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Democratic Lawmakers Re-introduce '08 Measure to Investigate AG's Office

Bill would require IG to investigate alleged sexual harassment
October 2, 2014
Democrat Newsroom

State Reps. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma) today introduced House Bill 628 to authorize the state’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate the Attorney General’s (AG) office for any wrongful acts or omissions following allegations of sexual harassment in the office. 

In April 2013, AG Mike DeWine personally involved himself in the only review of the incident, pressuring an internal compliance officer to name the sexual harassment whistleblower—a misstep he was told at the time was improper. The case was later dismissed by Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, but the staff member, who was described as “creepy” and caused the office of nearly 1,500 to take an online course about sexual harassment, was never identified. It has been largely reported that the alleged harasser was a close friend of DeWine.

Given the compromised confidentiality of the informant, the disrupted investigation process and the potential ties DeWine has to the alleged harasser, the lawmakers say that there exists a possibility of impropriety that should be examined further.

“As the state’s top watchdog, the Attorney General has a responsibility to Ohioans to pursue justice in a fair and unbiased way for any crime that is committed in our state,” said Rep. Antonio. “Instead, the message that this botched investigation sends to taxpayers is that the AG has different standards, especially when it comes to protecting his close friends and allies. Ohioans deserve an investigation into this case, and the AG’s office should understand that any future discrepancies will be held to the same standard.”

Under the recently-introduced legislation, the IG, or a third party under contract by the IG, would be required to investigate the AG’s office for any misconduct or wrongdoing. The IG would also have the power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas as part of the investigation. A final report on results of the investigation would be required from the IG.

“One of the most basic tenants of practicing law is that we, as attorneys, should always take the utmost precaution in avoiding conflicts of interest,” said Rep. Celebrezze. “It seems that a conflict existed within AG DeWine’s office during this investigation. As a former Assistant Prosecutor, I believe this case warrants further investigation and concern.” 

In 2008, the Ohio General Assembly passed a similar bipartisan measure, Senate Bill 3, to require the IG to investigate then-AG Marc Dann’s office after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced. The investigations ultimately led to Dann’s resignation.