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DeWine cries 'smear'

Register • Aug 16, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told a Columbus TV news reporter Monday he was leaving "no stone unturned" when he intervened last year in a sexual harassment investigation of a friend in his office. 

But Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern says DeWine's hiding information and covering up what happened after an intern quit working at the attorney general's office last year and alleged she was being sexually harassed or otherwise forced into a sexual relationship by DeWine's friend.  

"If that (friend) is still working, there is somebody who has been accused of a serious incident who is still working among employees at the Attorney General's office," Redfern told WBNS-TV news reporter Jim Heath. "We need to know who that person was and what happened."

WBNS-TV10: DeWine answers questions

DeWine's failed to provide any response to an inquiry from the Register since Aug. 5 about the investigation by equal employment compliance officer Kristine Cadek. The Register sent DeWine 11 questions about his involvement prior to reporting about the harassment complaint. Additional questions were sent to him this morning. 

DeWine answered some questions in the interview Monday with WBNS-10TV news in Columbus, but he sidestepped others and suggested he learned by happenstance about a confidential source who knew which of his friends allegedly harassed the intern. 

"The investigator mentioned to me there was a confidential informant who had given some information but the investigator said she still didn't have enough information to go on," DeWine said. "So I looked at that and said 'that's my responsibility.'"

But DeWine's chief of staff, Mary Mertz, was involved in the investigation from the start, and both she and DeWine appear to have known about the confidential source. Mertz arranged for Cadek to interview DeWine, and it appears from Cadek's report the sole purpose was for DeWine to obtain the source's name and contact information.

"I not only have a legal obligation to check out what's going on but I have a moral obligation to every person who walks in the door and works here," DeWIne told TV10.

"I talked to the confidential informant and just like our investigator I came up with no more information that I could do anything with," he said. 

DeWine's contact with the confidential source isn't documented in Cadek's report of her investigation. Normally, witness contacts and interviews are documented in a investigative file. The investigator also normally schedules those interviews, unlike how DeWine's was arranged. 

It's not clear if DeWine made other contacts during the investigation, or whether he interviewed the intern who made the allegation or his inner circle of friends he's hired since he was elected in 2011 to determine the alleged harasser's identity. 

The intern who made the complaint was graduating from Case Western law school when she accepted a full-time position with the attorney general's office. She later declined the job, however, and alleged an older, close associate of DeWine's was sexually harassing her, or forcing her into a sexual relationship of some nature. 

The woman later recanted her specific allegations but appears to have maintained that a hostile work environment prompted her decision not to accept the job offer. She stated she gave conflicting descriptions of the alleged harasser in an effort to hide the man's identity. 

"I think we've done everything we can to find out if it's accurate and to try to find out who the individual was," DeWine told the Columbus news station. "We never got anywhere in that investigation."

Cadek's investigation was completed three days after she met with DeWine. The involvement of Mertz and others prior to Cadek's investigation does not appear to align with the attorney general's office workplace discrimination policy. 

Read DeWine's workplace harassment policy

DeWine and his communications team maintain the identity of the alleged harasser was never determined.

Redfern contends they aren't being forthright and they likely do know the alleged harasser's identity. 

"By process of elimination Bill Schenck meets all of the descriptions that were offered as part of the (timeline) as well as part of the investigation," Redfern said.

Schenck, a longtime associate of DeWine's for more that 40 years, was identified in Cadek's report as fitting the general characteristics of the person described by the intern. He was interviewed and denied knowing her. 

Cadek finished her investigation with no findings, unable to determine who the alleged harasser was and what occurred to cause the intern to quit. 

Schenck handled a 2012 grand jury for DeWine that determined Sandusky County jail guards did nothing criminal when they sexually exploited a mentally ill female inmate who was denied her medication.

The guards kept the inmate naked in an observational jail cell for up to six hours, encouraging her to masturbate and perform other lewd acts for their personal sexual gratification. They were each paid $5,000 and given job references after Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer fired them. They both agreed to not make disparaging remarks about the sheriff, their former boss in the payment agreements.  

DeWine called Redfern's comments "a political smear."

"I think it is reprehensible what the state Democratic Party is doing," DeWine told WBNS10-TV.  "When you look at the reports there is absolutely no indication that this individual was involved in this. They should be ashamed. It's pitiful and sad."

Schenck was arrested in late 2013 for a DUI offense and later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless operation.

Video: Watch DUI arrest of DeWine's top prosecutor

Video: Schenck makes no excuses after conviction

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