COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A group of Democratic women in the Ohio House on Thursday called for the resignation of a veteran Republican lawmaker who was compelled to apologize for making offensive remarks during a staff member’s going-away party.
State Reps. Nickie Antonio, Teresa Fedor and Michele Lepore-Hagan told Republican House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger in a letter that Rep. Bill Seitz’s conduct “falls far short of the standard by which elected officials should conduct themselves.”
“If we want real change, we cannot continue to let members treat the Statehouse like their own personal playground,” they wrote. “Taking responsibility means doing what is hard and holding perpetrators of workplace harassment accountable for their actions.”
The 63-year-old Seitz, a Cincinnati attorney, reportedly disparaged a current and a former female House member during a Jan. 23 roast honoring outgoing Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe. He also made light of sexual misconduct scandals that led to two legislators’ resignations last year.
His remarks came the same week House members received training on sexual harassment that was newly mandated in light of the Ohio and national scandals.
Seitz said Thursday that he had not yet seen the letter, which he called politically motivated. He said none of the Democratic lawmakers calling for him to resign was at the party and none had spoken to him about it.
“I can categorically say I’m not resigning,” he said. “I don’t need to read the letter to say that.”
On orders from Rosenberger, Seitz issued an open letter last week addressed to the speaker and House colleagues saying he regretted any shame, distress or embarrassment he caused with his comments.
Among other things, Seitz was criticized as sexist for name-calling aimed at two female lawmakers: state Rep. Candice Keller and former state Rep. Diana Fessler, both Republicans.
He also suggested several lawmakers’ work could be set to music, suggesting for ex-Sen. Clifford Hite Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” and “Blowing in the Wind.”
The Republican Hite resigned last year after an investigation found he made inappropriate remarks to and physical contact with a female state worker and propositioned her repeatedly for sex over a two-month period.
Seitz said Fessler sent him a “beautiful” letter indicating she didn’t need an apology. He said the Hite remarks were meant as ridicule, not praise.
During an annual forum Wednesday sponsored by The Associated Press, Rosenberger said he plans no further direct action against Seitz.
Rosenberger, who also was at the party, said he was uncomfortable with offensive remarks made by Seitz and Republican state Sen. Matt Huffman during the event but chose not to deal with it in the moment because many things were going on.
He said he’s putting together a bipartisan committee to address concerns about such behavior.