Former state Sen. Cliff Hite admitted today that inappropriate behavior with a female state employee contributed to his decision to resign.
Senate President Larry Obhof said he “strongly suggested” to Hite that he resign after Obhof heard about allegations of sexual harassment by Hite on Oct. 11, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
After Hite resigned Monday night, rumors circulated Tuesday that a woman had made a sexual harassment complaint against Hite.
Hite, 63, a Findlay Republican, sought to address the rumors in a tweet this morning.
“I’m not proud of recent inappropriate conversations that I had with a state employee who did not work for me but worked in a nearby state office. After we met, I sometimes asked her for hugs and talked with her in a way that was not appropriate for a married man, father, and grandfather like myself. Beyond those hugs, there was no inappropriate physical contact,” Hite tweeted. “I recognize that this was inappropriate behavior. She deserves more respect than that and so does my wife. I apologize completely. This is no one’s fault but my own. I’m proud of my long career as a teacher, coach and legislator but I’m not proud of how I acted with this person.”
Obhof said he met with Hite last week within a few hours of hearing about the harassment allegations, the Dispatch reported.
“We dealt with it in a very efficient manner, very quickly,” Obhof said. “I think he did the right thing by accepting responsibility by apologizing for his actions. He recognizes that some of the behavior was not appropriate.”
Obhof suggested there is still an ongoing process regarding the complaint, but he declined to elaborate. The young woman who filed it does not work for the Senate, but reportedly worked with Hite in a Statehouse-related capacity.
“The message should be pretty clear that any inappropriate activity in the Senate isn’t tolerated,” Obhof said, adding that he is planning to start doing sexual harassment training for members at the start-of-the-session caucus retreat every two years. “In the short term, we plan to have something like that for members and staff of both parties in the near future.”
Hite’s tweet discussed the combination of circumstances leading to his resignation.
“The combination of my mistake in judgment and my failing health led me to decide to step down,” he said.
Hite’s wife, Diane, also issued a statement in the same tweet.
“I love my husband and he’s a good man but he made a mistake here. He told me all about it, apologized to me, and I forgive him,” she tweeted. “We don’t have a perfect marriage and, like so many couples, we’ve had some hard times in our relationship. We’re in counseling now and we’re hopeful that both our marriage and Cliff’s health will get better.”
The Hites’ tweet said they will not be doing any interviews or taking press calls.