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Trumbull commissioners facing discrimination suit

Niki Frenchko named individually

YOUNGSTOWN — An administrative secretary in the office of the Trumbull County commissioners filed a federal lawsuit against Commissioner Niki Frenchko and the board of commissioners, claiming she was discriminated against because of her age and ethnicity.

Christine Glenn of Niles cites physical and emotional damages because of the way Frenchko treated her and spoke about people with her ethnicity, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. Northern Ohio District Court.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $25,000, punitive damages, costs and a jury trial. It singles out Frenchko individually and names the Trumbull County commissioners.

Frenchko on Friday called the complaint an “effort to create negative headlines” and “baseless.” Frenchko said she believes the complaint will be dismissed and thinks Glenn filed the suit because a complaint Glenn made to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in March was dismissed a few months ago. In that complaint, Glenn said she believed she was being discriminated against for her age. Frenchko said the OCRC provides those who filed complaints with information on their “right to sue” following a dismissal.

The complaint, filed by attorney Dennis Fogarty of Willoughby Hills, alleges that when Frenchko took office as commissioner Jan. 4, she had a list of employees she wanted to remove from their positions, including Glenn.

The suit claims Frenchko made statements about the plaintiff specifically, stating “we need to get someone younger in that position who knows technology.”

Glenn handles scheduling for the commissioners.

The suit states, “Frenchko told another county commissioner that she was ‘going to badger the old ones until they quit,'” the lawsuit alleges.

Despite never being told of any new duties, the lawsuit claims Glenn was “berated and harassed” by Frenchko for not making changes and not syncing Frenchko’s email to her phone — even after being informed by county IT personnel “multiple times” it would not be possible.

Also, even though Glenn is at high risk for COVID-19, and was moved to another building to help her keep distanced from others, Frenchko tried to move her to where she would be working in close proximity with other people, the suit states.

The plaintiff is of Italian descent and was subjected to defamatory and derogatory statements made about Italian people by Frenchko, causing “emotional damages,” the lawsuit states.

The board of commissioners’ liason in the prosecutor’s office, Bill Danso, said he was not aware of this lawsuit.

Typically when a suit names the county commissioners, Danso said he reviews the documents to see if it can be forwarded to the commissioners’ insurance company.

Danso had no further comment.

But Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa, board chairman, said: “I’m just now learning about this, but I would say that this is both unfortunate and completely disturbing. One commissioner cannot continually claim to champion professionalism, accountability and equal justice for others to follow, but turn a blind eye when it comes to their own behavior. We need to be better than that.”

U.S. Judge John Adams and Magistrate Amanda Knapp are assigned the case, but no hearings have yet been scheduled.

Reporter Allie Vugrincic contributed to this report

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