Panel to look into Ohio AG's office

By John O'Brien | Jun 13, 2008



COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio's Attorney General office has become the subject of another investigation, though the latest one is self-imposed.

Recently appointed Attorney General Nancy Hardin Rogers told members of her staff Thursday that a bipartisan panel headed by a retired Republican federal judge will begin an internal probe of the scandal-marred office formerly run by disgraced Democrat Marc Dann, The Associated Press is reporting.

Former U.S. District Court Judge Robert Duncan, a former state Supreme Court justice, will lead the panel, which will include former Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Elaine Hairston, U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart, former Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter T.C. Brown and Robert Rawson, formerly a managing partner of Jones Day in Cleveland, the report adds.

The office is already subject to investigations by state Auditor Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the state Inspector General, the Department of Administrative Services and the Highway Patrol.

Gov. Ted Strickland, who is endorsing state Treasurer Richard Cordray in November's elecction, led a group of Democrats who wanted Dann to resign in early May. They threatened 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.

His usage of $110,000 in campaign funds is being probed by Brunner, while Taylor said she is investigating his usage of "public funds."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien via e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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