Days After Demeaning Comments by Rep. Bill Seitz, a Female Staffer Reports a Pattern of Incidents in an Ongoing, Hostile Workplace
Majority Leader Bill Seitz was one of 61 Ohio House GOP Caucus members who attended a mandatory training session on sexual harassment/discrimination on Jan. 17, 2018. Six days later, he made comments from a podium at the Athletic Club in Columbus that were outrageous to many and Seitz was forced to apologize.
We called on then-Speaker Rosenberger to identify what steps he was taking to confirm that Seitz’s conduct was an isolated incident and not part of a longstanding pattern. We toured his district with a mobile billboard, so these questions couldn’t be ignored, but Rosenberger evaded the questions. He has since resigned, subject of a separate FBI anti-corruption probe.
Now, Checks and Balances Project has learned there’s more grounds to suspect a widespread ethical problem in the House. A courageous staffer wrote to House leadership about humiliating experiences she and other staff members have had at the hands of powerful male legislators.
The letter was recently obtained by Checks and Balances Project and we are posting it here for the first time. Although it is anonymous, we publish only excerpts to protect the sender from possible identification.
After relating several examples of her own experience and how she “felt some hope about the latest movement against sexual harassment changing the culture here,” the author goes on to write:
On April 19, we redirected the questions about Bill Seitz’s conduct to Rosenberger’s successor, Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring. Was it the first time he’d seen or heard of this type of behavior from the powerful Majority Leader? And, what steps were being taken to ensure it wasn’t part of a pattern?
We pointed out how, at too many institutions, leadership learned of bad conduct, but chose not to investigate whether it was part of a larger pattern. These organizations are paying a steep price in public trust because they did not ask hard questions. The Ohio House can avoid adding its name to that list. We await a reply from Schuring, but the staffer’s summary is particularly damning.
What the Ohio House of Representatives has done in response to the staffer’s letter will be the subject of our next post.
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.
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