Columbus— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine required all employees to take a refresher sexual harassment course on the recommendation of a prosecutor who investigated a claim of office harassment involving “creepy” incidents, his office said.
The 24-minute online training began in November and over time was taken by 1,474 employees, including DeWine.
The training was required even though an internal investigation failed to find evidence of harassment or identify the alleged perpetrator.
“Providing this training was an appropriate response, among others, after the internal investigation had concluded and its results reviewed,” said Dan Tierney, a DeWine spokesman.
DeWine’s office first looked into the matter in April 2013 after the woman declined an offer of full-time employment, which the office’s human resources director considered suspicious because of the woman’s “excellent” work in the office.
The woman initially alleged sexual harassment by someone she described as an older, senior staffer who was a family friend and close to DeWine, according to an internal investigation by DeWine’s office. She later recanted much of her explanation, then got an attorney and refused to cooperate.
The case was referred to Franklin Prosecutor Ron O’Brien because the woman initially alleged she had sexual contact with the harasser when she was a minor and before she interned in DeWine’s office.
The woman only agreed to meet with O’Brien after he said he would subpoena her to testify before a grand jury. Under oath, the woman recanted the story of sexual contact as a minor.
O’Brien’s report says the woman then described multiple incidents in the summer of 2012 “that were ‘creepy’” in which an older male employee in the office’s Education Division made her uncomfortable by putting his hand on her knee and shoulder or sitting close to her. O’Brien concluded there wasn’t a crime to be prosecuted.
After O’Brien submitted his report, the Attorney General’s office launched an internal investigation, which concluded in August 2013 there was no evidence to support the woman’s claim.
Among the people interviewed by the office’s internal investigator was DeWine himself, who asked the investigator to provide the name of a confidential informant who supposedly had the name of the alleged harasser and more information about him.
The investigator, Kristine Cadek, told DeWine she was concerned about retaliation against the informant if the person’s name became known. DeWine responded that the alleged harasser would not learn the name of the informant, and he was provided the name.
“DeWine felt it was important to make one final push to obtain information,” by speaking to the informant, said spokesman Dan Tierney. “It was an effort to take every step possible to find information as to if there was sexual harassment in the office in this case.”
Tierney said no one in the office, including DeWine, knows the name of the alleged harasser.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.