Dayton-area state lawmaker disciplined for offensive remark in 2015

Two Democratic female members from outside of region also reprimanded.

State Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, was ordered to go to sensitivity training after making an offensive remark in a group setting in April 2015.

“This was a lapse in judgment on my part and I am sincerely sorry I upset someone. And I can understand why my actions were offensive, especially as a public servant and a state representative,” Henne said in a text message to this newspaper. “However, after discussions with my wife and family, I have been dedicated to working diligently with House staff on sensitivity training to be better educated about this issue. I am committed to learning from this incident, moving forward in a postive way and having better judgment in the future.”

In an interview, Henne said he doesn’t recall the remark and would not recognize the female state employee who lodged the complaint. “I’m heartbroken that I offended somebody.”

Henne said he spent a day in sensitivity training provided by Ohio House administrative staff. “I live in a glass house and I got to be a little more understanding of that. I thought (the training) was effective. It gave me a little more perspective.”

“I just got to be smarter about what I do and say,” he said. Henne noted that he didn’t recall what he said. Documents released Wednesday did not describe the remark either.

Related: State senator abruptly resigns over inappropriate behavior

The incident came to light in the wake of the abrupt resignation of Republican Cliff Hite from the Ohio Senate last month. Hite, 65, a former high school teacher and football coach, was accused by a Legislative Service Commission employee of unwanted sexual advances. Hite described his marital sex life and his need for oral sex and a companion for sex, according to an investigative report.

Related: Ohio lawmaker Cliff Hite pressed staffer for sex, report says

Henne, 55, who owns an insurance agency, is in his fourth, two-year term in the Ohio House. “I will do better. I think I have done better.”

Ohio House officials released documents on Wednesday in response to public records requests for any complaints of harassment or discrimination. The records show:

• April 2015: A female House employee complained about Henne’s remark, which was determined to be inappropriate and unprofessional but did not create a hostile work environment. Henne was ordered to go through training and was stripped of his vice chairmanship of a House committee. He has since been appointed vice chair of the House Insurance Committee.

• May 2016: A male House Republican staffer was investigated for violating the anti-harassment policy and was fired. Mark Homyak worked as a legislative aide to state Rep. Nan Baker, R-Westlake.

• June 2016: A female Democratic state representative was the subject of a complaint and investigation. She was removed from a committee leadership post for the remainder of the legislative session. The documents do not identify the lawmaker.

• March 2017: State Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus, was told to go through remedial training after Kent’s legislative aide, Ceola Garrett, complained about Kent’s treatment of her when she was ill.

“Speaker (Cliff) Rosenberger and (Minority) Leader (Fred) Strahorn take allegations and instances of harassment very seriously,” according to Sheila Louise Willamowski, deputy legal counsel for the House Republican Caucus. “…steps have been taken in each and every situation to ensure that any complaint regarding alleged violations of the House’s anti-harassment and discrimination policy are handled respectfully, fairly and thoroughly.”

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