Hired as special counsel to investigate a sexual harassment complaint against powerful Ohio House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, attorneys from Taft Law called it a day after interviewing just two people besides Seitz.
It’s not that they ran out of budgetary authority. Over $4,000 was left when they submitted their final report, according to an article published this week in The Indiana Lawyer.
Taft Law, headquartered in Indianapolis with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus, was assigned by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to act as special counsel for the Ohio House of Representatives to investigate the complaint by a woman who works in the House. The staffer submitted a two-and-a-half page complaint to the House Administrative Office days after Seitz made inappropriate comments about women at a going away party for the chief of staff for former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
No Interviews with Female Staffers
Investigation records give no indication the Taft lawyers made an effort to speak to female House staff members or to let women working in the House know that the investigation was taking place.
Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) was the first to report on the complaint and the existence of the special counsel probe. Seitz has received tens of thousands of dollars in political donations from Taft and its attorneys, even during the investigation itself. Seitz had worked at the law firm for 36 years.
Two ethics complaints have been filed with the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel about the conflicts in the Taft Law investigation. The first was by C&BP on June 21, 2018; the second was filed by a southwest Ohio woman one week later.
According to statements made by DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney to the Associated Press, Taft reported having no conflicts with the contract to serve as Special Counsel. “They conduct that review internally and tell us if they’re clean or not…. It’s their professional licensure at risk.”
Earlier this week, Ohio’s Bellefontaine Examiner published an Associated Press article titled, “State Lawmakers Accused of Harassment Are Running for Office.”
The story led with Seitz and another Ohio politician, saying Seitz was
“compelled by the House speaker to issue a personal and public apology for reportedly making offensive remarks. Those included jokes he told about other recent sexual misconduct scandals during a Jan. 23 going-away party for a House staff member. He was the lone Republican to run for his seat and automatically advanced to the Nov. 6 election.”
In the last year, six male Ohio legislators or staff resigned, were accused, apologized for sexual misconduct or harassment or, in one case, was stripped of a committee chairmanship and ordered to complete sensitivity training.
“[T]he House leadership’s mode of investigating the complaint leads one to suspect that the institution isn’t very serious about holding powerful men accountable….”
So far at least.
Checks and Balances Project is an investigative watchdog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.
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