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High court denies Dan Polivka — again

State justices grant Frenchko’s motion to dismiss suit

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday granted Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko’s motion to dismiss a suit filed by former county Commissioner Dan Polivka that sought to remove her from office.

Polivka lost the November general election to Frenchko. But Polivka asked the court to reverse the win, claiming she isn’t a proper resident of Trumbull County because her daughter was attending school in Lake County during the election.

The courts and county board of elections sided with Frenchko in several cases related to claims against her residency before and after the election.

Polivka filed a quo warranto action with the court — an action to challenge a person’s right to hold office — claiming she is “ineligible” to hold the office “because she does not reside in Trumbull County,” his petition for the writ states.

Polivka wanted the court to oust her from office and declare him the rightful person to take the seat.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor did not elaborate on the order to dismiss Polivka’s claim.

Polivka, through attorney Rick Brunner of Columbus, argued the school district in Mentor doesn’t allow open enrollment and Frenchko was required to live in the district for the girl to attend school there. He also cited Frenchko’s “non-resident” status at a local country club and her income in Warren.

Brunner is the husband of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner, who did not participate in the case.

Frenchko, through attorney Joseph Szeman of Mentor, argued Polivka’s action was “merely the most recent attempt … to advance an issue that already has been both administratively as well as judicially rejected.”

“A losing candidate in an election does not have standing to bring a quo warranto action,” Frenchko’s motion to dismiss the claim states. Even if Frenchko weren’t eligible for office, Polivka wouldn’t be the person to replace her — the central committee of her party would appoint a replacement, the motion to dismiss states. Vacancies in office are always filled by appointment by the party, “never by default to the losing candidate,” the motion to dismiss states.

Frenchko is a Republican and Polivka is chairman of the Trumbull County Democratic Party.

Szeman, who is law director for the city of Mentor and has a personal relationship with Frenchko, also argued the case should be dismissed because Polivka’s attorneys attempted to serve her with the action at an address in Mentor, when it should have been served at her address in Warren.

Polivka said he believes he lost the case because of a “poor” decision by the Trumbull County Board of Elections early on during the campaign season ruling she is a proper resident of the county.

Election law allows people to have multiple addresses but requires one for voting or running for office. It allows for candidates and voters to have a residence they intend to return to as their voting address, even if they aren’t residing there at the time.

Frenchko called the challenges to her election “dirty politics.”

“The establishment thinks if they lie enough, people will blindly believe their lies or maybe that they can just wear me down and make me quit. That’s not going to happen — ever. This is exactly the dirty politics I promised to fight.”

Polivka said knowing Frenchko’s daughter went to school in Mentor made him think “fraud (was) committed” during the enrollment process and when Frenchko solicited signatures for her candidacy petitions, and that is what drove him to file the court action.

“I think rules should be adhered to, or take all (of) the laws and rules down and (let people) run wherever (they) choose,” Polivka said.

Polivka said people running for city council have to live in certain wards, but county commissioners seem to be able to get away with having dual residencies.

“It all just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

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