Checks & Balances Project (C&BP) recently uncovered documents from a Special Counsel investigation into Ohio House Majority Leader Bill Seitz’s inappropriate conduct. The investigation was initiated after a complaint filed by a staffer, who alleged that the powerful legislator’s comments at a “roast” in January for a departing House staffer intimidated victims of sexual harassment. The complaint also gave indications of a broader culture of harassment throughout the House.
Attorney General Mike DeWine hired the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister to conduct the Seitz Investigation. As reported by the Associated Press, the firm employed Seitz for over three decades. Senior Partner W. Stuart Dornette is one of 16 Taft attorneys who have made political contributions to the Seitz campaign.
Lawyers from the Taft firm concluded the investigation after interviewing only two people besides Seitz, charging taxpayers $12,000.
Now, The Toledo Blade has issued a new editorial calling for a “re-do” of the investigation:
The problem is that the outside firm hired by Attorney General Mike DeWine is a former long-time employer of Rep. Seitz. The Associated Press reported that Mr. Seitz was affiliated with the firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister for more than 30 years, ending in 2014.
AG spokesman Dan Tierney said it was the firm’s professional responsibility to determine if there was a potential conflict, and none was declared. Mr. Tierney said the AG’s office is “displeased” that the law firm didn’t divulge its former association with Mr. Seitz.
Furthermore, the firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister has been used by the House for two years now as its outside counsel for employee investigations. The request to use Hollister came from the House, which might have known of the conflict and prevented it from leaving egg on the AG’s face…
In view of its seriousness, Mr. Seitz’s review should get at least an outside going-over by somebody with no conflict of interest.
We wholeheartedly agree with The Blade. We’ve asked House leadership for months what steps they are taking to determine if Seitz’s behavior was an isolated incident or a part of a pattern. And, we have asked for the steps that are being taken to determine if the House has a hostile work environment for women.
The Blade has asserted that serious allegations require a serious investigation. It will require more leading papers to echo that sentiment to ensure Ohio taxpayers see one.
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.