Dann places longtime friend on paid leave pending investigation
COLUMBUS, Ohio (LegalNewsline) -- In the 17 months since he surprised political pundits to become Ohio Attorney General, Marc Dann has earned a reputation as an aggressive leader unafraid to take on big business, big tobacco and anyone else considered big. However, the news lately from the offices of Ohio's top lawyer has been more about the alleged extracurricular activities of Dann's closest associates rather than the latest litigations pursued by his staff. Two female employees in the AG's telecommunications office have accused their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, Dann's General Services Director and a longtime friend, of sexually harassing them. Dann placed Gutierrez on paid administrative leave last Monday pending the outcome of an investigation into the charges. Last Tuesday, Dann appointed Ben Espy, a senior member of his staff, former Ohio state senator, and a one-time candidate for both Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and mayor of Columbus, to lead the investigation. Assistant Attorney General Julie Pfeiffer, from the AG's employment-law section, will aid Espy in the investigation. According to Ted Hart, a spokesman in Dann's office, "Mr. Espy has been instructed to go forward with due diligence," although no deadline has been set for him to release any findings. Calling Espy a "top dog" in the AG's office, Hart added "the investigation is moving forward." The 26-year-old accusers, Vanessa Stout and Cindy Stankoski, filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Cleveland on Tuesday. That department investigates allegations of discrimination and other violations of federal employment laws and operates independently of both the Ohio AG's office and other branches of state government. Dann recused himself from the case in a written statement released last Tuesday, noting he may be interviewed as part of the investigation. According to Hart, both Stout and Stankoski continue to work for the Attorney General "in their same jobs."