Missing Senator Phones to Say She’s OK
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A state senator who hadn’t been seen by colleagues since July called a newspaper reporter today to say she is all right and may return to the Statehouse next week.
Joe Hallett, a reporter for The Blade of Toledo, said Sen. Marigene Valiquette told him she was not in Columbus but that she would not divulge her whereabouts.
Hallett said she did not explain her long absence but indicated she would do so upon her return.
Several of the senator’s colleagues had expressed concern about the lawmaker’s absence.
″I haven’t seen her for months,″ said Sen. Oliver Ocasek. ″I don’t have any leads, and I’m getting a little bit concerned.″
″I don’t think there’s any major concern,″ said Sen. Harry Meshel. ″We just simply have not heard from her.″
They said they last saw the 23-year veteran legislator, a Democrat representing Toledo, in July when the Legislature adjourned for the summer. She missed every day of the two-week fall session that ended Wednesday.
Even senator’s secretary, Shari Josephs, said she didn’t know Ms. Valiquette’s whereabouts, but said she was sure the senator was all right.
Her missing the final legislative session of the year contrasts with 1984, when Ms. Valiquette was present for 95 percent of the votes in the Senate, said Tom Smith, and aide to the Senate’s Democratic Caucus.
″My feeling is either she’s ill, or she’s taken a vacation,″ Smith said.
Ocasek described Ms. Valiquette as a ″very dear friend,″ but added that she always kept a certain distance from her colleagues.
″We never knew in Columbus where she did live,″ Ocasek told the Toledo Blade. ″She had different places, different hotels. She would never tell us.″
Ms. Valiquette lived in Toledo with her mother for many years before her mother died in 1980. Since then, she has spent most of her time in Columbus. The county now is trying to foreclose on the Toledo property because of $1,921 in unpaid taxes, the Blade said.
The Senate clerk’s office has no home telephone number for Ms. Valiquette and lists only a post office box as her Toledo address.
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle records show Ms. Valiquette’s address in Toledo as the home of a longtime friend and campaign worker, Mary Jane Gill. Miss Gill last week said she did not know where Ms. Valiquette was.
There was no answer at Miss Gill’s address Wednesday. A neighbor, Fred Biglow, said he had seen the senator only once in the 17 years he has lived in the area.
State Rep. Barney Quilter said Ms. Valiquette called him Sept. 19 to say she would miss an event in Toledo to which she had been invited.
″She said she couldn’t make it,″ said Quilter. ″She said she wasn’t feeling good.″
He added, ″I wouldn’t know how to reach her if my life depended on it.″
Because Republicans have a three-vote majority in the Senate, Ms. Valiquette’s absence affected few bills in the fall legislative session.
But Wednesday, Sen. Paul Pfeifer, the chief sponsor of a mandatory seat- belt bill, said he did not ask for a vote on it because he was one vote short of a majority. Ms. Valiquette voted for a similar bill in May.