×

Frenchko gets win in eviction matter

Commissioner argues case never should have been pursued

WARREN — The question of whether Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko ever lived at a home on Primavera Drive in Mentor seems to be answered in an eviction lawsuit ruling filed by a Painesville Municipal Court judge.

In an entry on the Painesville court docket, Judge Paul R. Malchesky ruled that Frenchko is a nontenant of 4493 Primavera Drive, Mentor, and the eviction complaint raised by landlord Joseph P. Szeman was dismissed without prejudice. The judge further ordered that Frenchko may not trespass at this Mentor address.

The July 7 order put to rest a case that was first raised in Mentor Municipal Court but transferred to Painesville court on June 21 by Judge John Trebets of Mentor because of a conflict of interest. Szeman is the law director of the city of Mentor.

According to the complaint that was filed in Mentor court in June, Szeman claimed that Frenchko previously was permitted to be on the premises at Primavera Drive because of their relationship and because Szeman had legal custody of Frenchko’s minor child.

“As a consequence of their relationship having ended,” the eviction lawsuit stated, Szeman had informed Frenchko on numerous occasions she may not be present on the premises without his permission.

“Defendant has repeatedly ignored Plaintiff’s limitation on her right of entry and occupancy,” the document states.

According to the document, the custody order for Frenchko’s child was completed after she took the child back to her Warren home at the end of the school year.

In a phone interview with the newspaper, Frenchko said that although she was pleased with the outcome, the eviction action never should have been filed.

“My private life is not public business, and my focus is on my county and my family,” Frenchko said. “First, I had no awareness of any such court hearing on a matter that was unlawfully heard. I only looked into it this week, once I was asked for comment — three months later. Apparently there was no eviction and it was changed to ejection because I was not a resident (of Primavera Drive home).

Frenchko admitted her daughter has not been living at the Mentor home since graduating from high school in the spring. Frenchko said she had returned to the Primavera Drive residence a few times to “clear out some stuff.

“I was not there to be served in either case because I had already moved my children and remaining family belongings after my daughter’s graduation party.”

She also had some words about Szeman’s filing the eviction action.

“Szeman misused the legal system to perpetuate a false narrative. He is an officer of the court and Mentor’s law director who had knowledge that I was not served. He should have dismissed (the eviction action) for lack of service instead of allowing the court to be deceived,” Frenchko said.

When contacted about the court ruling, Szeman said he would rather not comment citing the personal nature of the action.

NOT THERE SINCE SPRING

When asked if she considers this vindication for being accused of living in Mentor and not in Trumbull County, while serving as commissioner, Frenchko didn’t comment.

But the record of the Painesville judge’s action speaks for itself.

Frenchko’s political opponents in the 2020 election for county commissioner had tried to get her off the ballot, charging her with not being a Trumbull County resident when she won the Republican nomination and faced then-incumbent commissioner Daniel E. Polivka. A Sept. 8, 2020, hearing by the Trumbull County Board of Elections, however, decided that Frenchko is indeed a resident of a home on Kenilworth Avenue SE in Warren.

Frenchko, during that hearing, admitted her daughter was living with Szeman at the Mentor home so she could go to school there. Frenchko also said she, at the time, was living part-time at the Mentor address. The meeting record, however, showed that Frenchko commented she always had the intention of returning to her permanent residence in Warren.

In the November 2020 election, Frenchko defeated Polivka to win a four-year term and survived a legal challenge by Polivka that was initiated by voters — who claimed that Frenchko was ineligible for the ballot because she was not a resident of Trumbull County. That question was settled by a visiting judge from Stark County who sided with Frenchko and the elections board at the end of 2020. That ruling allowed Frenchko to take office and the question was finally settled by the Ohio Supreme Court later in 2021 in a ruling that sided with Frenchko.

Frenchko said her daughter is now commuting to college classes from the family’s permanent residence on Kenilworth SE in Warren.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
     

COMMENTS

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today