Tue., 12:43pm: Foes of Ohio clean energy bill criticize senator

COLUMBUS – Opponents of a bill turning back Ohio’s alternative energy targets say the Senate utilities chairman has disrespected and intimidated witnesses during hearings on the measure, allegations he denies.

A veteran who works for the Sierra Club wrote a letter of complaint about state Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, to Senate President Keith Faber. He says Seitz mocked the Bataan Death March in which 650 American soldiers were killed and spoke in a German accent while speaking of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Other witnesses say Seitz walked out on a clergy member and pretended to shoot himself in the head when listening to the state’s watchdog for utility consumers.

“This behavior is completely devoid of any honor or respect, and is not becoming of the Ohio Senate or the State of Ohio,” wrote veteran Dan Sawmiller, the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative for Ohio and Kentucky.

Seitz, a lawyer and veteran lawmaker known for colorful floor speeches and candid quips, says opponents are taking him out of context. He says he’s allowed many hours of opponent testimony on the bill, more than many other committees hearing other controversial bills.

Of the Bataan Death March comment, he said, “I don’t recall saying it, but if I did I was probably referring to the endless parade of witnesses they’ve brought forward to try to filibuster this bill.”

Seitz said the April 9 hearing about which Sawmiller complained lasted 5 hours.

In his letter, Sawmiller said Seitz “has often times referred to the positions of those he doesn’t agree with as being akin to Joseph Stalin’s “5-year plan” and once “stood up, opened his pack of Marlboro Lights and walked out on (another) veteran’s testimony.”

A spokesman for Faber said he never received the letter.