Dann loses support of key backer

By John O'Brien | May 9, 2008


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - The largest labor organization in Ohio wants to see the resignation of troubled state Attorney General Marc Dann.

The president of the 700,000-member Ohio AFL-CIO told the Columbus Dispatch that his organization has soured on the first-term Democrat after endorsing him in 2006. Dann recently admitted to an affair with a staff member.

"The attorney general's conduct in this entire matter, and the pattern of conduct in his office over the past months, mandates that he leave his office immediately," Joe Rugola said, according to the report.

"It is a sad day for Ohio, for Marc's family and friends and for the entire Mahoning Valley community. But there is no excuse for the reprehensible conduct which led to this crisis and which has brought disgrace upon Marc Dann's office."

Gov. Ted Strickland is leading a group of Democrats who want Dann to resign. They have threatened him with impeachment.

Dann, meanwhile, says he can put the past behind him and continue with his job.

"I am in the office, have rolled up my sleeves and am working on behalf of the people of the State of Ohio," he said. "I hope all of you will do the same. I think that there is a great chance that we can continue to do great work for the people of the state.

"I know that this is difficult, and I am truly sorry to have put all of you in this position. But our work is too important to do anything but our jobs today."

Dann admitted to the affair May 1 while releasing a 57-page report substantiating allegations of sexual harassment against Dann aide and friend Anthony Gutierrez.

The report released Friday 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 report continued that, "When it was obvious that she was intoxicated, arrangements should have been made to have her escorted home in a safe manner."

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

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