COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Fellow members of the Ohio House voted to evict former speaker Larry Householder on Tuesday afternoon.
House members voted 75-21 on a disorderly conduct motion and expelled Householder, who is facing charges in a federal bribery scheme. It marked only the second time that the legislature has voted to expel a member.
Householder (R-Glenford), who cast one of the 21 nay votes, was present for the debate and spoke on his own behalf. He said the lack of public evidence in the case against him means that disorderly conduct has yet to be proved and that an impeachment trial would be more proper than expulsion.
“Conduct is an act you know occurred,” he told House members. “Until these actions are proven to be true, you don’t know if this act occurred.”
But acknowledging that his removal may be imminent, Householder thanked his wife and five children, as well as the people of his district. After the vote, he said he was shocked to be removed but that he forgives those who voted against him.
The effort to remove him had support from some of Householder’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.
Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) said, “Ohioans cannot fathom how he remains in a position to introduce and vote on legislation. … Being here is a privilege, not a right.” And Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) told House members that “allegations of public corruption hurt all of us.”
But some Republicans said expelling Householder was the wrong move. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said nothing that has happened so far meets the definition of “disorderly conduct” and that if Householder is eventually found guilty then he would be automatically removed at that point.
In 2019, Householder was a proponent of House Bill 6, a $1 billion bailout of two nuclear power plants operated a company now known as Energy Harbor. Last year, he was one of five people charged in a $61 million bribery scandal to pass that bill, which was signed into law.
“No member of the Ohio House condones the conduct of Larry Householder described in the complaint for which he has been indicted of a federal crime,” said House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) in a statement after the vote. “Rather, members differ as to whether he should be removed from the House – now as the Ohio Constitution permits or if and when he is convicted in court of the criminal charges. Each has voted their conscience and their good faith of how best to proceed in this unique situation. Their individual decision should be respected.”
On Monday, Householder, with his attorney beside him, defended himself in front of a House committee, asserting his innocence to the charges and saying it’s not right to expel him before his day in court. Although Householder was removed from his position as speaker, he won reelection uncontested in 2020.
“I have not been tried, and I have not been convicted,” he said. “Only one side has been heard; that’s not enough to remove anyone from office.”
Householder did not answer questions about his actions leading up to the passage of House Bill 6.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Among the others charged, Matt Borges, the former state Republican party chairman, has also pleaded not guilty and is publicly declaring his innocence. Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges, and Neil Clark died by suicide shortly after the charges were announced.