Editor’s Note: This story was published after three attempts to reach Commissioner Niki Frenchko. She reached out after the fact and the story has since been edited to reflect what she says is her side of the story.
WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – County workers gathered during a public meeting Friday to air their grievances against Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko.
Frenchko was invited to the meeting but didn’t show up.
Friday night, Frenchko spoke with First News. She claims she asked for the meeting to be delayed an hour due to a scheduling conflict, but the other commissioners refused.
The workers talked about Frenchko posting disparaging remarks on social media and insulting them on talk radio. Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said she has “created a narrative about the county, its workers and commissioners that just isn’t true.”
“I wish Commissioner Frenchko was here, especially since she ran on transparency,” Cantalamessa said.
One worker said she suffers from medical issues because of Frenchko and her family has suffered because of what she calls “daily” harassment.
“You have to respect to get respect. There is no respect for any of us or the other commissioners here. I can’t sleep. I have headaches. I’ve had to go to my doctor. I treat my husband and daughter terrible because of what is going on here. It’s too much. We walk on eggshells every day here. We don’t know what the day is going to bring, the drama. We never have a good day here,” said employee Dawn Gedeon.
Gedeon has filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, she said.
Other workers talked about Frenchko making what they called unnecessary demands, such as transcribing meetings verbatim instead of relying on the clerk’s report and setting up electronic calendars. She also accused a worker of sending too many personal emails on county time.
Mostly, the workers talked about their emotional state and the work environment they say Frenchko has created in county offices. Some workers were in tears as they described what they called harassment. One even accused her of making racial slurs against Italians.
Commissioners accused Frenchko of character assassination and that her actions have resounded across the state. Commissioner Frank Fuda said he has taken calls from other city leaders who have taken notice of what is happening in the county.
“This is a problem we’ve had here for five months. The work these people do — they are not paid a great deal of money, but they work their butts off,” Fuda said. “Our 190,000 people don’t deserve this. People look at us as the worst county in Ohio.”
Human Resource Director Richard Jackson said he has received several frivolous write-ups from Frenchko but has not put them in the employees’ permanent file.
“I think I know what a legitimate complaint looks like,” he said. “I am not a psychologist, but I have seen many personality types, and I believe that something is wrong mentally [with Frenchko] that needs to be evaluated. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Frenchko did release a statement Friday night, but it did not address the issues raised by the employees at Friday’s meeting.
“Today was a political stunt. It was theatre of the absurd that should sicken everyone. They actually think an elected official should be forced to sit silently while political opponents berate them, insult them, spread falsehoods, and endure their planned theatrics. This is ludicrous to use staff to advance political agendas. “
Frenchko previously said she’s already consulted with her legal team about ways to address what she claims are falsehoods in the employee’s letter of complaints. She also said she feels the employees are being coerced.