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Niki Frenchko calls letter ‘dirty politics’

WARREN — A candidate for county commissioner said she believes a letter sent Wednesday to the Trumbull County Board of Elections is a political stunt motivated by “dirty politics.”

Thomas Cool, a bail bondsman in Warren, sent the letter asking the board of elections to investigate Republican candidate Niki Frenchko because she is running for commissioner in Trumbull County, but her daughter went to school in Mentor during the last school year.

Frenchko is running against Democrat Dan Polivka, who has been in office for 16 years.

A number for Cool listed online was not answered Wednesday afternoon.

Ron Massullo, deputy director of the board of elections, said he is asking the prosecutor’s office what he should do with the letter. It isn’t a typical protest against someone’s candidacy. Frenchko already was approved by the board as a Republican candidate for the seat and won the primary race earlier this year.

The letter asks the board to investigate the matter and states copies of the letter were sent to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office and Mentor school officials.

Frenchko said she believes the letter was motivated by a desire to see her political challenge undermined and believes it is related to her efforts to “clean up” Trumbull County transit issues.

“I have verified that everything I’ve done is lawful,” Frenchko said.

Frenchko said she is allowed to have a residence in Warren and a residence in Mentor, and does because she is in a committed relationship with Joe Szeman, who lives in Mentor. The two spend time at one another’s homes as if they belong to the both of them, she said.

Frenchko owns a home on Kenilworth Avenue SE in Warren and runs her business in Warren, she said.

Frenchko said her daughter began going to school in Mentor because she was uncomfortable staying at the residence following a drive-by shooting at their Warren home.

Frenchko said she herself went to schools in Warren, as did her other children, and they like the schools, but the trauma of the drive-by shooting disturbed her daughter, who became afraid to go outside in the city.

Frenchko also wondered how Cool was able to obtain her child custody paperwork, included in the letter, and questioned if her ex’s attorneys gave the documents to her opponent in order to hurt her. She also questioned who paid the Brunner law firm to write the letter for Tom Cool.

“I don’t think it was appropriate for them to bring my daughter into this. Run on your record, on your policies,” Frenchko said. “I fight for people over politics, and people know that about me. I am fighting for senior citizens, not my friends and family. I am fighting for veterans, not my friends and family. I am fighting for the people of Trumbull County, instead of making deals and promises in return for favors, like it has always been done in the ‘good ole boys club’ of Trumbull County. They will do what they can to try to discredit me because they cannot hit me on my policies.”

Frenchko said Szeman has provided her daughter with a male role model who assists with parental responsibilities in the absence of the girl’s biological father. Szeman said the accusations don’t have any legal merit and are rooted in bad politics.

“People who don’t know the law shouldn’t try to make political issues out of their ignorance. This is just a thinly veiled despicable political attack using Niki’s minor child. If they think going after her daughter and intimidating her will chase Niki from this race, they’re mistaken,” said Szeman, Frenchko’s significant other of five years, who is also an attorney.

Polivka was asked to respond to Frenchko’s comments and characterizations of the letter.

“I have no involvement and no comment regarding my opponent’s past issues. I’m planning and prepared to run on my record and reputation, and she can attempt to run on hers,” Polivka said.

Frenchko contends Polivka brought up her daughter’s schooling and her residency at a public meeting several months ago.

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