Former local legislator denies harassment claims made by Ohio House aide

A legislative aide in the Ohio Statehouse has accused former Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford of making sexist comments and “drinking heavily” at a Columbus-area bar following an Ohio House Christmas party in December.

Marissa Reyes, who now works for Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, wrote in a letter to her state representative that Retherford threatened Reyes and other female House aides “not to discuss events from that night,” and told Reyes he would “prefer to see me with my dress off.”

In her letter posted on Twitter on Sunday, and sent to Boggs, Reyes wrote that interactions with members and legislative aides “have resulted in multiple instances of racially insensitive and sexist comments and harassment.”

Retherford denied the accusations on Tuesday, telling the Journal-News that “I’m willing to fully cooperate with any investigation because these allegations are absolutely untrue.”

He said he has remained sober since his March 12, 2017, drunken-driving arrest that was considered a factor in his failed re-election bid last year.

RELATED: Retherford reflects on challenges, successes in 6 years at the Statehouse

Retherford, who lost his bid for a fourth term representing the 51st Ohio House District in May 2018, was one of three GOP House members Reyes named. And all three were supporters of Rep. Larry Householder, who contested now-former House Speaker Ryan Smith to lead the Ohio House for the next two years. Householder was elected speaker on Monday.

READ THE LETTER: Read Marissa Reyes’ letter to Ohio Rep. Kristin Boggs

Most of the letter talks about Reyes’ former boss, Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster. Reyes wrote that he told her “women do not think logically, they think with their hearts not with their brains” and she was “the good type of Mexican.”

Wiggam told the Columbus Dispatch the allegations “are absolutely false” and “were politically motivated and coordinated by the outgoing leadership team.” He called for an investigation.

RELATED: Larry Householder elected new Ohio House speaker

Rep. Derek Merrin also denied the allegations to media outlets. Reyes wrote that he allegedly called Mexicans “dangerous people” and claimed he was “nearly killed” when visiting Mexico.

She also called out legislative aides, though not by name.

“I had several instances where a Householder-affiliated staffer … would yel sterotypical words, such as ‘Taco! Nacho! Burrito!’ when he overheard me speaking in Spanish,” according to the letter. She also wrote that aide “changed my name to ‘Maria,’ because that sounds more Mexican.”

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