- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Investigators at Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office last year first faulted, then exonerated DeWine’s then-employment law chief over how he handled an employee who repeatedly told a legal secretary he liked to slap and punch women, records obtained by The Associated Press show.

A compliance officer in the attorney general’s officer first found probable cause that supervisor Timothy Lecklider failed to report the allegation. But Lecklider was given the unusual opportunity of having the finding against him re-investigated and new witness interviews led to the finding being overturned, the records show.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said that the office followed all policies and that Lecklider, like any employee, has a right to due process.

“This was a by-the-book procedure,” Tierney said. “The allegation here is that there was probable cause that Mr. Lecklider violated the professional conduct policy. He initiated an appeals process because he thought the facts were inaccurate.”

It was the first such finding overturned in five years, and the second internal harassment case to surface, as DeWine seeks re-election, that involved a partial departure from protocol. Lecklider has been mayor of the Columbus suburb of Dublin.

Also last year, DeWine requested and received the name of a confidential informant thought to have knowledge of an alleged sexual harasser. The case was closed days later after the initial witness declined to cooperate and no harasser could be identified.

The latest case involves exchanges between Tim Miller, an assistant attorney general within DeWine’s Employment Law Section, and a legal secretary in the office.

During job reviews in March and June of last year, the legal secretary reported feeling uncomfortable around Miller because of such comments as, “You know you will do your job or you will be smacked.” She said she never felt threatened but wanted the comments to stop.

Supervisor Lisa Jewell told Kristine Cadek, the initial equal employment opportunity compliance officer on the case, that she brought the issue to Lecklider’s attention both times. She said Lecklider took notes and pledged to keep an eye on the situation.

Lecklider later reported a “vague recollection” of the March conversation, but said he got no sense that Jewell expected him to take action.

The investigative report said Lecklider was obligated to report any allegations of gender-based harassment or workplace violence to the equal employment or human resources office, and found probable cause that he failed to do that. It noted that he had attended six sexual harassment trainings at which such matters were discussed.

Messages seeking comment were left at Lecklider’s home and office Thursday. Records show he left DeWine’s office in November and now works for the Franklin County prosecutor.

The follow-up investigation found inadequate evidence Lecklider was informed of Miller’s comments in March and that he ultimately referred Miller to Cadek for investigation after a similar comment was overheard that June. Lecklider reported a strained relationship with Jewell and said he viewed the allegations she presented in the spring as “hearsay.”

The investigation found that on June 26, 2013, Jewell reported overhearing Miller tell the secretary, “You know there is nothing more fun than smacking a woman - that is, except for punching them.”

A few days later, Assistant Section Chief Julie Pfeiffer emailed Lecklider and reminded him of his obligation to report the June 26 incident.

Lecklider acted by issuing a verbal warning to Miller to stop the behavior. He told Jewell at the time that he didn’t want the office to be “a no-fun zone,” the investigation found. He referred Miller soon thereafter.

Miller was ultimately disciplined with a working suspension, according to his state personnel file. Tierney said he’s also under a two-year human resources arrangement that could result in firing in case of any repeat incidents.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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