Trumbull County Commissioner, Niki Frenchko is suing her fellow commissioners accusing them of numerous violations of the Ohio Open Meetings Act.

According to a lawsuit filed on Frenchko's behalf by attorney Matthew Miller-Novak, the lawsuit's goal is to address Commissioners, Maruro Cantalamessa and Dennis Malloy, along with Clerk, Paula Vivoda-Klotz.

The lawsuit alleges that these individuals "habitually meet as a quorum to deliberate and take official action in private without providing proper notice to the public or taking meeting minutes."

The lawsuit goes on to state that Commissioners Malloy and Cantalamessa, as well as former Commissioner, Frank Fuda "mistakenly believe that they are permitted too vote on matters through email, discuss and decide matters as a quorum on the phone and set employment policies privately."

According to the Ohio Attorney General's website, the Open Meetings Act (OMA) mandates that "if a public body is meeting to discuss and vote on or otherwise decide public businesses, the meeting must be open to the public."

The Ohio Attorney General's website describes a "public body" as any decision-making body at any level of government.

The lawsuit cites numerous examples of times when commissioners had discussed and voted on matters secretly including a private meeting held in June of 2021. The lawsuit references alleged video evidence of Commissioners, Cantalamessa and Frank Fuda leaving this meeting.

"In addition, Respondants Malloy and Cantalamessa have recently admitted that they called one another on the phone on February 28, 2023 to take the official action to send employees home," the lawsuit continued.

This is in reference to a recent incident in which commissioners office employees were sent home when she requested documents from the Human Resources department with information on hiring agreements. 

The lawsuit claims the two commissioners did not provide any notice of this phone meeting nor were the minutes of the meeting recorded.

Evidence of Vivoda-Klotz calling for decisions on public business to be voted on via email was also shown in the lawsuit in the form of an email dated January 23, 2023 requesting a private vote, as well as evidence of a reply from Commissioner Malloy voting.

The lawsuit also cites an incident captured on video from May 18, 2022 where commissioners adjourned a public meeting, but continued deliberating and arguing with Frenchko. 

According to the lawsuits, the minutes for this deliberation were not recorded.

Commissioner Frenchko provided 21 News with the following statement:

"I was elected to bring transparency and eliminate closed door decisions. I have made countless attempts to work with the board and the clerk to improve behaviors, but have been blocked. My intent is for the board and clerk to correct their actions and comply with open meeting and records laws."