COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) — It has not been a good month for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that in late March, two female members of Dann’s staff alleged they were victims of sexual harassment from at least one member of Dann’s senior staff, now that same staffer has been accused of crashing a state-owned vehicle and not filing an accident report.
Dann placed Anthony Gutierrez, his general services chief, on paid administrative leave when the sexual harassment revelations became public earlier this month. Dann’s communications director, Leo Jennings III, is also under suspension pending the outcome of an internal investigation of the charges.
In a letter to Dann released Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the business arm of Gov. Ted Strickland’s office, the AG’s office and Gutierrez were faulted for not completing an accident report after the crash last October. The governor’s office also wants to know whether Gutierrez was driving his state-issued SUV for personal purposes at the time of the accident. If the use was unauthorized, the letter noted the AG’s office had the duty to pursue criminal charges against Gutierrez and that he has to reimburse the state for repairs to the SUV.
In a related development, the Ohio Highway Patrol agreed not only to investigate the damage to the 2004 SUV but also to try to determine whether alcohol was involved in Gutierrez’s accident. Records at the Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation show that on Oct. 10, 2007, Gutierrez brought the damaged vehicle in for extensive repairs to its fenders, doors and rear panels. That SUV was later converted for use as Dann’s ‘Sunshine Express.’
Meanwhile, a development related to the internal investigation of the sexual harassment charges was announced Wednesday by Thomas Winters, Dann’s First Assistant Attorney General. In a written statement to the media, Winters said 23 witnesses had been called in connection to the probe and that four of those witnesses had been recalled between April 14 and 22.
Winters noted the testimony phase of the investigation is now complete. Next, Executive Assistant Attorney General Ben Espy and Assistant Attorney General Julie Pfeiffer, who are overseeing the probe, will prepare an investigatory report and recommendations. The report is expected to be finalized the week ending May 2. Winters said once the report is issued, he will review it, and, “if appropriate, take disciplinary action.” The report and transcripts of interviews will also be made available to the public.
The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Office in Cleveland is also investigating the sexual harassment allegations clouding the AG’s office.