(Update: Cliff Rosenberger resigned as speaker of the Ohio House on April 12, 2017.)
Speaker Quickly Accepted Seitz’s Apology — Yet House Members Attended a Seminar on Avoiding Sexual Harassment Only Days Before
We sent Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger two questions about House Majority Leader Bill Seitz’s inappropriate and degrading conduct toward women at the now-infamous goodbye celebration for the Speaker’s chief of staff:
- Was this the first he’d ever seen or heard of this type of behavior from his powerful Majority Leader?
- What steps was he taking to ensure it wasn’t part of a pattern of inappropriate conduct?
Speaker Rosenberger won’t say.
We think these are important questions because there are a series of major institutions that have gotten in deep reputational trouble because these questions were not asked when inappropriate conduct was brought to their attention – sometimes repeatedly. The organizations run the gamut from Michigan State to Ford Motor Company, NBC’s Today Show to Uber, and others.
Seitz’s comments took place in Columbus not far from the Statehouse on January 23 — only days after Ohio House GOP caucus members were required by the Speaker to attend a mandatory seminar on avoiding sexual harassment led by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The Majority Leader’s comments caused one female colleague to walk out, the husband of another to express his outrage and for Seitz to later apologize.
That tone deafness alone so soon after the mandatory seminary says a deeper examination should be undertaken.
But Rosenberger quickly accepted Seitz’s apology.
The Speaker has the choice to risk putting the Ohio House of Representatives in the unhappy club of other disgraced institutions or taking steps to ensure that Seitz’s bad night out was a one-time event and not a pattern.
Silence isn’t an answer, especially now that Ohioans’ tolerance for inappropriate conduct has dropped greatly in the wake of the #metoo movement.
The questions aren’t going away, because they are important. But in the meantime, silence isn’t acquitting the Speaker or the House very well.
You can read our entire letter here.
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.