Suit filed against Fuda dismissed

YOUNGSTOWN — The $2.7 million lawsuit against former Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, which charged him with harassment on the job, was dismissed Monday in U.S. Northern Ohio District Court.

The lawsuit alleged that Fuda had harassed, tormented, bullied and acted abusive toward the commissioners’ former clerk, Paulette Godfrey. This “created a work environment so hostile toward Godfrey that her physician told her, as a matter of her health, she needed to leave her job.”

The alleged bullying and harassment, according to the lawsuit, came after a commissioners meeting held March 24, 2021, during which Fuda asked Godfrey if he had every yelled at her and she said that he had on several occasions.

On Feb. 9, 2022, Godfrey filed the lawsuit and claimed Fuda had retaliated against her for protected First Amendment conduct. But, the ruling by Judge John R. Adams states Godfrey’s “statements are not protected speech because the statements were a matter of private, not public, concern.”

The ruling cited a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said “government employees’ speech is protected by the First Amendment if the employee spoke both (1) on a matter of public concern and (2) as a citizen rather than a government employee.”

But, in this case, the ruling states Godfrey’s speech was not a matter of public concern, and she spoke as a government employee, not a private citizen, therefore, the speech is not protected, the judge wrote.

Godfrey had asked for a jury trial, but Fuda had asked for the judge to decide, which was granted.


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