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.

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Editorial Consensus Dann Must Go:

The chorus of voices calling on Ohio AG Marc Dann to resign is getting louder. Today's Cleveland Plain Dealer:

By his own actions and by those of the people he trusted the most, Dann has turned the attorney general's office into a laughingstock.

He has embarrassed the good people who work there.

He has embarrassed the governor whose coattails he rode into office, and their party.

He has embarrassed his wife and children, who did nothing to deserve this.

He has embarrassed the people who voted for him and those who depend on him.

Through his disfunction, he has given aid and comfort to those who would prey upon those Ohioans and their communities who need the state to stand up for them - and who had some reason to believe that under his stewardship, the attorney general's office was doing just that.

In short, Marc Dann has disgraced himself far more than he seems to realize. He has fallen so far, so fast, that it's impossible to see how he can recover, personally, politically or professionally.

That's why he needs to go. . . .

The honor of the attorney general's office and that of its 1,400 employees has been compromised by a handful of people who accompanied Dann to Columbus and composed his inner circle. He claims to have been unaware of what Gutierrez and Jennings were up to, even when they shared an apartment. He seems unable to fathom the message he sent to his agency by carrying on a not-terribly-secret affair with a young staffer. He seems to think that good intentions can offset a long string of serious errors and misjudgments.

No one in public life is perfect. But all must be accountable. . . .

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio's attorney general must be able to provide leadership, command respect and exercise strong judgment. Marc Dann has failed miserably in all three and is not fit to serve.

Dann disgraced himself and his department, operating an office where the atmosphere was, in his words, "embarrassingly undignified."

That's an understatement. Dann, elected in November 2006 when Democrats swept four of five statewide offices, acknowledged at a news conference Friday that he had an affair with a subordinate while one of his lieutenants was sexually harassing two other attorney-general staffers. Yet another top aide tampered with the handling of the harassment complaints.

After the release of an in-house investigation Friday, two officials, General Services Director Anthony Gutierrez and Communications Director Leo Jennings III, were fired and a top adviser, Edgar C. Simpson, resigned.

The problem for Ohio's highest-ranking law enforcer is that problems caused by the three men are a direct result of Dann's bad judgment and lack of leadership. He knew the characters of his lieutenants when he hired them. Last year, he shared with Gutierrez and Jennings a Dublin-area condo where some of the sexual harassment occurred while he was there.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The tone of an organization is set by its leader. By that criterion, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann should resign.

On Friday Dann fired two top aides and forced the resignation of another because they violated the department's sex harassment policy. An hour later Dann acknowledged in a press conference that the standard for such misconduct had been modeled on his own behavior, as he had conducted an extramarital affair with a young female staffer. Yet Dann had the gall to say he would not step down because he was doing a "great" job as attorney general.

His hypocrisy is breathtaking. Dann was elected in 2006 as part of a Democratic sweep that promised to clean up state government from the taint of the scandal-plagued Taft years. His behavior is a betrayal of that promise and an embarrassment to the honorable people who serve in government.

Gov. Ted Strickland said he was shocked at the double standard Dann is exhibiting by staying on after firing his aides, but he stopped short of calling for Dann's resignation. Too bad. This is a moment when the governor should demand that Dann do what is right. . . .

There are those, including apparently Dann, who ask why a consensual extramarital affair is anyone else's business, much less a reason for him to leave office. But the issue is not whether Dann had an affair, but that he had an affair with someone who worked for him.

It is a legitimate question to ask whether he employed this woman at public expense because she was qualified or because she was his girlfriend. It also raises the specter of a boss using his position to obtain sexual favors, which is why such behavior is a violation of policy in most workplaces.

From the Akron Beacon-Journal:

Perhaps you're wondering after reviewing the fallout from the state attorney general's office, two firings of top aides, one resignation, the boss himself admitting a ''romantic relationship'' with an employee: What would an independent investigation have revealed?

Not that all of us haven't learned enough. Still, Marc Dann chose to keep the examination inside his office, handing the job to Ben Espy, a most capable attorney and a former state senator. An earlier version of Dann wouldn't have let such a dodge pass without yelping righteously and furiously. . . .

Dann hired his pal Anthony Gutierrez to run the maintenance, purchasing and mailroom operations. The Espy report describes no less than a manager out of control, pressuring women in the office for sexual activity, intimidating other workers by flaunting his connections to Dann, even suggesting that his family had mob connections.

Gutierrez mixed drinking with driving state vehicles (getting into wrecks). He owed thousands in back taxes at the time of his hiring. His escapade triggered the investigation. One evening, he brought a younger female colleague to the Dublin condo he shared with Dann and Leo Jennings, the attorney general's communications director. She drank too much, fell asleep and charges that she woke up with her pants unbuttoned and Gutierrez next to her.

Jennings joined Gutierrez in losing his job. The report stated that Jennings ''attempted to impede the investigation by attempting to persuade [assistant attorney general] Jennifer Urban to give false testimony under oath.''

Urban told Dann in a text message: ''I will not lie like Leo wants me to. . . . I love you and Tony and Leo, but not enough to get disbarred.''

How refreshing! Honor and duty in the attorney general's office. . . .

