WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Commissioners Denny Malloy and Mauro Cantalamessa approved the hiring of outside counsel to represent them in a lawsuit filed by fellow Commissioner Niki Frenchko.
In a regular meeting on Wednesday, the commissioners agreed to hire an attorney at Bricker & Eckler to represent them, as well as Clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz in the suit. They said outside counsel was needed as Trumbull County’s prosecutor believed it would be a conflict for the prosecutor’s office to be involved.
The attorney will work at a rate of $375 an hour.
“This is a suit that we don’t want to take lightly in Trumbull County. It’s unfortunate, but the board needs representation,” Cantalamessa said.
“It’s very unfortunate that it’s gonna cost the taxpayers money for something that I think is, that will play out in court, as again, another black eye to Trumbull County for no reason,” Malloy added, saying he has a right to defend himself.
The lawsuit was filed by Frenchko and Brian Ames, of Mogadore, Ohio, earlier this year. Ames is part of a nonprofit group calling itself “Open Government Advocates.”
Their lawsuit contends that Malloy and Cantalamessa have routinely deliberated or taken official action in private, without providing proper notice to the public or taking meeting minutes.
The hiring of outside counsel was also approved to represent other county employees on Wednesday from what Malloy called “tedious” public records requests from Frenchko and Ames, which he said is taking the employees outside their scope of duty.
Frenchko did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Also approved Wednesday was the rerouting of a waterline along state Route 46, just south of the Route 82 interchange to East Market Street, including the removal of the current waterline and placement of the new conduit lying within Trumbull County.
The commissioners also approved the use of ARPA funds not to exceed $7,600 for the replacement of 75 windows at the Trumbull County Jobs and Family Services facility. The replacement is in order to allow the windows to open and “provide circulating fresh air to alleviate the potential COVID-19 virus in a congregate setting.”