Judge candidate files for federal investigation after recent firing

Doug Gulasy

A former Portage County assistant prosecutor is filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following her firing in mid-September.

Tommie Jo Marsilio was fired Sept. 18 by Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci because of a statement made in one of Marsilio’s political advertisements. She is running for Judge John Plough’s open seat in Portage County Municipal Court against Ravenna Mayor Kevin Poland and two other candidates.

“What (Vigluicci) did amounts to not only political bullying, but an abuse of authority, in my opinion,” Marsilio said.

Marsilio will meet with an EEOC investigator to file the official complaint against Vigluicci.

The firing happened because of a statement made against Poland and Ravenna in what Marsilio called an advertising proof.

The advertisement read, “The ‘Good Old Boys’ say elect Kevin Poland.” Further down, it said Marsilio “is not a member of the Ravenna ‘Good Old Boys’ corruption club.”

Marsilio said the proof was not meant for widespread release. But Vigluicci got a copy, and he said it was circulating further than that.

Vigluicci told Marsilio on Sept. 14 that she had until the 18th to pull or change the ad and apologize to Poland. Otherwise, she would be fired.

“I was clear to her that as an assistant prosecutor, we cannot and do not make allegations of any criminal conduct in public without producing evidence of it,” Vigluicci said.

Marsilio said she disputes the ad alleged criminal conduct, but she agreed to remove the word “corrupt.” However, she refused to apologize to Poland.

“(Vigluicci) gave me until the end of the week to change my mind, and of course, I did not change my mind,” she said. “I did nothing wrong. I did nothing improper.”

Before her termination, Marsilio served as assistant prosecutor for just more than two years. She said she hadn’t had any problems with Vigluicci in that time.

“Not only had I never been disciplined, but all the feedback that I had gotten was very positive in terms of my work,” she said.

Vigluicci said he was especially disappointed in the ad because he spoke with Marsilio about running a positive campaign when she first decided to run for judge.

“They have to keep in mind that they’re not just any candidate, they are an assistant prosecutor,” he said. “That causes them to have certain restrictions that other candidates do not.”

Vigluicci said he would “do the same thing to any of my assistants who engaged in this type of conduct.”

Marsilio said she didn’t anticipate the ad would be so controversial because she doesn’t think the word “corrupt” necessarily means something criminal.

“With all due respect to my fellow attorneys, I think when normal people hear the word ‘corrupt,’ they don’t instantly think of this tangled legal definition that only means illegal activity,” she said. “I think most of us think of the word ‘corrupt’ as a general notion of something that’s wrong, or not fair or not proper.”

Poland said he sees it differently.

“She wants to argue about semantics on the meaning of the word corruption,” he said, “but especially in a political campaign, especially given that my predecessor (former Ravenna mayor Paul Jones) just got out of prison (for fraud), there is just one meaning that she was trying to infer to the public.”

Marsilio said she is most frustrated because with the firing, Vigluicci inserted himself into the municipal court race. She said Vigluicci previously donated money to Poland’s campaign.

Vigluicci said the donation was just his purchase of a $25 ticket to a fundraising dinner that he didn’t attend.

However, Marsilio said it is “painfully obvious” that Vigluicci favors Poland.

“He threatened my public job if I didn’t apologize to Kevin Poland in particular,” she said. “If that’s not friendship, gosh, that’s the type of enemies I need.”

Contact public affairs reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].