A “mobile billboard” rolled through Clinton and Highland counties Monday to bring attention to what a government ethics watchdog organization says is the tepid response from Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) to remarks made by two state lawmakers at a political event several weeks ago.
“Too many organizations make the mistake of assuming incidents of bad behavior by powerful individuals are one-time events. The opportunity to ask tough questions is before Speaker Rosenberger. But so far, he is silent,” said Scott Peterson, executive director of Checks and Balances Project.
The Associated Press reported in late January that “two Republican state lawmakers apologized for offensive remarks they made during a top House staffer’s going-away party that made light of recent sexual misconduct scandals and disparaged female lawmakers. State Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and state Sen. Matt Huffman of Lima separately expressed regret for vulgar and derogatory jokes cracked on Tuesday at the farewell celebration for House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe.”
Their remarks came less than a week after the House completed newly mandated sexual harassment training.
In an acknowledgment letter to Seitz, Rosenberger said he was “disheartened by the careless and insensitive remarks” the representative made. He told Seitz he expects his remarks to be more thoughtful and his behavior more respectful going forward and he directed Seitz to personally apologize to State Rep. Candice Keller and former state Rep. Diana Fessler, according to AP.
The mobile billboard asked what steps Rosenberger is taking to determine if the conduct he witnessed is or is not part of a pattern of inappropriate behavior from Seitz.
An op-ed piece by the Checks and Balances Project on the subject recently appeared in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
On Monday the News Journal reached out to Rosenberger’s office via email for comment on the Checks and Balances Project campaign.
Brad Miller, deputy communications director for Rosenberger, responded with this statement: “Speaker Rosenberger takes all allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, and whenever a complaint is brought forward, he acts swiftly to ensure a responsible and fair resolution is reached. The House has been transparent and responsive to press questions and requests related to these events.
“Additionally, the Speaker has created an internal working group in the House to initiate a meaningful, bipartisan conversation looking at all forms of harassment and discrimination in the workplace in order to move forward in a constructive manner.”