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Does Ohio House Speaker have to resign after arrest? Ohio law doesn't say so

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Posted at 8:50 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 01:50:04-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following the arrests of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others on Tuesday, calls for his resignation came from other officials, including Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof.

However, Jonathan Entin, a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University said that as far as he can tell, "nothing in Ohio law requires an elected official to resign after being arrested."

Entin said that Ohio law does require elected officials to step aside if convicted or if they plead guilty. But that's not the case for someone who has been arrested, since there is a presumption of innocence.

"We have a very detailed 82-page document," Entin said, "but at this point, that's a charge."

Still, Entin said an arrest puts an elected official in an awkward political position, "so even if the law doesn't formally require Householder or somebody else who's been arrested to resign, there might be very powerful political pressure for him to do that."

There is precedent for other elected officials in Ohio stepping down after accusations of wrongdoing. Entin cited the example of former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned in 2018 amid talk of an FBI investigation into some of his actions. However, Rosenberger was not formally charged at the time he resigned.

Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, a good government watchdog group, said that she wasn't entirely surprised this happened, given the amount of money spent on House Bill 6 advertisements.

"Ohio voters have been taken advantage of here. Now, the thing to remember is we as consumers are bailing these folks out, and we just deserve better," Turcer said.

Turcer said part of the problem is that "we as Ohioans didn't have the tools to actually understand what was happening." She identified a lack of disclosures about dark money in the political process as a factor that allowed this to happen.

"The old saying that sunlight is the best disinfectant, this could all have been stopped in its tracks if we actually had good access to information," Turcer said.

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