– In a Letter Sent to Checks and Balances Project, Majority Leader Bill Seitz Twice Calls Allegations in a Female House Staffer’s Complaint “Meritless”
– C&BP Asks Seitz to Release Special Counsel Report
We admit that a recent letter from powerful Ohio Majority House Leader Bill Seitz sent to us in response to our reporting is a real head scratcher. It raises far more questions than Seitz tries to answer.
We recently obtained the startling complaint by a female staffer to House leadership. Written in reaction to Seitz’s widely criticized, inappropriate comments about women and harassment, the letter describes behavior by male legislators that include one rubbing himself against the staffer, and another insisting female staff members kiss him on the cheek. We note here that Seitz was not named as the offending legislator in either of those two cases.
C&BP learned that a Special Counsel was hired to investigate the staffer’s allegations. Sheila Willamowski, Deputy Legal Counsel of the House Republican Caucus, stated the investigation was finalized. But there were no details about the Special Counsel’s work: The scope of the investigation, who they served in this role, how they were hired, who decided to hire them or how much the work had cost taxpayers.
Letter to Speaker Kirk Schuring
On May 4, we sent a letter to Ohio House Speaker Kirk Schuring and asked him to release the Special Counsel’s Report on Sexual Harassment and other documents. The same day, the legal office wrote back that they would begin processing our request.
However, Rep. Seitz responded to our reporting with his own letter, dated the day before, which we share in full:
“Meritless” and “Closed”
In the letter, Seitz says, “I consider the matter to be closed.” But several questions arise from his declarations:
- Seitz speaks with confidence about the Independent Counsel’s report. However, since the formerly anonymous female staffer “had not elected to participate in an interview at the time the report was finalized,” according to House Chief Administrative Officer Kim Flasher, how does Seitz know her claims are meritless?
- Why did the staffer write, “It was reasonably foreseeable that Rep. Seitz would make offensive remarks?
- Why, of course, did she refuse to be interviewed once identified?
- What “matter” does Seitz considered “closed?” The conduct by the two as-yet unnamed male legislators, the culture of sexual harassment in the Capitol, or just the issue of Seitz’s conduct at the going away reception for the former Speaker’s Chief of Staff?
Ohioan’s tolerance of unethical behavior is diminishing while the ethics mess in Columbus is growing.
We’ve requested that Speaker Kirk Schuring release the Special Counsel’s report, but he has not yet. It sounds to us like Seitz has seen the report. Does he possess a copy? If so, he should release it immediately.
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative blog 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.
You Might Want to Read: