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Published: Monday, 7/18/2011

Ohio lawmaker quits after drunken-driving scandal

State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, R-Green Township, will resign his seat effective Aug. 2.
State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, R-Green Township, will resign his seat effective Aug. 2.

An embattled Cincinnati-area state representative quit Sunday afternoon, caught up in controversy after being arrested for drunken driving in Indiana with a stripper in his car and Viagra in his system.

By making his resignation effective Aug. 2, Robert Mecklenborg, R-Green Township, ensured himself that he will be paid for all of July; if he had quit this month, his legislative salary would have been prorated. He also gets a bit more from the state retirement system.

"My recent actions have become a distraction to the additional important work that lies ahead for the members of the 129th General Assembly. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I resign from the Ohio House of Representatives," the married father of three said in a statement Monday.

"Most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize for any pain and embarrassment I have caused my family, my constituents, and my colleagues. I will be forever grateful to the many constituents and colleagues who have urged me to stay, but I believe it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to step aside during this difficult time."

His two-sentence resignation letter to House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, was sent electronically Sunday, although it had been in the works since Saturday, said Mike Dittoe, spokesman for House Republicans. The news was emailed to reporters near the conclusion of Sunday's women's World Cup final soccer match.

Batchelder, who called for Mecklenborg to step down last week and indicated that the resignation was only a matter of time, said in a statement, "Bob has admitted his mistakes and, while difficult, I believe he has made the appropriate decision to step down as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives."

The House's No. 2 GOP leader, Lou Blessing of Cincinnati, said in the same statement: "As a friend and fellow member from Hamilton County, I believe Bob Mecklenborg has provided valuable insight on a number of legislative issues over the years. His service will be missed, but I am pleased that he has appropriately decided to put the interests of his family and constituents first by stepping down from the Ohio House."

Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, who had earlier called on Mecklenborg to quit, said a veteran lawmaker bears a heavier burden of accountability.

"He's not a freshman legislator who had a bad weekend," Redfern said. "It was clear he was going to put others at risk as well as his female passenger."

The chairman chided Mecklenborg for lying three times: to the arresting officer, to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and to those around him.

The latest blow against the GOP representative came last week when it was revealed that four days after he was charged with DUI, Mecklenborg signed a driver's-license application in Ohio saying that he did not have any outstanding traffic citations. Mecklenborg, 59, had an expired driver's license when he was pulled over by an Indiana state trooper on April 23.

A three-term legislator who did not attend last week's House session, he has pleaded not guilty to DUI and is scheduled to appear in court on July 26. A dashboard camera video showed him repeatedly telling the trooper that he had not had anything to drink, even as he failed three field sobriety tests.

READ MORE of this story at dispatch.com.

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