Democrats distancing from Dann, threaten action

John O'Brien May 5, 2008, 11:38am



COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - It's not just Republican leadership asking troubled Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann to step down because of an affair with a staff member, and he may now be facing impeachment if he does not.

Dann said Monday that Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, once firmly in Dann's political corner, and other statewide Democratic office holders sent him a letter advising he resign. Strickland even called Dann Sunday night to notify him of the letter.

"I wanted to share with you what I told the Governor," said Dann, who admitted to the affair Friday morning while releasing a 57-page report substantiating allegations of sexual harassment against Dann aide and friend Anthony Gutierrez.

"I told him that he and the other officeholders, as well as the members of the Legislature, should continue to expect that we will continue to provide high-quality legal services to all of them."

Like Friday, when the state's Republican party called for his resignation, Dann said Monday that he can put his affair behind him.

"I am in the office, have rolled up my sleeves and am working on behalf of the people of the State of Ohio," he said. "I hope all of you will do the same. I think that there is a great chance that we can continue to do great work for the people of the state.

"I know that this is difficult, and I am truly sorry to have put all of you in this position. But our work is too important to do anything but our jobs today."

The report released Friday 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."

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 his 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."

Strickland wrote that he and the other state Democrats have lost faith in him.

"Sadly, we no longer have even the most remote hope that you can continue to effectively serve as Attorney General and that is why we are asking for your resignation," he wrote, according to a report by The Associated Press.

"We also want to make you aware that if you do not choose to resign, Democratic members of the Ohio House of Representatives will immediately introduce a resolution seeking your impeachment.

"We sincerely hope that this action will not be necessary and that you will act in the best interest of the people of Ohio by tendering your resignation Monday morning."

Among the others 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.

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