House records released on harassment, discrimination complaints

  • 01/11/2017
House records released on harassment, discrimination complaints
COLUMBUS Ohio House leadership on Wednesday released documents showing that allegations of harassment or discrimination in state government may not have been confined to the Senate.

One Republican state representative, two Democratic representatives, and one staff member to a Republican member were investigated for allegations of harassment or discrimination, according to documents released to The Blade in response to a public records request.

State Rep. Michael Henne (R., Clayton) was disciplined by leadership in 2015 for making inappropriate comments during a luncheon to a female House employee. He was required to undergo sensitivity training and lost his vice chairmanship of the House Insurance Committee last session, a post he regained this session.

The investigation, however, determined that, while inappropriate, Mr. Hennes comments did not create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment in order to qualify as sexual harassment under House policy.

State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D., Columbus) was also directed to undergo sensitivity training after she was accused of violating the chambers anti-harassment and discrimination policy.

A legislative aide accused the freshman representative in March of firing her for medical reasons, an unknown condition that her complaint said made it difficult for her to walk, stand, and sit.

The House did not immediately identify the third representative, a woman, who was the subject of a complaint in June, 2016. The representative lost her position as ranking Democrat on a committee for the rest of last session.

No further details were immediately provided on that incident.

In May 2016, Mark Homyak, a Columbus staff member to then former Rep. Nan Baker (R., Westlake), was fired for engaging in behavior found to have violated the anti-harassment policy. Hed been an employee nearly five years.

The release of the documents came just over two weeks after the resignation of state Sen. Cliff Hite (R., Findlay) at the urging of the Senate president following the filing of a complaint.

The senator and former member of the House resigned after admitting to and apologizing for inappropriate behavior with someone later identified to be an employee of the Legislative Service Commission.

That employees complaint alleged that Mr. Hite had repeatedly harassed her over several months, urging her to engage in a casual sexual relationship with him. Mr. Hite, however, said that, other than hugs, there was no inappropriate physical contact between them.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R., Clarksville) addressed the issue last week in the wake of the Hite resignation but without mentioning any past issues involving members of his own chamber.

We have actually already put forward sexual harassment training for our entire staff, he said. We do that process already at the beginning of every one of our new member orientations. Its a priority that we do on top of ethics conversations, issues about discrimination.

Its not acceptable, Mr. Rosenberger said. We want to make sure that people arent doing that and are watching what they do not only with their staff but treating with everybody with respect and dignity.
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