Saying, "I have experienced the culture that accepts sexual harassment as the norm," Democratic Ohio governor candidate Betty Sutton unveiled a plan Thursday aiming for a harassment-free state workplace.

Among her proposals is one to "implement a zero-tolerance harassment policy with reporting structures and consequences for state lawmakers, staff and registered lobbyists."

"Ohioans have a right to a sexual-harassment and assault-free workplaces, and it starts with establishing clear and concrete expectations for our state employees and those who do business with the state; holds predators accountable; and incentivizes others to implement policies to adequately protect workers," she said.

Her plan comes less than two days after a second Ohio lawmaker was forced from office for inappropriate behavior. The departure of Rep. Wes Goodman, R-Cardington, for an encounter with another man in his Riffe Center office, came about a month after state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, left after repeated unwanted encounters with a woman who worked for another state office.

Earlier this week, Michael Premo, chief of staff for Ohio Senate Democrats, resigned because of his interactions with a woman.

Sutton, a former congresswoman from northeast Ohio, said sexual harassment seems almost ever-present these days.

"We have a president who graphically talked of sexually assaulting women; we have legislators who think they can sexually prey on women with impunity; and candidates for statewide office and U.S. Senate who thumb their noses at this problem by failing to speak out. As governor, I will make it clear that Ohio will not do business with sexual predators and will not tolerate it," she said.

Sutton wants to create a Sexual Harassment and Assault Office and establish a toll-free number and web portal to allow "the safe and confidential reporting of worker harassment."

The office would review all state job applicants "for previous sexual harassment and assault issues and disallow employment for repeat offenders."

 

drowland@dispatch.com

@darreldrowland