Unnamed aides to at least two Republican Ohio House lawmakers are among those accused in a complaint alleging “racially insensitive and sexist comments and harassment” written by a legislative aide, as first reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer and Columbus Dispatch. (See https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/07/statehouse-staffer-alleges-misconduct-householder-allies/2499179002/ and https://www.dispatch.com/news/20190107/as-speaker-vote-looms-house-staffer-makes-harassment-misconduct-accusations.)

Republican aide Marissa Reyes wrote a letter, addressed to Rep. Kristin Boggs and dated Jan. 6 – one day before the vote to elect a new Ohio House speaker – alleging that “prominent leaders within the team of Rep. Larry Householder” have treated her with “unwarranted racist and sexist behavior.”

Householder was elected House speaker today (Jan. 7) in a close vote over Rep. Ryan Smith.

As previously reported in The Highland County Press, Smith, R-Bidwell, the previous speaker, was again selected by his legislative peers to serve as speaker. However, according to the Enquirer, “A majority of Democrats committed to supporting Householder during a closed-door meeting Friday [Jan. 4].”

Today, with the help of more than 20 Democrat House members, Householder, a Perry County Republican, won the House speaker’s gavel on a 52-45 vote. Householder also served as speaker from 2001-04.

In her letter, Reyes said that she wanted to let the Democratic caucus know of her experience “so that an informed vote can be made when choosing the next leader of the Ohio House of Representatives and in hopes that others who have experienced similar degradation will speak up and be a catalyst for change.”

According to Reyes’ letter, she began working in March 2018 “as an aide to one of Householder’s colleagues, Rep. Scott Wiggam.”

“During my time as a staffer in this office, I had to endure months of unacceptable treatment and was forced to listen to the representatives’ opinions that painted myself, my family and other Hispanics in a demeaning light,” Reyes said. “When I respectfully disagreed with the representative about an issue, I was told that ‘women do not think logically, they think with their hearts and not with their brains.’ I was told that my views on immigration do not matter because my parents are immigrants from Latin American countries and I was once referred to as ‘the good type of Mexican’ by the representative.

“Additionally, while working in that office, I was required [to] get the approval of a male staff member for every completed task, no matter the scale or importance. This male staffer is one of Rep. Householder’s top staffers, the aide to Rep. Shane Wilkin.”

Wilkin represents Highland County in the 91st District. The Highland County Press has asked Wilkin for his comments. There is no direct accusation against Wilkin or his aide in Reyes’ letter. Wilkin responded late Monday afternoon (4:50 p.m.) that the House was still in session.

Reyes alleges that “derogatory comments continued” at other events, including racially offensive comments made at a legislative fundraiser by Rep. Derek Merrin. Reyes said that other staffers would “sarcastically greet me with ‘hola como estas’” when they saw her or yell “stereotypical Spanish words” and call her “Maria, because that sounds more Mexican.”

Reyes also alleges that “Rep. Householder-affiliated staffers” would spend hours in her office, “even after I asked them to leave,” and that “on more than one occasion, they came around my desk and made unwanted advances.” She wrote that at a party, former Rep. Wes Rutherford allegedly threatened her and said “that he would ‘prefer to see me with my dress off.’”

Reyes asked Boggs to encourage the Democratic caucus to make a “decision … to protect women and minors in our workplace, the Ohio House of Representatives, and by extension the women of Ohio you represent.”

“These experiences have been among the worst of my life,” Reyes said. “I worry about my long-term mental health, especially if I allow members to make a decision on Monday without hearing my story.”