Attorney Janica Pierce Tucker, a partner in Taft Law’s Columbus office, represented an Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC) employee in matters related to sexual harassment and assault by former Sen. Cliff Hite. Hite resigned in Oct. 2017. Now, according to sources who asked not to be identified, Checks and Balances Project has also learned that the legal matters between the parties were not fully resolved until Spring 2018.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appointed Taft Law “special counsel” to the House of Representatives on Feb. 20. Ms. Tucker of Taft Law was selected to lead the investigation into a two-and-a-half-page sexual harassment complaint against powerful House Majority Leader Bill Seitz. The investigation into Seitz was driven in part by his inappropriate joke about Hite’s conduct that referenced the Marvin Gaye song, “Let’s Get It On,” and other disturbing allegations.
Based on these sources, that means at the same time Janica Pierce Tucker was representing Hite’s victim, she was investigating an alleged perpetrator who joked about Hite’s behavior.
To serve the woman who was her client, shouldn’t Tucker have conducted a more thorough investigation into the Seitz complaint? Since she didn’t, why not?
Whether the woman who was preyed upon by former Sen. Hite is satisfied with Tucker’s representation is unknown at this time.
Here is a timeline of events:
- Senator Hite resigns: 10.17.17
- LSC Director Mark Flanders sends “opportunity to respond” memo to Hite’s attorney: 10.19.17
- DeWine appoints Taft to investigate complaint against Seitz: 2.20.18
- Tucker resolves legal matters for woman in Hite assault: Spring 2018
- Tucker files her flawed report on Seitz with former Speaker Schuring: 4.25.18
Janica Pierce Tucker interviewed only two people during the Seitz inquiry other than Seitz himself. She made no effort, according to her own report, to contact staffers to determine if there was a culture of harassment in the legislature toward female staff. Shouldn’t she have interviewed staff members — including the Hite victim – her client — as part of her report?
Seitz investigation rife with conflicts:
- Seitz spent 36 years working at Taft Law
- $41,000 in contributions were given to Seitz by Taft and its lawyers since 2000
- A $1,000 contribution by Taft’s political action committee was given to Seitz while Taft was under contract to investigate him
- Taft partner Stuart Dornette, who communicated with DeWine about the special counsel assignment, has been a financial contributor to Seitz.
The Taft inquiry into Seitz has been criticized as faulty by leading Ohio newspapers. The Toledo Blade, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Columbus Dispatch have all called for a new investigation without conflicts.
It’s not too late for Attorney General DeWine to step in and correct this mess by ordering a more independent investigation into the Seitz sexual harassment complaint and the apparently hostile culture toward women in the Ohio legislature.
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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