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Democratic rep sanctioned for "inappropriate behavior" asks Republican House speaker for help

Ohio House Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid)
Ohio House
/
Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid)

A Democratic Cleveland-area state lawmaker who has been sanctioned by the leader of his caucus is fighting back, even as elected officials in his district call for him to resign.

Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid) said House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) is treating him unfairly. Last week, Russo removed him from all committees he served on and prevented him from having access to aides and other lawmakers on Capitol Square. Russo said Forhan has exhibited “a pattern of harassment, hostility and intimidation of colleagues and staff.” There have been reported altercations between Forhan and other lawmakers. He underwent implicit bias training after a conflict with a constituent in May.

Forhan’s social media posts recently have been full of photos and videos on the Israel/Hamas war, primarily showing the death and destruction faced by Palestinian citizens in Gaza. But Forhan, who represents the largest Jewish community in the state, has also said he strongly supports Israel. Last week, Forhan criticized leaders of his party for telling him to remove an Israeli flag that he placed outside his office. Forhan's office is next to the office of a lawmaker who is Muslim.

Now, Forhan is appealing to House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), saying the two men share support for Israel.

“I struggle to understand why a committed Israel supporter such as him would join an effort to silence a voice, my voice, speaking in support of that cause,” Forhan said.

Forhan said Stephens has the ability and responsibility to override Russo’s actions. And the South Euclid representative compared his treatment with the way GOP leadership reacted to recent charges and indictments against former Rep. Bob Young (R-Green), who was recently convicted of domestic violence.

“Nobody suspended badge access, reassigned a legislative aide or requested any special counsel appointment in connection with the alleged conduct by former Rep. Young,” Forhan said.

Stephens has called for an investigation into the situation involving Forhan. Attorney General Dave Yost said outside counsel has been brought in to advise and to conduct any actions that Stephens might want to take, since it's up to him and not the AG's office.

In her letter to Forhan last week, Russo said her actions come after months of him exhibiting “a pattern of harassment, hostility and intimidation of colleagues and staff.” Russo said Forhan used profanity in front of other lawmakers, made disparaging comments to constituents and “engaged in shouting, finger pointing and finger snapping.” Forhan calls the letter and the resulting discipline “a hatchet job.”

Forhan has not been expelled from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus. If that were to happen, it would be after a caucus vote, which could be called before House session on Tuesday.

More than two dozen elected officials in Forhan's district are calling on him to resign. They say in their letter that "he is no longer able to adequately represent his constituents.The group is led by South Euclid Council President Ruth Gray, who said in a press release: “This is a very sad situation. I hope Representative Forhan is able to get whatever help he needs. But in the meantime, he cannot be a state representative.”

Among those signing that letter is Beachwood City Council Vice President Eric Synenberg. He's filed paperwork to challenge Forhan in the Democratic primary in March.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.