Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko is characterizing a $1 million civil lawsuit filed against her and the other commissioners as frivolous and politically motivated.

Frenchko on Monday responded to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court by Dawn Gedeon of Fowler, who is a receptionist for the Trumbull County Commissioners.

Alleging discrimination, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Gedeon claims that her name was on a list of county employees that Frenchko allegedly wanted to remove when she took office in January of last year.

Gedeon, who says in the suit that she is of Italian American heritage, accuses Frenchko of repeatedly making derisive comments about Italian Americans, likening Italians to “mafia types and organized crime members”, and allegedly referring to Trumbull County’s Italian American employees as “greasy” and “sausage makers” akin to Michael or Don Corleone from “The Godfather” movie.

The complaint also alleges that Gedeon and other county employees were harassed by Frenchko after complaining about Frenchko to the county human relations department.

Gedeon also claims in the suit that she was defamed by Frenchko who, on social media and during a radio interview, allegedly accused Gedeon of mistreating her husband and children.

The lawsuit alleges that Frenchko brought a cat to work, even after learning that Gedeon was allergic to the animals.

Gedeon, who claims she needed medical treatment for exposure to the cat, also said she sought mental health treatment because of what she says was humiliation and emotional damage caused by alleged abuse from Frenchko.

The suit claims that Gedeon suffered mental abuse was so severe that she frequently sought mental health treatment by way of Zoom from psychological professionals during her work breaks.

According to the complaint, on one occasion Frenchko came into a room when Gedeon was in a Zoom treatment session and allegedly tried to interfere or stop the session.

Frenchko has not filed a response to the lawsuit, but issued the following statement to 21 News:

“It’s a politically driven, frivolous lawsuit filed by another employee in an effort to inhibit me from holding them accountable to the taxpayers. This lawsuit, like the others, will fail because I’m simply making people work for the taxpayers again. I will not be deterred by their outlandish claims nor their political stunts,” said Frenchko.

Frenchko denies making comments to staff members about their ethnic heritage, or anyone's heritage.

Responding to Gedeon’s claim that Frenchko denied granting her a pay raise, Frenchko tells 21 News in an email that Gedeon received what she said was a significant pay increase without an increase of duties.

Frenchko and the Board of Commissioners are also named as a defendant in another civil lawsuit filed in federal court last year by the commissioner’s administrative secretary Christine Glenn, alleging a hostile and abusive work environment. The defendants have asked the court to throw the case out.

Gedeon is asking a jury to award more than $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, as well ad court costs, expenses, and attorney fees.