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We all should be embarrassed by official’s vulgarity

Never did we think we ever would write an editorial like this one — yet, here we are.

Fireworks are not an unusual occurrence at Trumbull County commissioners meetings. Many times we have used this space to criticize our elected officials for their bickering and disrespectful comments directed at one another and at county employees.

That debate dropped to a new low last week when Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko, angry with fellow Commissioner Frank Fuda’s liberal use of a gavel, lashed out during a public meeting with extremely vulgar language.

“Stop with the f– gavel!” Frenchko demanded. The comment was captured as part of the official commissioners meeting audio recording that will exist in perpetuity.

The comment came during a heated exchange between Fuda and Frenchko in which Fuda was being critical of Frenchko regarding meetings she had with employees about county matters. When Frenchko interrupted Fuda, he pounded the gavel.

Minutes earlier, other inappropriate comments also were captured on video at the public meeting and later were shared on social media. They include Frenchko stating under her breath for Fuda to “put that gavel up your a–.”

When Fuda said Frenchko was using inappropriate language, Frenchko responded that Fuda was exhibiting inappropriate demeanor at a public meeting “hitting your gavel like a psycho.”

Angry that Fuda was straying from the agenda items, Frenchko said, “I want these meetings to be appropriate and in accordance with Robert’s Rules.”

Robert’s Rules of Order is a manual of parliamentary procedure generally accepted and followed during meetings of organizations and public bodies.

We agree that Robert’s Rules of Order should be followed. And we point out that Frenchko’s “disorderly words” (a term used in Robert’s Rules) also fell well short of the level of decorum spelled out in the guidelines — and equally short of civility.

Sadly, language at the meeting continued to devolve.

Fuda and Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa later adjourned to executive session to discuss possible discipline of an employee, a matter permitted to be discussed in private. Frenchko declined to enter executive session and remained in the meeting room with members of the public in attendance, discussing the personnel issues that were the subject of the executive session. Some members of the public believed the information should not be shared publicly, and when they responded angrily at Frenchko, she first called for one audience member to be removed by a sheriff’s deputy, then instructed the county clerk to mute or end the connection for remote callers who were demanding that Frenchko shut up.

One caller told Frenchko he would “slap the (expletive) out of you.”

Undeniably, such a comment is unacceptable. Anger has no place in civil discourse. However, we look to Frenchko’s language and behavior as setting the tone for this type of commentary.

Rather, we should look to our elected officials as leaders who set a good example and who debate respectfully.

Instead, though, we are ashamed of the language and the example being set by Commissioner Frenchko. We need the quality of discussion in county government to be elevated. However, such reprehensible language used by our commissioner and then by members of the public never will accomplish that goal.

Unfortunately, that is increasingly the direction where our society seems to be going — possibly with the assistance of social media.

We, as community leaders, must not go down the same path. We must take the high road by using respectful words and proper decorum.

Without that, we all should be disappointed and embarrassed by the behavior of this official elected to represent us.

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