WARREN — The staff of the Trumbull County commissioners office has asked that the door to the commissioners office be locked and accessible through a buzzer system after several of them felt threatened by a community member.
Breen McNally, a staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, sent a letter to each of the commissioners on behalf of their staff, some of whom are represented by that union, requesting the buzzer system be put in place and that the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office continue to make hourly rounds on the fifth floor of the county administration building where the commissioners’ office is housed.
The letter read that union and non-union “employees of the Commissioner’s office fear for their physical and emotional well-being at this point in time.”
This stems from an event July 29, during which a man came into the office and allegedly harassed staff. According to an HR complaint made by one of the staff members, a man came into the office wearing a shirt with vulgarity on it. The shirt was drawn on and displayed derogatory comments about Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe. He tried to film and take photos of the staff. The report also notes the man told staff he was a supporter of Commissioner Niki Frenchko, although she denies knowing him.
At the commissioners meeting Wednesday, Clerk Paula Vivoda-Klotz said the man was asking for a member of the staff by name who he knew did not like to be photographed.
The complaint reads, “I do not feel safe up in the commissioner’s office at all. I felt threatened and intimidated by this man. No one followed him up to the floors where he was walking around.” He also went into the passport office.
The complaint later said, “I want to come to work and feel safe. I just want to be able to come to work without feeling sick to my stomach and worrying about feeling threatened or intimidated.”
Commissioners Frank Fuda and Mauro Cantalamessa said they favor adding this security measure to make their staff feel safe at work.
“The safety and security of each and every single person who walks into this building should be our first priority,” Cantalamessa said. “Unfortunately we live in a time when mass shootings are all too real and happen with greater frequency. If we aren’t doing everything we can to make everyone safe then we are failing the public and ourselves.”
Fuda said Fenchko is worried about her own safety, but not the safety of her staff. He said she harassed staff members who complained about the incident.
Frenchko said she does not want to change procedure and spend taxpayer money because her staff was offended by the words on someone’s shirt.
“I believe that’s freedom of speech,” Frenchko said. “You can wear whatever you want, it can say whatever it wants to say, and if it’s offensive, that’s not the county’s problem. That’s not the taxpayer’s problem. We don’t need to spend money to create a ‘safe space’ in the reception area for someone who read something they didn’t want to see.”
She pointed out that law enforcement was not called to the scene and concluded that the event could not have been a big deal if that is the case. She said it is “silly” and “histrionic” that the sheriff deputies make building rounds every hour because they have better things to do.
“I’m not sure what reality someone is living in when they call more enhanced security measures ‘silly’ or ‘histrionic,’” Cantalamessa said.
Fuda said the commissioners’ staff is afraid of a lot of things and often feel bullied by Frenchko, who said she wouldn’t be surprised if the man was sent into the office to set her up.
As of Wednesday, a buzzer system has not been added to the main door of the commissioner’s office. Cantalamessa said he would consult the prosecutor on how to move forward with implementing the system. Typically, administrative decisions do not need to be voted on during a public meeting.