WARREN — Outgoing Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka has filed a lawsuit challenging commissioner-elect Niki Frenchko’s residency in the county, and her eligibility as a county elector.
Polivka is asking the county courts to declare him victor by default in their Nov. 3 contest.
Polivka received 46,003 votes to Frenchko’s 50,509 votes in the Nov. 3 general election, a less than 5 percent split, according to official results from the county elections board. Frenchko’s term begins Jan. 3.
An attorney for the longtime Democratic incumbent Polivka, of Warren — who also serves as the county’s Democratic Party chairman — filed the suit on Polivka’s behalf Monday morning in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The suit names Frenchko as a defendant, as well as the Trumbull County elections board, which unanimously ruled in September that Frenchko’s candidacy was valid, despite an independent investigation that suggested she lived in Mentor, Lake County.
The suit includes a petition signed by 66 election contestors drawing attention to “election irregularities” in Frenchko’s eligibility, citing elements of that investigation.
The petition references Frencko’s representation of her home along Kenilworth Avenue in Warren as a place where she does business as a real estate consultant. County auditor records indicate Frenchko purchased the home in 2011 but it’s been owned by her business, MVP Solutions, since 2014.
County voter records indicate Frenchko has voted in Trumbull County elections almost every year since at least 1992.
The petition also points out that Frenchko claimed “non-resident” status in her membership at Warren’s Avalon County Club between 2017 and March 2020, when she listed her Mentor address.
Frenchko, who declared her candidacy as a Warren resident, attested to simultaneously residing at a home in Mentor, where her daughter attends school. According to the petition, Frenchko attested she “spends a significant number of nights” at the Mentor home, which is owned by her boyfriend, and that her boyfriend plays a “father-like” role for her minor daughter.
Were Frenchko and her boyfriend married, Ohio Revised Code would mandate Frenchko’s residency as Lake County, according to the petition.
The petitioners contend that statute “as applied to a married person applies equally to a person in a domestic partnership … and otherwise denies us as electors to an elected representative of county government who actually lives in one county,” the petition reads.
The petition requests the courts to nullify Frenchko’s Nov. 3 win and declare Polivka as the winner, and the only qualified county elector to have received votes.
The petition also calls for a new election for the Trumbull County commissioner seat, through which Polivka would continue to serve as incumbent, or for the courts to name an interim successor before the Jan. 3 term begins.