WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Lawyers for Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko filed a motion Friday in a federal court in Cleveland claiming that because public records were destroyed — some by Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe — and a general “dislike” for Frenchko, those involved in her July 7, 2022, arrest for disrupting a public meeting “should suffer punishment for their actions to send a message” throughout Trumbull County government.
The motion specifically asks U.S District Court Judge J. Philip Calabrese “for a partial summary judgment” against several people involved with Frenchko’s arrest. A summary judgment is when a judge makes a decision based on statements and evidence without a trial.
The motion asks the judge to rule that Frenchko’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated and that those involved with Frenchko’s arrest “destroyed evidence and public records.”
Frenchko filed the original lawsuit in April claiming her civil rights were violated when she was arrested.
“This case is about a government which abused its police powers to retaliate against an elected official for making critical statements about the Sheriff and his political allies,” was among the first sentences of the 47-page motion.
The series of incidents that prompted the original lawsuit began at a June 1, 2022, commissioners’ meeting. It was during that meeting when Frenchko read a letter from the mother of an inmate in the Trumbull County Jail accusing the Sheriff’s Department “of poor performance and medical standards.”
Then, on July 7, 2022, at another commissioners’ meeting, a letter was read from Sheriff Monroe describing Frenchko’s portrayal of the jail as “unnecessarily, inappropriately, and inaccurately besmirch(ing) the performance” of the people running the jail. The letter also asked that Frenchko apologize.
After the reading of Monroe’s letter, as Frenchko was taping the reading and discussing “another complaint about the jail she had received,” she was arrested.
Frenchko’s case was eventually dismissed, but in the process, she hired attorney Dave Betras, who was part of the legal team that filed the federal lawsuit.
Betras immediately took legal steps to ensure all text messages in the case were preserved.
Betras specifically wanted the text messages of the defendants in the federal case: Sheriff Monroe, Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa, former Commissioner Frank Fuda, and the arresting officers, Sgt. Robert Ross and Sgt. Harold Wix.
But in the motion filed with the court, Frenchko and her lawyers claimed the “defendants willfully deleted text messages they knew were public records…Sheriff Monroe admitted in his deposition that he deleted all the requested text messages.”
Sheriff Monroe has not returned a call for comment.
When asked about the motion filed by Frenchko, Commissioner Cantalamessa said, “Can’t comment on pending litigation.”
The motion also contends that the defendants have retaliated against Frenchko for her critical viewpoints and have engaged in disruptions of meetings themselves.
The motion described incidents where Fuda was holding up pictures of Frenchko’s used feminine products during commissioners’ meetings.
The motion quoted Fuda’s deposition where Fuda testified the pictures were “given to me by the cleaning people… that was part of her bullying to the cleaning people, as far as I’m concerned.”
In an interview, Fuda said the commissioners have a private bathroom, and when Frenchko was elected, “Mauro [Cantalamessa] and I just used the bathroom for the citizens. The men’s room.”
“Frenchko complained the bathrooms were dirty,” said Fuda. “She had a lady come in every day to clean the commissioners’ bathroom.”
Fuda said Frenchko left the used feminine product in the toilet and the cleaning people took the pictures to explain that “the only time the bathroom was dirty was when she did that.”
“One afternoon, the cleaning lady cleaned the bathroom, went back a half hour later, and they said it was a complete disaster,” he said.
Fuda said after it happened a second time, Frenchko claimed, “the bathroom was filthy again.”
“This was one of her methods of being a bully,” said Fuda.
See the full motion below: