Bollas elected chairman of Trumbull Republicans
NILES — Despite Michael Bollas saying his top priority as the new Trumbull County Republican Party chairman was to unify the factions, chaos and disharmony were obvious moments after his election.
Before beating Kevin Wyndham, a former chairman, 37-22 for the party’s top spot at a Thursday meeting, Bollas, a retired assistant state auditor, said, “In all of my years, I’ve never seen such anger and disrespect” among party members.
He promised, if elected, he would “promote goodwill between our members and work with those who’ve walked away from our party.”
Bollas said, “I want to bring the factions together. It’s my top priority. In order for us to get anything accomplished, we’re going to have to make an attempt to bring at least most of the people together. I know in some cases that’s not going to happen, but we’ve got to make the attempts. We can’t have ill feelings. We have to work with everybody.”
But right after Bollas was handed the gavel, efforts were made to remove Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko as the party’s auxiliary chairwoman because she doesn’t meet a requirement of the party’s bylaws, approved March 12, that states elected officers “must be a registered Republican for four consecutive years.”
This was brought up at the June 10 reorganization meeting but was ignored by party leadership.
Some Republican central committee members said the Thursday meeting wasn’t the appropriate time to discuss it, and some raised the point that Robert Carr, the party’s first vice chairman, didn’t vote in the 2018 or 2020 Republican primary so he also would be ineligible to hold his position.
But Cheryl Tennant, elected deputy treasurer Thursday, and Marleah Campbell, elected secretary at the meeting, persisted in seeking Frenchko’s removal.
Bollas said of Carr’s eligibility that the bylaws say four years and “doesn’t say anything about primaries.”
It was pointed out that party affiliation is determined by how a person votes in a primary.
The chaos ended when Steve Tharp, a central committeeman, said, “Clearly, the table is not prepared to address this issue” and “we have destroyed all of the collegial atmosphere that we had here.”
It then was agreed to address the issue at a later meeting.
After the delay, Frenchko said, “It’s embarrassing for the party. They don’t want any oversight. I want to help unite the party. We should have people from different groups working together. If they question my eligibility, then Bob Carr will have to go.”
Frenchko was nominated and elected auxiliary chairwoman without an opponent at the reorganization meeting after no one else sought the position.
Carr said he was giving serious consideration to resigning as first vice chairman even before the eligibility issue came up.
Carr said his insurance and workers’ compensation business needs his attention and his volunteer work for the Republican Party is taking up too much of his time.
“It’s something I can’t devote all of my time to,” he said. “I’ll be resigning. I don’t know when it will be.”
Wyndham, who resigned as chairman in February 2021, said he decided to run again at the last minute because numerous people asked him to seek the job.
“I gave it a shot because I wanted to help the party,” he said. “I’ve known (Bollas) for six years and he’ll try his hardest, but the party has been in a downward spiral for the last 18 months and it’s going to get lower. Look at how the meeting ran after he was elected. I’m afraid it will be like this for years.”
Newton Falls Mayor Kenneth Kline succeeded Wyndham as chairman, but came under fire from other party officials.
Five party officials resigned between last September and March with all of them citing Kline’s lack of leadership for their decisions.
Kline was re-elected June 10 at an even more chaotic meeting than Thursday’s to a full four-year term, but resigned July 17 citing “personal reasons.”
His daughter, Gabrielle, who was elected secretary at the reorganization meeting, resigned July 19.
Their eligibility also was questioned when they were elected because of their voting records.
That’s seven resignations in less than a year with Carr saying he expects to be No. 8.
After the central committee voted for Bollas as chairman, the executive committee elected Campbell as secretary, Geraldine Fusselman as treasurer and Tennant as deputy treasurer. Tennant had declined the nomination for secretary. All were elected unopposed.
The treasurer position has been vacant since March 20. No one was interested in the position at the reorganization meeting two months ago.