Calls increase for prosecutor to resign after guilty plea

December 23, 2019 GMT

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Pressure is increasing from Ohio’s governor on down to remove a county prosecutor who was allowed to stay on the job until next summer despite his guilty plea amid an investigation into accusations that he had sexually harassed two female employees.

A wide range of state and local officials are calling on Sandusky County prosecutor Tim Braun to resign after a plea deal he struck this month permitted him to keep his $140,000 salary through next June even though it also barred him from working in his office.

Braun, according to five complaints made by former or current employees, created a hostile work environment and crossed the line with women at work. Some said he would rub and touch them or make comments about sex.

One woman said she walked into his office once while he was watching child pornography on his computer for a case he was reviewing, according to investigative records. “He clicked on several different videos and seemed to be watching for my reaction. I was appalled and left the office,” she said.

Braun, who has been in office since 2017, pleaded guilty Dec. 5 to negligent assault in a deal that spared him jail time but forced him to resign by the end of June. He also agreed not to seek reelection. Braun did not make a statement during the hearing and has not commented publicly.

A message seeking comment was left with his attorney Monday.

Since Braun’s plea, outrage has grown about the agreement signed off by a special prosecutor.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine last week asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to prepare a complaint that could lead to a judge or jury trial that could result in Braun’s ouster.

“We had already started working on these pleadings in anticipation of this request and plan to file soon,” Yost said in a statement. “Braun still has time to do the right thing — resign.”

A spokesman for DeWine told media outlets that the governor made the request “because he wants the citizens of Sandusky County and the citizens of the state of Ohio to have the utmost confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Council members from Fremont and Gibsonburg asked DeWine last week to force Braun out, and over the past weekend the leaders of the Sandusky County Republican Party voted unanimously for Braun to resign and step down from the county party’s central committee.

County GOP Chairman Justin Smith said he hopes Braun will step down so the “county can get back on track.”

What has upset people most is that Braun is continuing to get paid even though he has been barred from his office, Smith said.

“Not one person has said he should stay there,” he said. “Honestly, I have no idea what he will do. We’re all waiting to find out.”

Employees in Braun’s office described how he appeared to have an obsession with one woman in particular, according to the investigation records.

Some others defended Braun and said they never saw anything sexually inappropriate.

One woman said Braun could make people “uncomfortable because he has such a tense personality,” but she added that other women in the office created an uncomfortable atmosphere and didn’t like how he operated the office.

In response, she said, Braun had lunch meetings about bullying and held a class on sexual harassment.