Keeping ‘inappropriate behavior’ under wraps: How much does public deserve to know?

COLUMBUS (WYTV) – This fall, the terms “inappropriate behavior” have been uttered quite a bit around the Ohio Statehouse.

First it was in reference to something former State Senator Cliff Hite did that forced him into a resignation.

His description of the inappropriate behavior was hugging and some comments. Documents showed it went beyond that and extended to pressuring someone who is not his wife to have sex with him and, at times, doing so in close physical proximity.

This sexual harassment was documented and reported. That document shed light on the extent the public official was willing to go to aggressively pursue the victim.

However, not every instance of inappropriate behavior is getting the same amount of transparency at the Statehouse.

Monday, Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus Chief of Staff Mike Premo was asked to resign over allegations of inappropriate behavior. Other than a mention that the behavior involved a staff member, there has been no clarification on what kind of behavior took place.

The same can be said of how the Speaker of the House, Cliff Rosenberger, has handled the resignation of Wes Goodman.

Rosenberger says he sought Goodman’s resignation immediately after learning there was an inappropriate interaction in Goodman’s office between Goodman and a person not employed by the legislature.

The Speaker’s Office says there is no written complaint, which means there is no public record to request to get more details.

That leaves the question — how much should the public know about why an elected official is forced to resign?

Using Goodman’s situation as an example, Rosenberger says there was an interaction but fails to clarify if that interaction was sexual in nature or if it was another prohibited action, like accepting money for something, or if violence was involved.

Just these three possibilities could bring very different reactions from the public that elected him into office.

If it was something sexual in nature, shouldn’t the public that could come in contact with him in the future know of it?

If it was that he took money from someone he wasn’t supposed to, shouldn’t that ethical decision be known to someone who may want to put him in a position where a similar action could be taken again?

Or if he was violent with someone, for the public’s future safety, should they not know of the outburst?

There are plenty of things a lawmaker can do to get himself kicked out of the legislature and none of them are good. But knowing what a public figure did to have such a harsh punishment sought should be in the public’s best interest, shouldn’t it?

Some feel just saying someone had an “interaction” with someone is not quite good enough. There are too many interactions that have varying degrees of danger associated with them.

Vague statements, like the one used by Rosenberger, do more damage than good by inciting the very speculation they claim to not want. In a way, Goodman ends up being a victim of this rampant speculation as a result.

How will people view him now when his name is associated with inappropriate behavior stemming from an interaction with another person? What if it has nothing to do with sex? After what happened with Hite, will people really not jump directly to the conclusion that it did?

Taking things one step further could be adequate. Simply stating if it was a sexual encounter, or a physical altercation, or harassment without the lurid details could focus the picture to the point where fewer people have to wonder when they are around him.

To be clear, Goodman could dispel the speculation himself. Instead, he has asked for privacy.

For now, Speaker Rosenberger and Goodman will keep the rest of the public in the dark as to what happened that was so bad it forced the resignation of an elected official.