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Niki Frenchko-clerk hearing Zooms today

Commissioner seeks to end temporary restraining order

WARREN — Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko is guaranteed to be more than 25 feet away from commissioners clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz as the hearing to determine whether to make a temporary civil protection order against Frenchko permanent will be held today over Zoom.

Trumbull County court officials confirmed the hearing will be held virtually and start at 1 p.m. Both Frenchko and Vivoda-Klotz are expected to be in their respective attorneys’ offices, and visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove is expected to be in a Summit County courtroom.

Electronic invitations were sent to the parties on Friday, a court official said.

An emergency order has been in place requiring Frenchko to remain at least 25 feet from the commissioners clerk since Jan. 7. The hearing was scheduled for last week, but one of the attorneys involved, John Juhasz, had a scheduling conflict.

Cosgrove, a retired Summit County jurist, was assigned to hear the case by the Ohio Supreme Court after the judges in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court recused themselves.

Access to view the hearing will be provided on a screen on the third floor of the Trumbull County courthouse.

The hearing stems from a complaint lodged against Frenchko by Vivoda-Klotz. The incident involved Frenchko allegedly following Vivoda-Klotz into Vivoda-Klotz’s office, closing the door behind them and locking it, according to a sheriff’s report.

In a video of the incident, Vivoda-Klotz is seen walking out of the office through a second door with Frenchko following her. Vivoda-Klotz is heard saying good-bye to her co-workers and then leaves the office.

The first step in a protection order process is for a judge or magistrate to have a hearing to determine whether to issue an emergency order. The initial hearing only involves testimony from the person making the complaint.

In this case, Cosgrove issued an emergency order requiring Frenchko to stay more than 25 feet away from Vivoda-Klotz at all times. It states Frenchko must not enter or interfere with the home, school, day care or child care providers of Vivoda-Klotz.

It states Frenchko may not violate this order even with the permission of the protected person. The order also carries a warning that Frenchko could be carrying firearms.

After the emergency order was issued, Frenchko stated in an email the allegations made against her to the judge were “lies by insubordinate staff who are working in concert with establishment politicians to prevent me from carrying out my duties.”

The second part of a protection order is a full hearing at which both sides can offer testimony. After the full hearing, a judge or magistrate can dismiss the emergency order or issue an order lasting up to five years.

Full hearings involving complaints filed by two other employees of the commissioners’ office against Frenchko were also set for today, but they will be rescheduled for an undetermined, later date. Cosgrove refused to issue temporary protection orders involving those two workers, for whom hearings before Cosgrove have not been set.

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