Report: Dann replaced counsel with Democratic contributors

John O'Brien Oct. 9, 2007, 3:20pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's decision to change the lead counsel on a fraud lawsuit against Fannie Mae was the subject of a report in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Berman DeValerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo of Boston was running the case until Aug. 3, when William Titelman, a partner at New York's Bernstein Liebhard &Lifshitz took over. Titelman has a long history of donating to Democratic causes, though he was not a contributor to Dann's campaign.

Titelman's son Ethan, vice president of a communications firm, donated $10,000 to Dann and $15,000 more to the state's Democratic party. The report says William Titelman suggested to his son making the donations, but Ethan had the final word.

Meanwhile, the Berman firm was left wondering why it was dropped. It, too, had donated to Dann, but gave even more to his Republican challenger during the 2006 election, Betty Montgomery.

Attorneys and their spouses at the firm gave $18,000 to Montgomery, while only $5,000 went to Dann.

"There was a professional difference on strategy and tactics, so the Attorney General made a decision that it was in the best interests of the case that a change needed to be made," a spokesman for Dann's office told the Wall Street Journal.

In 2004, an individual investor initiated the case against Fannie Mae, and then-Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro took the lead in the case. He was representing two Ohio state retirement funds.

Petro, a Republican, appointed the Berman firm, as well as another.

In the report, Duke University School of Law professor James Cox said, "The judge should call a timeout and dig into this."

"I don't believe politics played a role in the switch," Mr. Titelman said. "I don't think anyone out there would say my firm isn't very well qualified to do this kind of work."

"We were in regular contact with the attorney general's office," the Berman firm said. "At no time did anyone indicate there was a disagreement over strategy or tactics."

Dann's campaign contributors have been a frequent issue with his office.

The State Controlling Board allowed Dann to renew a 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.

Dann also has received more than $47,000 from gambling interests since he took office in January, during which time he has actively attempted to regulate the state's gaming industry

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