Dann, for better or worse, making headlines

John O'Brien Sep. 11, 2007, 2:17pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann fashions himself a newsmaker, but it's unlikely this is what he had in mind.

In the past few days, three stories have surfaced in the papers in Ohio that could cast doubt on Dann's office. One details why Dann's top auditor was forced to quit, and another chronicles the third lawsuit to have initial success against Dann's emergency rule on electronic gaming machines.

The third had Dann renewing a state contract with a law firm that has contributed to his campaign. That same firm contributed to former Attorney General Jim Petro, and the original contract was one of Dann's anti-corruption points during his campaign.

A report Tuesday in the Columbus Dispatch says the State Controlling Board allowed Dann to renew the contract with Akron firm Roetzel and Andress, which will receive $1 million for work it performs for the state-supported University of Akron.

Petro hired the firm in March 2006 because he was unhappy with five other firms who were performing the work. Some of the attorneys claimed they lost the work because they did not contribute to Petro's 2002 campaign.

Roetzel and Andress contributed $3,450 to Dann in 2006.

A Saturday report in the Columbus Dispatch has one of Dann's employees admitting the office made a mistake in hiring Rick Houze to be director of the internal audit section. Houze claimed to be a certified public accountant but is not.

The Dispatch says Dann's office did not check publicly available Accountancy Board records before hiring him to a $90,000-a-year job in June.

"We were under the impression that he was still an active CPA," First Assistant Attorney General Thomas Winters said in the report. "This is a high fiduciary position within the office, basically reporting directly to the attorney general. Had he not agreed to resign effective immediately, we would have terminated him."

According to Houze, he admitted during an interview that he was no longer an active CPA, though his resume said otherwise.

The Columbus Dispatch also reported that another temporary restraining order was granted Friday against Dann's emergency gaming rule. The manufacturer of Puzzlebug will not need to shut down the game until the legal mess is sorted out.

Gov. Ted Strickland and Dann recently teamed up to reform the gaming industry, with Dann issuing an emergency rule in August that makes a distinction between illegal games of chance and legal games of skill. The rule followed an executive order from Strickland.

Dann's rule states calling an illegal slot machine a "skill-based amusement machine" is an unfair and deceptive act or practice under the state's Consumer Sales Practices Act. It also provides a definition of what makes a machine skill-based, eliminating the existing ambiguity in state law, Dann said.

The makers of Tic Tac Fruit and Nudgemaster have also won temporary restraining orders. Another action is pending in Lorain County Court.

"Laws are created by the legislature," Silver Slate, Inc., attorney Robert DeSanto said according to the report.

"I think that Marc Dann is acting like a king, declaring these deceptive. That is not acceptable."

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