
“My job, and that of this commission, was to enforce consistently the county subdivision regulations,” she said, regarding survey monuments of a specific type that state regulations require at street intersections. Nuskievicz said “Smith and his associates” were “forceful” in seeking a variance related to that requirement, a change she said would have saved the project developer between $6,000 and $7,000.
Nuskievicz went on to cite the regulations, stating a variance cannot be given “when the only supporting evidence is that compliance would add to the development cost.”
After the variance was denied, Nuskievicz said Smith and Fuda “would repeatedly raise the same issue again and again, although the decision had already been made to deny the variance.”
“Fuda was particularly aggressive, and at one point called and yelled at me, ‘Why don’t you just give the guy what he wants?’” she wrote.
Fuda and Smith could not immediately be reached to comment.
Commissioners Dan Polivka and Mauro Cantalamessa did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Nuskievicz also alleged Fuda make a remark that she took to be a reference to her sexual orientation.
“At one point, Commissioner Fuda asked a board member if I only hired female candidates,” she wrote. “I took this to be a discriminatory comment because I am a married, gay woman.”
Nuskievicz went on to detail a several-month period in which she said Smith sent employees from his office to planning commission board meetings; Polivka called her regarding the monuments issue; and the commissioners allowed Smith to review the monument issue and provide a report to commissioners.
“There was not a legal basis to take this function of the planning commission and give it to the county engineer,” Nuskievicz wrote.
She also noted the transfer of a “key long-time employee” from her office and an unexpected budget reduction, saying Fuda “told the employee to just leave my office without giving any notice,” which she said the employee refused to do.
She went on to detail her contributions to the planning commission and county as a whole.
“I have worked for nearly 22 years at the Trumbull County Planning Commission, earning nine promotions and without a single negative mark on my record,” she said. “It was not until I ‘blew the whistle’ on the engineer’s attempts to circumvent the planning commission’s statutory authority that I became a target that they continually undermine, discredit and cut off from work opportunities that the planning commission would normally be involved in or leading.”
Citing the health concerns she said were caused by “a hostile work environment,” Nuskievicz advised the board she plans to use earned compensatory, sick and vacation time, personal days and then additional time off “pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act.”
After meeting in executive session, the board authorized Nicholas Coggins, commission economic development coordinator, to fill in during her absence.