Provided by Hannah News Service
The Ohio House voted 75-21 Wednesday to expel Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, determining his actions in the scandal around 133-HB6 amounted to “disorderly conduct” warranting removal under constitutional procedures. A defiant Householder, predicting his acquittal on the federal bribery charges against him, argued the move was in fact unconstitutional and disrespectful to the voters who re-elected him knowing fully of his legal woes. But Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and other supporters of the expulsion resolution said Householder’s conduct in developing and moving the controversial energy law was unethical and stained the reputation of the chamber.
Though the final vote to expel passed by a margin beyond the two-thirds majority required, the procedural maneuver to bring up House Resolution 69 succeeded with no room for error, 66-31. Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, joint sponsor of HR69 with Rep. Mark Fraizer, R-Newark, made the motion to suspend the rules and bring the resolution from the House Rules and Reference Committee directly to the floor, which also required a two-thirds vote. While the committee had conducted two hearings in recent days on the resolution, it hadn’t yet scheduled a vote.
Members debated the resolution for more than an hour before voting, after which the chamber quickly moved on to a handful of bills on its regular calendar. Householder then walked out of the chamber and spoke with reporters for about 15 minutes.
The floor debate covered much of the same ground as the committee hearings on HR69. Supporters said even without a criminal conviction, the evidence in the federal case demonstrated Householder’s abuse of his position. Opponents said the “disorderly conduct” standard for expulsion refers to violence and threats and argued a more expansive definition would set a bad precedent.
Stewart said expulsion was necessary to restore honor and integrity to the House.
“He is empowered to introduce and vote on legislation all while he is under indictment for selling legislation as part of a $60 million bribery, racketeering and money laundering scheme that has been admitted to by three of his co-defendants,” Stewart said.
Fraizer reviewed sections of the House’s code of ethics, noting prohibitions on using authority or influence to secure anything of value, or accepting for personal or business use such things.
“I don’t have to be a lawyer to know that an FBI indictment makes this institution look bad,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, who along with Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, had also offered an expulsion resolution, HR70.
As he’d done during the committee hearings, Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, argued that the statutory definition of disorderly conduct, generally describing violent and threatening acts, is where lawmakers should look in determining whether Householder’s conduct warranted expulsion. He also said that the House could commence an impeachment trial, something Householder himself suggested later in his own floor speech.
Rising in his own defense, Householder denied ever seeking or accepting bribes, and said the constitutional standard of disorderly “conduct” addresses “an act that you know occurred,” rather that speculative allegations.
“If you want to remove a member on accusations, the way you remove a member on accusations is to have an impeachment trial, where evidence can be heard, witnesses can be called, and there’s a process in place, much like the court system,” Householder said.
Addressing the argument that impeachment was the proper route if the House wanted to remove Householder, Cupp noted the complications of trying to conduct an impeachment trial amid the criminal court case.
“There is a federal proceeding going on, and obviously we don’t want to interfere with that with some activity that we’re taking here,” he said.
Householder said it was at least understandable for his colleagues to remove him as speaker following the federal indictments, but taking his seat is a different story. “In this situation, you didn’t hire me, the people of the 72nd District hired me. They looked at my file back in November … and 72 percent of the people decided they want to return me to this Legislature,” he said. “You here today are making a decision for them based on not knowing the facts.”
Urging expulsion, Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, rebutted Householder’s argument that the alleged conduct is unproven, citing messages he’d sent to Householder associate and co-defendant Jeff Longstreth about mailers targeting him over his vote against HB6. “I know that occurred, you know that occurred, because of page 42 of the 82-page [criminal] complaint. They are my texts. I am Rep. No. 6,” he said, holding up the document.
“These things occurred. They’re not accusations, they’re not speculation. They occurred. I know they occurred, and you know they occurred,” Koehler said.
Stewart stood again to address Householder’s remarks on his post-indictment re-election victory, pointing out his was the only name on the ballot. “Rep. Householder spoke on the floor and said that the way you get re-elected with 72 percent of the vote when you’re under indictment is your history in the community. The other way you do it is being unopposed on the ballot,” Stewart said, noting a “colossal undervote” in Householder’s legislative race compared to total votes cast in his home of Perry County.
The final vote saw opposition to expulsion from Householder, 19 fellow Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Joe Miller, Amherst. Other Republicans opposing expulsion were Reps. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati; Jamie Callender, R-Concord; Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton; Al Cutrona, R-Canfield; Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville; Sarah Fowler Arthur, R-Rock Creek; Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester; Brett Hillyer, R-Dennison; Don Jones, R-Freeport; Derek Merrin, R-Monclova; Jena Powell, R-Arcanum; Seitz, Dick Stein, R-Norwalk; Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill; Nino Vitale, R-Urbana; Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster; Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro; Bob Young, R-North Canton; and Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason.