Published:Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The former attorney general says the Ohio inspector general has a ‘clear bias’ against him.
Though mistakes were made during his short tenure as attorney general, Marc Dann said, a state inspector general’s report on the agency under his watch is “filled with innuendo rather than fact.”
The report, released Monday, states that Dann, “a cadre of his former senior managers and a handful of employees” turned the “office of the ‘people’s lawyer’ into a house of scandal.”
Dann fired back Monday, saying that Inspector General Thomas P. Charles has a “clear bias” against him, and the two “never had a good relationship.”
Charles listed 25 acts of wrongdoing by Dann, some of his closest friends in the attorney general’s office, and his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff.
The report accuses Dann and the others of improperly using money from the state, his campaign fund and a transition corporation he established shortly after his improbable victory in the 2006 election for attorney general.
“Regrettably, Marc Dann used his position as attorney general to indulge himself, his family and his friends,” Charles wrote in the report.
As part of the investigation, the Ohio auditor also conducted a special audit of the attorney general’s office under Dann’s watch identifying 175 expenditures, totaling $3.66 million, for further examination. That report states the attorney general’s office under Dann bought 99 new vehicles, totaling $1.94 million, with 14 of them, at a cost of about $310,000, paid from an “unallowable funding source.”
Among the purchases questioned by Charles from Dann’s campaign and transition funds are $12,263.47 paid to a dinnerware sales company owned by his wife, Lenhoff; $9,955 directly to her; and $3,182 to one of her company’s suppliers.
“It is inconceivable that the payment made to Zesty Dishes was anything other than a personal use of Dann’s campaign account,” Charles wrote.
Dann: Inspector doesn’t like me
By STEPHEN MAJORS
Associated Press Writer
December 22, 2008
Former Attorney General Marc Dann ran a vulgar and unprofessional office and misused campaign funds to make lavish payments to friends and family, the state’s government watchdog said Monday.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Attorney General Marc Dann ran a vulgar and unprofessional office and misused campaign funds to make lavish payments to friends and family, the state’s government watchdog said Monday in releasing the results of a six-month investigation.
Dann, a Democrat elected in 2006 on an anti-corruption platform, resigned in May amid a sexual harassment scandal in his office that included his admission that he had an affair with an employee.
The report by Inspector General Tom Charles said Dann hired a coterie of young women dubbed “the Dannettes” who were so unqualified and unprofessional in their dress and conduct that an office assistant was assigned to conduct etiquette training.
Dann said in a conference call with reporters that Charles’ report was littered with innuendo instead of facts and didn’t document any substantive cases in which he had broken the law.
He also said the report was written with a clear bias that had grown from Dann’s criticism of Charles for his handling of past investigations.
“He has never forgiven me for that,” Dann said. “We have never had a good relationship from the moment I took the attorney general’s office.”
Posted by Reginald Fields/Plain Dealer Columbus Bureau Chief
December 22, 2008 11:48AM
COLUMBUS — Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann formed an unregulated transition account after he was elected in 2006 that took in $195,000 in undisclosed donations and used much of the money for questionable purposes, the Ohio inspector general reported today.
Among the recipients of the money was a dinnerware sales firm controlled by Dann’s wife, Alyssa Lenhoff, the report said, and Dann’s friends who once served as his top aides, Anthony Gutierrez and Leo Jennings III. Just $8,838 remains in the account.
Inspector General Tom Charles released the report today following a multi-agency investigation of Dann’s office.
Dann responded this afternoon by holding a telephone news conference. He said Charles’ report was filled with innuendo and short on facts. Dann said all of the expenditures from his accounts were proper, and explained that the payments to his wife were for gifts for campaign supporters. He suggested that Charles had a vendetta against him.
Charles’ report also concluded that Dann led an office that tolerated the sexual harassment behavior that eventually toppled him and four of his closest work and personal associates.
“The rude, vulgar and abusive conduct of senior management, including the attorney general himself, created a hostile work environment that is an embarassment to state government,” the report said. “Sexual harassment was tolerated and friends and associates of the attorney general were hired into positions for which they were not qualified.”
Charles concluded that Dann “engaged in a pattern of unprofessional conduct that violated not only his own policy against harassment and discrimination but also his oath of office as an attorney and as the Ohio Attorney General.”
The report slams Dann for his hiring practices and lax oversight of his friends hired into jobs for which they were not qualified.
Copies of the report have been sent to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, the Columbus City Attorney’s Office, the IRS and state Department of Taxation. The Ohio Supreme Court’s diciplinary counsel, the Ohio Elections Commission and the Ohio Ethics Commission also have been asked to review the findings.
Dann resigned on May 14 during the fallout from an embarrassing sexual harassment scandal that rocked his office, drew national attention, and cost four of his closest friends at the office their jobs.
The scandal began with two women who accused their supervisor, Gutierrez, of repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances and complained that their concerns were not being properly addressed. While their accusations were not directed at Dann, details that emerged showed a troubling pattern of misbehavior and unprofessionalism involving Dann and several in his inner circle at the office.
Dann initially refused to quit, despite admitting that he had an extramarital affair with a staff member, and despite a multitude of problems surrounding Gutierrez, his friend and roommate, whom he hired to head his general services division.
But even his fellow Democrats who helped him win in upset fashion in 2006 over Republican Betty Montgomery were not willing to stand by him. He stepped down only after the inspector general’s investigators raided the attorney general’s office as the governor and Democrats in the Ohio House began marching toward impeachment proceedings.
But that didn’t end Dann’s problems. Since then, the inspector general has continued his multi-agency investigation, which concluded with today’s report.
The secretary of state’s office has also questioned Dann’s campaign finance spending and has referred him to the Ohio Elections Commission for allegedly violating a state elections law by spending campaign money for non-political purposes.
Gutierrez also remains under investigation by the Ohio Highway Patrol for allegedly damaging and misusing various state resources. He was fired on May 2 after an internal investigation concluded he harassed employees, threatened subordinates and misused state property. Jennings, Dann’s office spokesman, was also fired for interfering with the internal investigation.
Dann, Gutierrez and Jennings were all friends from the Youngstown area and the trio shared a Columbus apartment during the week while working.
Edgar Simpson, Dann’s chief of staff, and Jessica Utovich, Dann’s director of travel and former scheduler, resigned after the internal probe was completed. Simpson was accused of not properly managing Gutierrez and properly following through on the accusers initial complaints. Utovich, with whom Dann had the relationship, was not accused of wrongdoing but quit anyway.
The two accusers, Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout, remain employed by the attorney general’s office. They have a civil lawsuit against the state.
We’ve noticed when there are certain things that happen at the Columbus Dispatch when Democrats thugs are outed how all of a sudden the damaging story is moved out of plain view.
We’ve been patiently waiting for this report to finally become available and now for the Marc Dann to whine like a 5th grade school girl shows the children of Ohio what not to become. Now let’s see how much influence Dann has over the the prosecuting attorneys who need to exhibit real crime fighting skills by giving this unfaithful dog his place in the pound as he really deserves
Former Attorney General Marc Dann “violated the public trust,” misused his state office and his campaign and transition funds, and turned his office into a “house of scandal,” Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles concluded in a scathing investigative report released today.
“This office was built for disaster,” Charles said in a press conference outlining the report. “He came in and brought a lot of people who were unqualified. It was very difficult not to make that an X-rated report,” he said, citing dozens of incidents of boorish behavior, sexually charged situations and foul language.
Charles and other investigating agencies found 25 acts of wrongdoing by Dann, his several underlings and his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff Dann. Some of them, mostly those concerning Anthony Gutierrez, Dann’s head of general services and long-time friend, could be felonies, explained David Freel, head of the Ohio Ethics Comission. Wrongdoing by Gutierrez was referred to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in Franklin, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The governor’s ability to initiate investigations should include the courts. There are enough issues within the Franklin County Domestic Courts that warrants a very detailed investigation which should start with the Honorable Rev. Jim Mason. This would give families within Franklin County a fighting chance.
The existing procedures that were used for Marc Dann needs to stay in place and the legislature needs to be left to do their job.
Inspector general could get more power
Less than a week after lawmakers unleashed Ohio’s political watchdog on former Attorney General Marc Dann, some lawmakers are ready to give the investigator permanent authority to probe other statewide officeholders as well.
The idea, sources said, would remove the restrictions on the Ohio inspector general’s office that keep it from investigating independent officeholders: the attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor and treasurer.
Last Tuesday, the General Assembly gave Inspector General Thomas P. Charles one-time authority to launch a probe of Dann’s office, including but not limited to charges that a manager had sexually harassed subordinates.
Dann had strenuously objected to the investigation, saying his office already had completed a thorough internal review that led to two employees being fired, two more quitting and two others being disciplined.
Charles’ probe — heralded Wednesday morning by investigators lugging computer equipment and other materials from Dann’s office — was credited with ratcheting up pressure on Dann to resign. The Democrat did so later that day.
Yesterday, Charles said giving his office the power to investigate other officials could help cut down on wasteful spending and misconduct. Still, he said, he’d need to expand his staff of 19 to do so.
“There’s a lot of discussions that would need to take place,” Charles said. “Staffing, obviously, would be one item.”
Critics of expanding the inspector general’s authority point out that he reports to the governor, so the governor could order an investigation to find dirt on political rivals.
Currently, the inspector general only has the power to investigate agencies under the governor’s control — including state universities, bureaucracies and state commissions, but not courts, the House and Senate or independently elected officials.
Mark D. Lay is a Democrat contributor.
Blacked-out bills given to ‘Dispatch’
It seemed like a straightforward question: How much did it cost Ohio taxpayers to pursue the civil lawsuit against Mark D. Lay, and how was the money spent?
But getting the answer proved complicated, in part because the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation initially blacked out from the bills details such as a $6,000 trip to Bermuda to interview witnesses. The bureau called it an inadvertent mistake.
The Dispatch made a request last month for all records documenting the cost for the lawsuit against Lay, who managed a Bermuda-based hedge fund for the bureau that lost $216 million before it was shut down in 2005.
The attorney general’s office was able to provide only some of the documents because most of the invoices from the law firm that was hired for the case were forwarded to the bureau.
Initially, the bureau said those records were not public, then provided bills with large sections blacked out. After the newspaper questioned it, the bureau agreed to provide the records without redaction.
Most of what had been blocked involved details about meals and other travel costs for lawyers hired to work on the case for the state, including the one-week trip to Bermuda in 2006 by a lawyer and court reporter to take depositions.
That included $3,247 in airfare for the lawyer and court reporter; $2,341 in lodging; $240 in meals for the lawyer; and $108 in parking and taxi costs.
James Barnes, the chief legal counsel for the bureau, said the redaction was done by four administrative workers who aren’t lawyers.
They mistakenly thought they were following the lead of the attorney general’s office in shielding details of work performed by attorneys that would be protected under attorney-client privilege, Barnes said.
Published:Thursday, May 15, 2008
By Marc Kovac
The office’s first assistant attorney general is temporarily in charge.
COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland said he would immediately begin considering potential candidates to replace Attorney General Marc Dann.
Speaking to a packed Cabinet room full of reporters and camera crews, the governor said “maturity” was a top quality he would seek in compiling his short list.
“Maturity, experience, management ability — those certainly are criteria that I think are essential, especially now,” Strickland said. “We need someone who can provide confidence to the many, many employees of the attorney general’s office, someone who is recognized as a person of great integrity.”
Strickland answered reporters’ questions Wednesday during a Statehouse press conference after Dann’s resignation. The attorney general spoke for about three minutes to start the session, then left the room without answering questions.
The governor called Dann’s resignation the “honorable thing” and the “right thing” to do.
“This decision will allow the important work of the attorney general’s office to continue without the distraction caused by recent events,” Strickland said. “Today is a sad day, in many ways. I think it is appropriate for us all to acknowledge the personal pain and anguish that these events have caused the attorney general, his family members, his staff and others.”
The governor noted the attorney general’s accomplishments — environmental and consumer protections, foreclosure prevention and health care accessibility.
He also sent a strong message concerning state employees who feel they are being harassed on the job: “For any state employee who has suffered a hostile work environment or been subjected to sexual harassment, I would say to them that I, as governor, will not tolerate it if it comes to my knowledge and I have any ability to have control or authority over it.”
Strickland said the inspector general’s investigation of the office, launched Wednesday after he signed legislation late Tuesday giving Tom Charles that authority, would continue.
About a dozen members of the inspector general’s office were in Dann’s office earlier in the day interviewing employees, reviewing files and carting off computers and equipment.
Published:Friday, May 16, 2008
An attorney general candidate must be selected by Aug. 19.
YOUNGSTOWN — As governor, Ted Strickland makes hundreds of appointments.
Just last week, he made appointments to the Ohio Community Service Council, the State Medical Board, the Partnership for Continued Learning, and the State Board of Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics, among others.
But during his 16-plus months as governor, he faces perhaps his most important appointment decision — who will replace Marc Dann, a Liberty Democrat, as the state’s new attorney general.
Strickland, a Democrat formerly from Lisbon, started considering replacements shortly after Dann resigned Wednesday.
The governor doesn’t have a time line or a deadline for making the appointment, said Keith Dailey, his spokesman.
Those close to Strickland say the governor may take up to a month or possibly longer to select Dann’s replacement.
With Dann’s resignation, Tom Winters, first assistant attorney general, has the authority of the attorney general until Strickland selects a replacement.
The governor also must decide if he’ll pick a caretaker to run the office or select someone who would be the incumbent as the Democratic Party’s attorney general candidate in the Nov. 4 election to fill the remainder of Dann’s term. Dann’s unexpired term runs through January 2011.
The Democrats and Republicans will select a candidate to run for the rest of Dann’s term no later than 4 p.m. Aug. 19.
Also, those wanting to run as independents need nominating petitions with at least 750 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
May 7, 2008
The below press release came in Tuesday.
More than fraud in office and more than abuse of taxpayer trust, the press release shows what Democrats fear most about Marc Dann staying in office:
Steve Driehaus Should Return Money Tainted By Dann
COLUMBUS - Democrat candidate Rep. Steve Driehaus says Attorney General Marc Dann is wrong to stay in office, but he seems to have no problem pocketing the money Dann raised for him as the headliner for a fundraising event back in December:
“Steve Driehaus can’t have it both ways. Marc Dann’s mismanagement and cronyism proved him unfit for office. If Driehaus truly believes Dann should go, he would reject Dann’s financial support and return the tainted funds. Condemning Marc Dann while lining your campaign coffers with money he raised is just pure hypocrisy,” said Ohio Republican Party Spokesman John McClelland.
On December 3rd, 2007, Marc Dann headlined a fundraiser for Steve Driehaus at The Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati, OH. The money raised from this event is tainted by Dann’s involvement, and it should be returned.
Every Democrat candidate who’s running for office, and especially those who’ve rubbed elbows with Dann, will have his name hung around their candidacy for as many elections as his name still raises eyebrows.
That is where the Dems’ pursuit of Dann hits a bump.
He was idiotic. He clearly was negligent in his management. But as a state legislator said the other day, “Is stupidity impeachable?”
To drive impeachment, the Democrats will sell the public that Dann’s actions were nearly crimes against humanity. The reality is his deeds come closer to being crimes against re-election.
Driehaus is running for Congress this fall. He’s currently a state legislator in the Cincinnati area.
It’s completely silly to think that money Driehaus earned six months ago when Dann spoke at a fund-raiser is “tainted” money. Driehaus is no more tainted by Dann’s visit than the caterer who fed the dinner and the band that played tunes at the event. I’d hate to think the caterer and the band should fork over their profits from that event because of what’s now known about Dann.
Heck, it’s also debatable if the crowd showed up for Dann, for the food or for the band. Anyone know what they were serving?
Even sillier about the release: the Republicans say Driehaus should “return the money.” How? Should he place ads in the paper saying “If you attended my dinner Dec. 7 and paid $40 to get in, stop by my house to get your money back.”
Most of us would see the Republicans’ press release as silly. But not all of us. That’s who the Republicans will target, and the Democrats will suffer.
So do you impeach an attorney general for that?
Think what you want on Dann. Thinking badly would be justified.
But be careful in buying into what you hear about Dann from the governor and other state leaders.
This is a nice attempt to kill a story by burying in on page 14 of the front section, we won’t allow this to happen.
An internal investigation’s finding that a “hostile work environment” existed in former Attorney General Marc Dann’s office essentially means the state found itself guilty of sexual harassment.
Now, it appears that admission by Dann’s aides could open the spigot for lawsuits from not only the two women whose allegations led to the downfall of Dann and three top administrators, but also from other women in the office.
An attorney for the two women said two to three dozen other female employees of the attorney general’s office already have contacted him about possibly filing harassment lawsuits.
Question: How much will Ohio taxpayers have to cough up for financial damages and legal fees?
Answer: a lot, maybe more than $1 million.
Attorneys for Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout, the two women whose sexual-harassment complaints against their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, opened the scandal to public scrutiny, are discussing a financial settlement with the attorney general’s office.
Rex Elliott said he sent a letter Monday to Ben Espy. Espy is the lead investigator for the attorney general in the harassment complaints and the point man for the ongoing probes by Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles and others. Espy asked for more time to respond, and Elliott agreed: one more week.
“If these women could eliminate all this and go back to the point before this harassment began, they would do it in a second,” Elliott said. “But since they can’t do that, the only way in our system to adequately respond to that is a financial settlement.
“Compensation is the only way we have to right a wrong in our society.”
There might be other wrongs to right.
• Mariellen Aranda, who left Gutierrez’s section because she said she couldn’t cope with the sexual comments and foul language, complained in her transcript from the Espy investigation that she filed a sexual-harassment complaint last October, but that the Dann administration essentially ignored it.
• Dann’s former scheduler, Jessica Utovich, with whom he was romantically linked, submitted her resignation in writing May 1 and said she attempted to withdraw it hours later at Dann’s encouragement. Aides to the then-attorney general, however, rushed through the resignation anyway, announcing it at a news conference the next morning.
Utovich now is talking to her attorneys about a possible lawsuit.
• Utovich’s friend Jennifer Urban still works as an assistant attorney general but was stung by the office’s release of hundreds of e-mails in April, one of which referred to Urban’s tastes in liquor. Reporters had requested e-mails between Dann and Utovich, but many jocular messages to and from Urban were swept up in the same net.
Urban’s attorney, Vince Rakestraw, said Urban isn’t necessarily planning a lawsuit but could sue “if there are any future issues.”
More generally, however, Rakestraw said the state is vulnerable to lawsuits from current and former Dann employees because of the apparently pervasive misconduct and admission of a hostile work environment.
“The environment could be conducive to future claims,” Rakestraw said. “We know that lawyers are sensitive to bringing them.”
They would have no shortage of evidence. In interviews and reports compiled as part of the investigation into sexual-harassment claims against Gutierrez, several Dann employees described foul language, mistreatment of women and at least one sexual relationship occurring virtually in the open.
Molly Taylor, a former human-resources staff member, confirmed in testimony the accounts of others in the office that the higher-ups did little or nothing in response to the sexual-harassment complaints.
John S. Marshall, a Columbus lawyer specializing in sexual- harassment cases, has said the finding of a hostile work environment, by definition, means there was offensive, unwelcome and pervasive conduct based on gender.
While there is a $300,000 cap per individual on settlements for emotional distress related to sexual harassment, the state also could be liable for attorneys’ fees and loss of potential future earnings.
Dann’s resignation isn’t likely to spare the state any financial hurt. Legal experts say the state still bears the responsibility for the actions of officeholders when they were in office, regardless of whether they’re still there.