Dann admits affair with staffer, refuses to resign

Chris Rizo May 3, 2008, 12:54am

Marc Dann

Kevin DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann says he has no plans to step down despite a report Friday criticizing his leadership and admitting that he had an extra-marital affair with a subordinate.

"I have not conducted myself in a way that is consistent with my values as a husband, a father and my responsibilities as attorney general," the Democratic attorney general said at a news conference Friday.

"In a difficult time in my marriage, I got involved in a romantic relationship with a member of my staff. That conduct was intrinsically wrong," the 46-year-old Democrat said.

Dann, a former state senator who was elected attorney general in 2006, said he was surprised that he was elected as attorney general and conceded that he "was not as well prepared for the office as I should have been."

He admitted to the affair on Friday morning, after the release of a 57-page report substantiating allegations of sexual harassment against Dann aide and friend Anthony Gutierrez.

The report found that: "Management employees encouraged and tolerated a workplace atmosphere of frequent profanity, extremely casual and improper personal interactions with subordinates and a general lack of professionalism and respect."

On the heels of the scathing report, Gutierrez and the attorney general's communications director Leo Jennings III were fired for trying to coax an assistant attorney general to lie to investigators, while Dann's chief of staff, Edgar Simpson, was forced to resign.

Dann had the affair with Jessica Utovich, 28, who voluntarily resigned her position as AG office's travel coordinator.

The report also found that Dann "exercised poor judgment by engaging in and permitting (employee) Cindy Stankoski to come to his home for drinks and pizza."

The report continued that, "When it was obvious that she was intoxicated, arrangements should have been made to have her escorted home in a safe manner."

Among those who have called on Dann to step down is Kevin DeWine, deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, who said the attorney general allows an immoral and unethical atmosphere to thrive under his watch.

"He turned the attorney general's office into a raunchy frat pad, lied to the press, and lied to his own investigator," Dewine said.

"It's simply not acceptable that everyone but Dann himself will be held accountable. I'm confident the voters will terminate Mr. Dann's employment at the end of his disgraceful term if he does not do so himself sooner," he added.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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