Frenchko swipes, and replaces, Fuda’s gavel

WARREN — Commissioner Frank Fuda on Wednesday used an aerosol can of tropical breeze cleaning spray in place of his gavel. The sound it made was just as effective as the small, wooden instrument he usually uses, though the sight didn’t have quite the same effect.

Holding up a printed image taken from surveillance footage in the commissioners’ fifth floor meeting room at the Trumbull County administration building, Fuda explained that Commissioner Niki Frenchko had “snuck in” and replaced his gavel with a “humongous thing,” the week before.

The surveillance image, dated 3:21 p.m. Sept. 13, shows Frenchko next to Fuda’s seat. On the desk is the original striker of the Trumbull County Courthouse bell — a large, metal, hammer-shaped item.

Of the gavel, Frenchko later said, “I swapped it out for something heavier.”

She said she found the bell striker in the commissioners’ office.

Fuda’s sometimes liberal use of his gavel was mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Unruly Times Spark Rukus of Gaveling,” which read, “In Trumbull County, Ohio, no amount of gaveling has been able to get the meetings of the board of commissioners back on track.”

In that article, Fuda is quoted as having said, “What do you do when a commissioner interrupts every meeting for 18 months? What else do we have but the gavel? What am I going to do, yell at her?”

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Fuda asked Frenchko why she took his gavel.

She answered, “You abuse it.”

Frenchko said she had left Fuda’s gavel in his business card stand in the office and he just didn’t see it there. Fuda quickly retrieved it Wednesday after the meeting, but said it hadn’t been there last week.

Another source of friction at Wednesday’s meeting was the still-unfilled human resources director position.

Former Human Resources Director Richard Jackson retired in February. After two of the top three candidates selected by a panel in the intital round of applications declined to be considered for the job, commissioners decided to re-advertise the position in June.

On Wednesday, Fuda said that the second-best candidate from the second round of applications said he wouldn’t take the job after a phone interview with Frenchko.

Frenchko said that candidate had no experience in benefits administration.

Fuda and Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said he was qualified for the job.

“You chased off all of our candidates,” Fuda said to Frenchko.

Cantalamessa later explained that the first choice candidate from the second round, who is from out of state, also declined the position — leaving commissioners to re-examine their options.

Cantalamessa said to ask the HR panel to produce more recommendations of top candidates would be “unfair in a lot of ways.”

“They have volunteered their time and I don’t believe many of them would like to go through this process again,” Cantalamessa said.

He said in his opinion, commissioners need to review the remaining applicants and make a decision from the existing pool.


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