Ohio's once defiant AG resigns office

Chris Rizo May 14, 2008, 11:19pm

Marc Dann

Kevin DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, facing the possibility of impeachment over an office sex scandal, announced his resignation Wednesday.

Dann, who was the first Democrat in a decade elected as Ohio's attorney general, resigned under amid pressure from fellow Democrats, who questioned his leadership after he admitted to having an affair with a 28-year-old subordinate and a report that criticized his management of the office.

In the days since he admitted to the extra-marital affair and the release of a damning internal investigation in to the attorney general's office work atmosphere, Dann, 46, worked on pursuing errant subprime mortgage lenders and other scofflaws.

"The only way to protect the priorities of the attorney general's office and the people of Ohio is to remove myself as attorney general," Dann said at a state Capitol press conference with Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by his side.

"It is my belief that this will preserve the great work being done by the office of Attorney General," said Dann, who faced impeachment charges brought by House Democrats this week.

Legislators had also authorized the state inspector general to investigate Dann's office, which was beset by sexual harassment claims.

First Assistant Attorney General Tom Winters, 58, will serve as the acting attorney general until an interim appointment is made.

Strickland will eventually name a successor to Dann, who hired Winters as his top legal aide about 17 months ago, shortly after he took office.

Running on an anti-corruption platform in November 2006, Dann was elected attorney general after unseating Republican Betty Montgomery in Democrats' near-sweep of statewide offices in Ohio.

Strickland said Dann, once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, "has come to realize the seriousness of the situation" as he and other Democratic leaders called for his resignation.

"This was not the failings of a party," Strickland told a news conference. "I think the party responded strongly and forcefully to clean our own house."

Strickland added that the scandal's political fallout for Democrats in the Buckeye State will be minimal.

"I have no reason to believe there will be political repercussions," he said. "I think there could have been or there would have been, if we ignored the circumstances that lead to this resignation but we did not."

Republicans called on Dann to resign shortly after a 57-page internal report criticized Dann's leadership of the attorney general's office.

"This embarrassment is far from over. Marc Dann's resignation is overdue, and the investigation into his mismanagement and corruption must continue," said Ohio Republican Party Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine.

As for the next attorney general, Strickland said he is looking for "maturity," he said, in addition to experience and management skills.

"We need someone who can provide confidence to the many, many employees of the attorney general's office," he told reporters.

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

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