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The Trials of Marc Dann:

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has only been in office 16 months, and he's already engulfed in scandal. Some Republicans are even talking about impeachment. But his political opponents are not the only ones up in arms. Dann's fellow Democrats (and Democratic-leaning bloggers) are also upset. On Friday, four staffers from Dann's office quit or resigned due to a sexual harassment scandal and Dann admitted to an extra-marital affair with one of his subordinates. From the Plain Dealer report:

Dann, 46, a brash upstart when he won election in a near-sweep of statewide offices by Democrats in November 2006, finds himself barely holding his job just 16 months into a four-year term. His Democratic colleagues are keeping their distance, and Republicans are demanding he quit.

The affair with his 28-year-old former scheduler emerged as collateral damage from a probe into harassment charges against one of his top managers that resulted in two firings and two resignations.

Fired were Anthony Gutierrez, director of general services, and Leo Jennings III, director of communications. Edgar Simpson, chief of staff, would have been fired but resigned. The woman linked to Dann, Jessica Utovich, also quit.

But Dann did not pay the same price, despite an improper relationship that may have violated his own office policies and his role in the harassment claims that brought down his three close friends: Gutierrez, Jennings and Simpson. . . .

Dann, the state's top lawyer, said he is not sure whether he violated his own office policies by having a relationship with Utovich, an Avon Lake native. He said he engaged in the relationship during a difficult time in his marriage.

"I don't know what it [the policy] says," an emotional Dann said at the news conference. "A consensual affair is not necessarily a violation of the sexual harassment policy in my office."

He said admitting the affair to his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff, a Youngstown State University journalism professor, was punishment enough for him - even though others may have suffered worse fates by losing their jobs.

While Dann pleaded for mercy, he wasn't getting much of it early on from his Democratic colleagues.

"It is what it is. We'll see what happens from here," Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said.

Gov. Ted Strickland suggested that there was a double-standard at play - Dann survives while others lose their jobs. Strickland, who said he was disappointed and angry, again called for an independent investigation of the harassment allegations and any links to Dann. . . .

Dann later said in an interview at The Plain Dealer with reporters and editors that he would request an outside review, something he had refused to do until now. But that didn't quiet his critics.

Ohio Republican leaders pounced. Reminded that Dann swept into office as an upset winner in November 2006 by casting the GOP as crooked and unaccountable, Republicans now say Dann is unfit to be attorney general and should quit. . . .

Republicans said that if Dann doesn't step down, they could try to impeach him. The Ohio House could bring articles of impeachment while the Ohio Senate could hold a trial and serve as jury, according to the Ohio Constitution.

But Dann vowed to continue, saying, "I haven't done anything impeachable."

At least three Ohio papers (1, 2, 3) have called for Dann to resign. And it could get worse for the former ATL Lawyer of the Day, as the two women who originally filed the sexual harassment complaint (and others) claim Dann has yet to be candid with the public or state investigators about what he knew when, and what he did. The two women are also likely to file suit, which could lead to more unwelcome revelations. (As if there weren't enough already.)

It is a sad day for the state of Ohio that this man is our state's top law enforcement official. He should resign and let Gov. Strickland appoint a successor.

Dave N (mail):
But Dann vowed to continue, saying, "I haven't done anything impeachable."
Bill Clinton would agree.
5.3.2008 2:56pm
Doug Berman (mail) (www):
Jonathan,

Thanks for bringing attention to what is a VERY interesting story both legally and politically.

I largely agree with your "sad day" analysis and the call for Dann to resign. But there are some very interesting political realities involving a possible special election that might be keeping Dann in office through September.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, if Dann resigns now, Ohio will have a special AG election in Nov. I would expect an R to prevail in such a special election because of these scandals, and that could greatly impact the work of the AG's office and the entire structure of the Ohio executive branch. But, if Dan resigns Oct. 1, the governor's replacement gets to serve out the last 2 years of Dann's term (and, of course, not have to worry about a campaign until early 2010).

From a purely political "for the party" perspective, I could see the Ds urging Dann --- behind closed doors, of course --- to stay in power through September and then resign.

Relatedly, given that Ohio will surely be a swing state in the national race, I cannot help but wonder if the national Ds (from Dean to Clinton to Obama) are keeping a close eye on all this.
5.3.2008 3:27pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Doug --

I certainly understand why Democrats would want to ensure that they keep control of the AGs office until 2010, and that this could keep Dann in office through the summer. From a political standpoint, however, this would seem to carry some risks. For one thing, if the independent investigation Dann finally agreed to uncovers anything more, and provides further evidence that Dann was less-than-candid with his own office's investigation, he could be forced out before October anyway, and become a larger liability for Democrats than he is now. Given the (justifiable) outrage over the various GOP scandals and former Governor Taft's self-righteous hypocrisy about it all -- which led many GOP voters to cross the aisle in 2006 -- I would think there would be some political upside for Democrats were they to hold their own to a higher standard.

JHA
5.3.2008 3:46pm
PersonFromPorlock:

...I would think there would be some political upside for Democrats were they to hold their own to a higher standard.

On the other hand, wouldn't their heads explode?
5.3.2008 4:42pm
Cornellian (mail):
Fooling around with a lot of women is not for politicians, it's for billionaire high-tech weapon designers like Tony Stark.
5.3.2008 6:39pm
jccamp:
"Dann ...the former state senator who once worked in a small Youngstown law firm blamed his inexperience and said he was not equipped to take over a state agency with more than 1,400 employees, including 400 lawyers."

