Two Democratic women state representatives have asked the Ohio Attorney General to reopen a sexual harassment investigation into state Rep. Bill Seitz.
State Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) say they’re concerned not only about the alleged conduct of Seitz (R-Cincinnati), but also with a previous investigation that cleared him of wrongdoing.
After an anonymous complaint about offensive comments by Seitz at a staffer’s going away party in January, the House hired Taft Stettinius & Hollister, a law firm it says has provided “excellent counsel” in nine previous investigations. The office of Mike DeWine, also the Republican candidate for governor, retained Taft for up to $12,000 to conduct the investigation.
Taft cleared an internal conflict-of-interest check, despite the fact that Seitz previously worked for the firm for 36 years.
And campaign finance records show that Taft donated to Seitz’s campaign in March, while the probe was ongoing. Taft also donated $10,000 to DeWine in December.
In June, Taft cleared Seitz of any wrongdoing. Fedor and Antonio complained to to the Attorney General’s Office, who Fedor says can order a new investigation “with a law firm that doesn’t have a conflict of interest, a law firm that’s going to apply the rules and laws of sexual harassment in the state of Ohio.”
Checks And Balances Project, a pro-sustainability watchdog group that opposes Seitz’s position against clean energy standards, also filed an ethics grievance last month over the investigation.
The Ohio Supreme Court's office of disciplinary counsel will review the grievance to see if there is enough evidence to file a formal complaint.
Seitz said in a statement that reads in part that he thinks calls for further investigation are politically motivated and he wants an investigation into a conspiracy.
Seitz reportedly made disparaging remarks about a current and a former female House member during a January 23 roast to honor the outgoing House chief of staff. He also reportedly made light of a sexual harassment scandal that led to the resignation of former state Sen. Cliff Hite in 2017.
Seitz apologized for his remarks but rejected calls for his resignation.