Lawsuit against Trumbull officials dismissed

WARREN — A discrimination lawsuit filed in November against Trumbull County commissioners by their interim clerk has been dismissed.

Visiting Judge W. Wyatt McKay, in ruling in favor of commissioners, determined there was no proof they as a group prevented Lisa DeNunzio Blair from obtaining the permanent clerk position.

Blair was named interim clerk in 2023 after the county’s insurance provider, County Risk Sharing Authority Inc., settled a lawsuit filed against the commissioners by former clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz.

Blair in her civil suit claimed she was not placed in the permanent clerk’s position based of discriminatory actions and statements by Commissioner Niki Frenchko. She claimed Frenchko created a hostile work environment as a result of alleged derisive remarks directed to Blair’s heritage as an Italian American.

The lawsuit claimed Frenchko was critical of the county hiring so many Italian Americans and repeatedly likened Italians to members of the mafia and organized crime figures.

Frenchko, according to the lawsuit, referred to employees as “henchmen,” “minions” and “hacks.” It also claimed she used the terms “greasy” and “sausage makers” when referring to Italian American employees of the county.

Frenchko on Thursday said the allegations she defamed Italian American county employees are false.

“This case never made it to deposition,” Frenchko said.

“She did not give dates or citations that would give credibility to the allegations,” she said. “It’s pure fabrication and creative writing. It was just made up.”

McKay’s ruling Wednesday stated there was no allegation that commissioners ” … ever turned down the application for a full time clerk or, for that matter, took any employment action against the plaintiff.”

While alleging commissioners as a board are liable for Frenchko’s conduct, Blair’s lawsuit failed to show any publication or adoption of the comments by the commissioners publicly or proof they took any defamatory action against Blair, the ruling states.

Noting the claim that Frenchko’s conduct intentionally caused emotional distress, the judge wrote there is no allegation that commissioners took any intentional action against Blair, just Frenchko.

McKay wrote Blair did not allege commissioners denied her application for the permanent clerk position. It was one commissioner who voted against her becoming the permanent clerk.

“There is no allegation that the vote of a single commissioner influenced or impacted any employment actions taken by the Trumbull County Commissioners,” the ruling states.

In another ruling from a federal court case involving commissioners, the court held they could not be liable for the actions of a single commissioner when the actions did not influence or impact the actions of the board of commissioners as a whole.

McKay wrote claims of punitive damage in the local case must be dismissed as a matter of law due to the fact the commissioners are immune from liability.

Although the civil suit has been dismissed, Frenchko this week said Blair should be disciplined or dismissed for not doing her job in a manner the commissioner believes is correct. She said last week alone there were eight agenda items that did not have information commissioners needed that were provided by Blair.

Commissioners Denny Malloy and Mauro Cantalamessa have repeatedly defended Blair’s work performance.

In the meantime, Frenchko has filed several legal actions against her fellow commissioners that have not been settled.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today