- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Attorney General Mike DeWine’s rival in the fall election on Monday questioned the handling of an internal harassment investigation from 2013 and called again for an independent review. DeWine’s campaign said Democrat David Pepper is improperly portraying the Republican incumbent’s record of protecting women.

Pepper, a Cincinnati lawyer who is seeking to unseat DeWine on Nov. 4, said repeated statements by an assistant attorney general that he liked to slap and punch women should not have been allowed to go on so long.

“This is the year 2014. This is not the ‘50s or the ‘60s. This is not ‘Mad Men,’” Pepper said at a news conference. “But we’re seeing a culture in this office that looks to be far too much like the old days - where people got away with talking about women, talking to women and, in some cases, approaching women in ways that are totally inappropriate.”

An Associated Press report last week cited records that showed DeWine’s then-employment law chief was cited for failing to properly report the remarks after an internal equal employment office review. He requested to have the sanction reinvestigated, and it was overturned on appeal. It was the only such finding reversed in five years.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney told the AP that supervisor Timothy Lecklider had the right to due process under office policy adopted before DeWine took office, and his appeal was by the book.

It was the second harassment case around the same time to draw scrutiny during the increasingly contentious attorney general’s campaign.

DeWine’s campaign spokesman, Ryan Stubenrauch, noted that the attorney who made the comments about slapping women was hired well before DeWine took office in 2011.

“In this case, an attorney who has worked for five different attorneys general made inappropriate and hurtful comments for which he was disciplined and suspended,” Stubenrauch said.

Pepper vowed that perpetrators of harassment would not be kept on board if he were elected attorney general. Stubenrauch said those statements suggest Pepper would deny state employees their due process.

Stubenrauch also suggested that Pepper, who appeared Monday with members of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus, was mischaracterizing DeWine’s record on women’s issues.

“While David Pepper campaigns against career employees of the attorney general’s office, Mike DeWine is showing real leadership preventing violence against women - leading the way to test thousands of old rape kits that sat on shelves for decades, helping law enforcement put rapists and human traffickers in prison, and expanding access to rape crisis centers across Ohio,” Stubenrauch said.

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