Ohio lawmaker disciplined after alleged pattern of abusive behavior toward legislators, staff
An Ohio state lawmaker has been removed from committees and banned from contacting staff following an alleged pattern of “erratic and abusive behavior.”.
By SAMANTHA HENDRICKSON
/Report For America
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio state lawmaker was removed by House Democratic leadership from committees and banned from contacting staff following an alleged pattern of “erratic and abusive behavior.”
House Democratic leadership detailed the claims in documents released to The Associated Press on Friday, including more than a dozen incidents in which Cleveland-area Rep. Elliot Forhan was reportedly hostile toward and harassed fellow legislators, staff and his constituents.
The incidents included reports of aggressive rhetoric, screaming and vulgarity about the latest Israel-Hamas war.
Forhan, who represents some heavily Jewish Cleveland area communities but was raised Catholic, called his situation “unfortunate” in a text message Friday and vowed that he was “not going to back down from supporting Israel.”
Forhan lost all of his committee assignments and was barred by House Minority Leader C. Allison Russo from contacting interns, pages and Democratic legislative aides.
“It is an honor to serve the People of Ohio at their Statehouse, but your increasingly hostile and inappropriate behavior combined with your failure to correct it has overshadowed any good the voters expected you to do on their behalf,” Russo said in a letter to him that was dated Thursday.
Russo's memo recounting his behavior said he was first reprimanded in May and given anti-bias training after disrespecting and invading the personal space of a Black female constituent over a bill he sponsored. The constituent filed a formal complaint.
Forhan subsequently issued a public apology acknowledging the altercation.
More incidents followed, according to the documents, and Democratic leaders said they tried to get Forhan to change his behavior.
Forhan, Russo said, engaged in “screaming, vulgarity and threats if challenged or coached on any given issue.”
Democratic leadership also said that Forhan spoke of suicide in the workplace. They said they tried to provide him with mental health resources.
Forhan also allegedly showed up, uninvited, to an unnamed female lawmaker's home after repeated attempts to reach her by phone. The woman was uncomfortable and contacted House leadership, according to the documents.
The latest incident in Russo's memo occurred this week when he yelled at Columbus-area Rep. Munira Abdullahi, one of two Muslim lawmakers in the Capitol.
Russo said that on Wednesday, Forhan left Abdullahi “visibly shaken” after he yelled at her about children being killed by Israel during its current war with Hamas in Gaza.
Forhan had already been under fire from Democratic leadership over his rhetoric about both Israel and Gaza on social media — including alleged spreading of misinformation and hostile conversations with constituents over the war, no matter which side they support.
Abdullahi did not immediately respond to a message left seeking comment Friday.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Elliot Forhan is not Jewish but represents some heavily Jewish communities in the Cleveland area.
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