New AG making changes in Ohio lineup

John O'Brien Jun. 3, 2008, 3:25pm



COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio's newest Attorney General apparently wants to avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest.

Nancy Hardin Rogers changed the lineup in her office Tuesday, moving top aide Tom Winters to Chief Deputy Attorney General because her husband is employed at a firm for which Winters formerly worked.

It is another switch for Winters, who filled in as interim Attorney General after Democrat Marc Dann admitted to an affair with a staff member and resigned.

"I am well aware that this office is staffed with dedicated, professional associates who are here to serve with the highest ethical standards," said Rogers, on leave from her job as dean of Ohio State University's law school.

The firms at issue are Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, which employs her husband Douglas, and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

The Vorys firm has more than $1 million in contracts with the State, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Rogers said she will not participate in issues or contracts related to the two firms and Ohio State, and Winters will continue to not participate in decisions regarding the Vorys firm.

Sheryl Creed Maxfield, the office's chief counsel, is taking over Winters' spot as First Assistant Attorney General. She received permission to continue or discontinue special counsel appointments with the two firms.

"Tom will continue as the office's chief lawyer for legal and law enforcement matters..." Rogers said.

Rogers said she will follow any advice from the Ohio Ethics Commission on related matters.

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 in early May, 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."

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