Judge rejects Frenchko effort to end order

Commissioner told to maintain her space from clerk

WARREN — A retired Summit County judge on Thursday denied a petition by Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko to terminate or modify the temporary protection order filed against her by the commissioners’ clerk.

Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove filed the decision saying the temporary order she granted Jan. 7 to clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz shall “remain in full force and effect including the prohibition of contact between (Vivoda-Klotz and Frenchko) of 25 feet.”

Frenchko on Tuesday, through her attorneys Justin Markota and David Betras, asked the judge to terminate or modify the order because the full hearing was not set within 10 days after the initial Jan. 7 order. Cosgrove had set a hearing for a permanent civil protection order for Jan. 19, one day later than deadline.

Cosgrove said the argument lacks merit for the following reasons because state law provides the court may continue a full hearing if a continuance is needed for “good cause.” Cosgrove states she already had set a court date in Summit County for Jan. 18 and was unavailable for a Trumbull Count hearing until Jan. 19. Additionally, the judge stated Frenchko did not show how she was prejudiced by a one-day delay.

Cosgrove’s decision also noted that Frenchko’s lawyer had scheduled Vivoda-Klotz for a deposition on Jan. 17, a legal holiday. The judge ordered Vivoda-Klotz to appear at the deposition at 10 a.m. that day and she shall bring any requested documents and is permitted to have her attorney present, provided the court is notified 24 hours in advance of the deposition.

The deposition shall not exceed three hours, and Cosgrove also ruled it shall focus only on the two alleged incidents of Frenchko’s conduct that were covered in the Jan. 7 “ex parte hearing” in which Cosgrove granted the TPO.

In the Cosgrove ruling, the judge noted that one incident occurred Jan. 4, when Frenchko allegedly followed Vivoda-Klotz into her office and locked the door behind her to “have a conversation.”

The other incident that was covered in the hearing allegedly occurred about 12 days earlier when Frenchko allegedly ripped a recording machine out of a wall socket coming within inches of Vivoda-Klotz who was seated close to where the machine was located. Vivoda-Klotz had testified at the hearing that both incidents caused her to believe that Frenchko would cause physical harm to her and caused Vivoda-Klotz to suffer mental distress.

At the hearing, Cosgrove found Vivoda-Klotz “proved by a preponderance of the evidence” Frenchko engaged in a pattern of menacing by stalking in violation of state law.

Betras said the court order will allow his client to do her job, so long as she stays away from Vivoda-Klotz.

“We are pleased we will be able to do our discovery and get all of the records we need,” Betras said. “I think she will return to work on Friday.”

“I anticipate that there will be no order by our meeting on Thursday,” Frenchko said via email.


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