Well, there you go. It wasn't his fault...he had 400 attorneys to supervise. Anyone in that position would have gone Animal House.
5.3.2008 7:00pm
ithaqua (mail):

"I don't know what it [the policy] says," an emotional Dann said at the news conference. "A consensual affair is not necessarily a violation of the sexual harassment policy in my office."

I'm all in favor of seeing this adulterous scumbag thrown out on his ear, but since when is a *consensual* relationship 'sexual harassment'?
5.3.2008 8:06pm
BobVDV2 (mail):
Dann came to office on the strength of his state Senate investigation of Ohio's "Coingate" (alleged loss of over $250 million by the workers comp fund poor investments in rare coins, pushed by a big GOP contributor). Like Elliot Spitzer, one who comes to office as a moral crusader should be darn sure that the glass house is in order.
5.3.2008 8:47pm
Smokey:
He said he engaged in the relationship during a difficult time in his marriage.
Oh. Well, OK then.
5.3.2008 8:48pm
TerrencePhilip:
"Dann ...the former state senator who once worked in a small Youngstown law firm blamed his inexperience and said he was not equipped to take over a state agency with more than 1,400 employees, including 400 lawyers."

Now there's a good defense: I was not qualified for my job!
5.4.2008 12:03am
~aardvark (mail):
Resign? Sure, no problem! I doubt the independent investigation will be completed in three months. So even if there is more that's going to come out, Dann should be able to duck and weave through the summer.

But impeachment??! For what? Having an affair? I always thought that Republicans in Ohio were rather stupid, on average, so I am not surprised at this opportunistic BS. But if none of them called on Taft and Ney to resign until there was really no choice (Ney resigned when jail time became inevitable), them calling for Dann's resignation and impeachment looks, at best, disingenuous.

On the other front, yes, having an affair with a subordinate is always bordering on sexual harassment. It's not about the consensual er... porking. It's about the effect it has on other subordinates. One question that is likely to come up is preferential treatment. Another common issue--although not one likely to apply here--is possible inappropriate pressure on other employees to--for lack of better term--put out. The combination of the two virtually guarantees that a relationship with a subordinate constitutes sexual harassment.

One thing that might work in Dann's favor is his relatively brief tenure. He likely did not have a chance to promote his squeeze. And, if the relationship started before he was sworn in, that might play in his favor as well--there is a general expectation of important office functions being performed by loyal supporters--personal staff, so to speak--even if the jobs are not strictly speaking political.

Given how many Republican office holders have been handed their heads in 2006, if Spitzer and Dann are it for major Dem scandals in the two years that followed, it's a pretty good record. Let's not forget what happened to Republicans even before the corruption probes hit--Gingrich and Livingston both resigning under mysterious circumstances and, in both cases the mystery turning out to be multiple affairs. If Dems behave as shamelessly as Republicans did between 1994 and 2004, GOP majorities will be restored pretty fast. But, for the moment, all we see is a couple of isolated cases.
5.4.2008 12:07am
guest3987:
One thing that might work in Dann's favor is his relatively brief tenure. He likely did not have a chance to promote his squeeze.

Wrong. After their relationship began Dann gave her a new job with a 27% raise.

If there is an impeachment, it will be about far more than an affair. This is the fourth or fifth scandal for Dann in less than a year.
5.4.2008 12:27am
guest3987:
Another common issue--although not one likely to apply here--is possible inappropriate pressure on other employees to--for lack of better term--put out.

Read the news stories relating to the rest of the scandal. The issue certainly does apply here, at least with regard to the newly-fired employees.
5.4.2008 12:31am
Dave N (mail):
A politician in over his head. This is the just the latest in a series of scandals that have plagued his tenure. He needs to go.
5.4.2008 1:19am
~aardvark (mail):
Thanks, guest3987. You've just completed my argument for sexual harassment laws applying even in cases of consensual relationships with subordinates. Basically, ethical standards usually require a transfer of one of the employees into a different environment--obviously Dann could not change jobs, so his squeeze should have got a different job. One problem, however, we could end up in a Wolfowitz situation. This is precisely the reason why libs advocated for this type of sexual harassment laws in the late 1980s and 1990s. Efforts to codify these essentially workplace rules into laws have traditionally been met with Republican resistance. Irrespectively of Dann's eventual fate, what we have here is either a cultural shift or the usual opportunistic hypocrisy from Ohio Republicans. Whatever it is, I am yet to see any evidence that impeachment is a legitimate option.
5.5.2008 12:28am
publius4ohio (mail):
OK..the impeachment is not about having an affair -- and I won't presume to debate those more legally qualified whether a consensual relationship with a subordinate constitutes sexual harassment laws -- take a look at the transcripts. Even though Mr. Espy's work is largely in-ept work at how can we minimize this and sweep it under the rug -- Marc and his Youngstown cronies drink and drive state vehicles, and in the case of one wreck them, while the hiring of his totally unqualified Youngstown cronies was bad enough, Marc clearly hired freely and without respect to ability, qualifications (unless you count "smoking hot bodies" as a significant office skill.

Its not about the affair -- the affair and the sexual harassment only brought to light the woeful incompetence on numerous levels of Marc Dan and "his associates" at the AGs office. I don't know many state employees who qualify for a 30% pay raise after 9 months on the job without a change in position. But that's what Marc's concubine got...then when the affair came the the attention of his wife .... he had another job created for her. I am sorry, but the AGs office and my taxpayer dollars are not the province of Marc Dann's concubine budget...atleast Eliot used his own money to get a piece of A$$.
5.5.2008 10:25pm