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Northeast Ohio lawmaker removed from Democratic caucus for 'abusive behavior'

Meeting of the Ohio Ballot Board - Elliot Forhan
Posted at 10:29 PM, Nov 16, 2023

Northeast Ohio state Rep. Elliot Forhan has been stripped of nearly all lawmaker privileges by Democratic Party leaders for "abusive" and "violent" behavior detailed in a 19-page memorandum sent to party leadership by House Democratic Leader Allison Russo.

In another document, a letter to Forhan obtained by News 5, Russo kicked the Cleveland-area lawmaker out of the Democratic caucus due to his "pattern of harassment, hostility, and intimidation of colleagues and staff."

UPDATE: House leadership backtracks and says Forhan still part of Democratic Caucus

Forhan (D-South Euclid) has been stripped of all committee assignments and is instructed not to contact all Democratic caucus staff members.

The punishments mean he can no longer attend caucus, which is a meeting of all legislative members and staff within one party, nor have an office, a legislative aide, or utilize any services that state representatives can access. The only thing he can legally do is attend sessions to vote on bills.

In the 19-page document sent to House Democratic Leadership and obtained by News 5, Russo and her team called Forhan's behavior abusive, erratic and inappropriate.

"Ultimately, hostility, profanity, and dangerous, violent remarks have unfortunately been the hallmark of Rep. Forhan’s tenure in the Ohio House of Representatives," the document states.

News 5 has reached out to Forhan for comment but has not heard back.

Timeline
Forhan is serving in his first term at the House. He represents an area of the east-side suburbs of Cleveland. He is an attorney and was an activist before joining the legislature.

The trouble started back in May, according to Russo. Forhan was reprimanded and sanctioned publicly following an incident in which he shouted and acted disrespectfully toward a Black female constituent.

The constituent filed a formal complaint, the first of many against the lawmaker. Following this incident, Forhan was required to complete bias training, which the document says Forhan did begrudgingly.

Forhan previously told News 5 that he never intended to insult his constituent and had tried to make amends. He also issued a public apology.

Democratic leadership has counseled and tried to course-correct Forhan following incidents, the document says. Each time, Forhan would act aggressively and threaten "retaliation."

From May through the summer, different labor groups reached out to Democratic leadership to express their concerns with Forhan's aggressive and violent behavior, the document continues — providing evidence.

In June, Forhan showed up at another representative's house unannounced to talk about complaints made about him. The female representative viewed this as hostile.

Following this incident, Forhan was counseled about appropriate social media behavior and was removed from his leadership position on the Government Oversight Committee.

Forhan’s pattern of "enraged, erratic and abusive behavior" toward members and staff continued through the summer months, according to documentation that includes violent outbursts and threats while in a mediation session with other organizations.

Forhan's alleged reaction to the Israel/Hamas war is documented several times, culminating with a confrontation with another lawmaker.

On Wednesday, Forhan allegedly screamed about the war at state Rep. Munira Abdullahi, who is Muslim, alone in a committee room to the point that she was "visibly shaken" and the House Sargent At Arms was called and dispatched to stand outside of where Forhan was — because they believed he would become violent. After leadership tried to calm Forhan down, he became violent and the leaders kicked Forhan out of caucus for that day, according to the memo.

What happens next
A spokesperson for the House Dems told News 5 that the document speaks for itself. When asked if Forhan would be formally removed or expelled from being a lawmaker, the spokesperson replied that that would be a caucus decision.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.