Richard Cordray: Ohio's new attorney general

By Chris Rizo | Jan 8, 2009

Richard Cordray (D)

Marc Dann (D)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-Richard Cordray on Thursday became Ohio's new attorney general, taking leadership of an office that has been marred by scandal.

Cordray, the former state treasurer, campaigned as a reformer, vowing to restore confidence in the attorney general's office, which was thrust into the national spotlight after fellow Democrat and former Attorney General Marc Dann resigned in mid-May amid a sexual harassment scandal.

Elected in the Nov. 4 general election, Cordray will serve the remaining two years on Dann's term. He competed against Republican former U.S. Attorney Mike Crites and non-affiliated candidate Robert Owen for the post.

Political observers have said the special election was largely a referendum on ethics, with each of the candidates touting their unique ability to bring change and credibility to the office that was wracked by scandal during the Dann administration.

In a pre-election interview with Legal Newsline, Cordray said restoring integrity to the attorney general's office was a priority for him.

Cordray said just as he was able to restore public confidence in how taxpayers' money was managed following financial scandals that rocked state government before he was elected state treasurer, he would similarly restore public trust in the AG's office.

"In the attorney general's office ... I would go in there to continue the work done to clean the place up," Cordray told LNL.

He takes office just weeks after Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles said in a report that Dann misused his office. Charles, the state's independent watchdog, said he found at least two dozen acts of wrongdoing by Dann during his 17 months in office.

Dann created a corporation that solicited more than $195,000 in unreported donations. The report said all but about $8,000 was spent, including $12,000 that went to his wife's business, Zesty Dishes.

"Regrettably, Marc Dan used his position as attorney general to indulge himself, his family and his friends. By tapping these easily available contributions, which were given to him by more-than-willing interested outside parties, he supplemented his statutory wage from the state of Ohio and used the money to pay personal expenses that had no relation to his office or his campaign."

The report also found that Dann's office tolerated the sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.

"The rude, vulgar and abusive conduct of senior management, including the attorney general himself, created a hostile work environment that is an embarrassment to state government," the report said.

Following Dann's resignation, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Ohio State University Law School Dean Nancy Rogers to fill the post until a new AG could be elected and took office.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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