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Civil rights panel backs two county officeholders

WARREN — In separate cases, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has ruled in favor of Trumbull County Engineer Randy L. Smith and Commissioner Niki Frenchko in discrimination cases filed against them.

Smith won a discrimination claim filed by former engineer’s office employee Timothy Davis.

Davis, who was fired by the engineer’s office on Feb. 5, 2021, filed a charge with the state commission alleging he was passed up for a promotion in 2019 because of his race.

On May 26, the state commission ruled in favor of the engineer, stating Davis was not promoted because the position of “foreman of the bridge crew” was awarded to another candidate who was more qualified. The commission noted the one who was given the promotion — James Carnes — had been working successfully in the position for well over a year.

According to a letter of determination dated May 26, the commission conducted an investigation into Davis’ allegation by considering relevant documents and testimony.

In his statement to the commission, Davis, a Warren resident, said he had worked 27 years for the engineer’s office and was passed up for the foreman’s job for two years.

“I have more time and experience (than the ones who got the promotions),” Davis stated.

Testimony from highway Superintendent Tom Klejka, however, stated Davis’ prior experience on the bridge crew occurred about 12 to 15 years ago and he had to be removed from that crew because he refused to paint gusset plates as instructed.

Smith’s attorney Jeffrey A. Stankunas wrote the commission’s investigator, stating Davis was not selected for promotion due to legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.

The commission also noted Davis was fired on Feb. 5, 2021, because of proven claims of dishonesty against the employee and because of reports he struck another employee with a chunk of snow and ice during a tree trimming job in Kinsman on Dec. 8, 2020. When questioned, Davis told his superiors someone else threw the snow and ice, according to investigative documents.

On May 13, 2021, Davis had pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct in Eastern District Court and was ordered to pay a fine and costs, the document noted.

“The Trumbull County Engineer Human Resource Department is committed to maintaining the highest standards of compliance with all employment laws according to state law and Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” a news release from engineer Smith stated.

FRENCHKO’S CASES

On May 29, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission sided with Frenchko on two discrimination claims.

Office worker Lisa Denunzio Blair had charged discrimination for national origin, ancestry and age; while employee Shara Taylor had lodged an age discrimination claim.

Blair had alleged a hostile work environment because of her Italian ancestry and age, and Shara Taylor alleged the same due to her age.

In its ruling, the state commission ruled Frenchko’s public “comments were based on political statements alleging corruption, incompetence, and cronyism within county government.”

The commission dismissed both complaints saying no evidence supported either Blair’s or Taylor’s allegations.

Frenchko said the rulings reflect her commitment to changing county government.

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