First suit filed by new Ohio AG

John O'Brien May 30, 2008, 2:59pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - A month of controversy and change in the Ohio Attorney General's office ended Friday with the simple filing of a lawsuit.

Two days into her reign as the state's new AG, Nancy Hardin Rogers gave the go-ahead for the suit, which alleges The Gutter Champ of using high-pressure tactics to sell gutter installations.

"This case is a good example of why we need strong consumer protection laws to fight home improvement fraud," said Nadine Ballard, chief of the Consumer Protection Section in the Attorney General's Office.

"We want to do all we can to help victims and to stop unscrupulous contractors from harming consumers."

Rogers is Ohio's third Attorney General this month, following the disgraced Democrat Marc Dann and interim AG Tom Winters. She is the dean of Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law.

A permanent Attorney General will be picked by voters in November's election. The state's Republican party recently began its search for a candidate.

Gov. Ted Strickland led a group of Democrats who wanted Dann to resign, threatening him with impeachment after Dann admitted to an affair May 1 while releasing 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."

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 lawsuit against The Gutter Champ, filed in Franklin County's Court of Common Pleas, alleges the company's sales representatives told consumers that original financing terms were not accepted by third-party financers and pressured them into signing more costly contracts.

The suit says Gutter Champ performed shoddy work and failed to deliver services paid for, as well as violating the state's Home Solicitation Sales Act when it failed to provide refunds.

The suit seeks a civil penalty of at least $25,000.

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