Must he go? Put a Republican in his place, and Marc Dann would demand a resignation, rushing past worthy accomplishments. That is the trap he set for himself: Will he be taken seriously?

Dann's hometown Youngstown Vindicator is the one voice calling for Dann to get a second chance — at least until an independent investigation is completed.

UPDATE: The Dispatch reports the first sexual harassment complaint was filed, and handled inappropriately, last October.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: I have just learned the good news that AG Marc Dann is withdrawing as the Case Western Reserve University School of Law's commencement speaker.

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Dann Subject to Seven Investigations?

Think Ohio AG Marc Dann is only in trouble for his affair and Animal House antics? Not so. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Dann's office is undergoing seven investigations of one sort or another, a number that could increase. In addition to the various inquiries about the sexual-harassment complaints filed against one of Dann's subordinates (and former housemates), investigators are looking into his office's use of state credit cards, computers, and vehicles, and state Republicans may file an Ohio Election Commission complaint alleging misuse of campaign funds to pay for Dann's condo.

Here's more from the Dispatch:

Mark Collins, one of the attorneys for sexual-harassment complainants Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout, said Dann's office has made it easy for his team.

"The internal investigation found a hostile work environment so pervasive, and with the type of lewd and ridiculous behavior, that they made our case for us."

Collins said Dann's last-minute change in his sworn statement about whether Jessica Utovich, his scheduler to whom he was romantically linked, stayed overnight at his Dublin-area condo probably doesn't amount to perjury under oath, as Republican officials have suggested.

However, he said, the disciplinary counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court could act to look into whether any of Dann's actions violated the code of professional conduct for lawyers. Dann was cited by the counsel in 2002 for failing to adequately represent a client in a divorce case.

Meanwhile yesterday, more Ohio newspapers joined the call for Dann's resignation. The list now includes The Dispatch, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Dayton Daily News, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The (Canton) Repository, The Lima News, (Mansfield) News Journal, The (Newark) Advocate and The (Warren) Tribune-Chronicle, former employer of Dann's wife. The (Youngstown) Vindicator harshly criticized Dann yesterday but said he deserves a second chance.

In addition, Mary Jo Kilroy, a congressional candidate in central Ohio's 15th District and a Franklin County commissioner, called for her fellow Democrat to resign.

"I am appalled that those in power would abuse their authority in such a shameful way," she said in a statement.

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Gov. Strickland Asks Dann to Resign:

This morning Ohio Governor Ted Strickland sent a letter to embattled Ohio AG Marc Dann asking him to resign. The letter was also signed by the four other elected Democrats holding statewide office, the Democratic leadership in the Ohio legislature, and the Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. Yet as the Columbus Dispatch reports, Dann is resisting these calls to resign, prompting speculation that he could actually be impeached and removed from office.

The fact that the state's Democratic Party leadership is united is seeking to see Dann resign is notable because if Dann were to step down now, his successor would have to stand for reelection this November. If he can hold on until October, on the other hand, his successor would finish out the balance of his term. Apparently the Democratic Party leadership believes the risk of losing the AG office this fall is outweighed by the nature of Dann's misconduct and its consequences for the AG's office as an institution. (Of course, concerns about the political consequences of keeping Dann around through this fall's elections could play a role too.) In any event, I think it's clear at this point that Dann's days are numbered.

In related news, Marc Dann had been scheduled to be the speaker at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law's commencement. He is an alum, and the law school has a tradition of featuring one of our own on that day. This morning, however, I learned that Dann had elected to "withdraw" as the commencement speaker. (ATL has more here.) Whether he did this on his own initiative or at the request of our Dean, it is all to the good. Now that he's on a roll, Dann should take the opportunity to "withdraw" from his current office as well.

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Will Dann Be Impeached?

Officials from his own party have threatened to impeach embattled Ohio AG Marc "Dannimal House" Dann, but Dann is hanging on (for now). While there's no schedule for impeachment proceedings at the moment, this Saturday the state Democratic Party will vote on rescinding its 2006 endorsement of Dann for AG. Such a vote would change Dann's affiliation from "Democrat" to "Independent elected as a Democrat."

If the legislature follows through on the impeachment, Dann could be the first statewide Ohio elected official ever to be impeached and removed. The Plain Dealer is listing potential replacements.

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Can Dann Be Impeached or Removed?

Scandal plagued Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is holding firm and refusing to resign. Indeed, he's hired a political opposition-research firm to assist in communications. Still, every prominent political figure from Dann's own political party, including the Governor, has said Dann must resign or face impeachment.

If Dann had any honor, he'd resign. That much is plain. But does that mean he should be impeached? Has he even engaged in impeachable offenses? The Ohio Constitition provides that any state officer may be impeached for any misdemeanor in office." The key question, it seems to me, is what qualifies as a "misdemeanor."

Under one reading, this would require that an officer actually commit a crime in order to be eligibe for impeachment. After all, "misdemeanor" typically connotes a particular category of crime. I find this reading implausible, however, as it would suggest that a state officer can be impeached for committing lessor crimes ("misdemeanors") but not greater crimes ("felonies"). I suppose one could argue that in most cases, the commission of a felony will include the commission of a misdemeanor as a lesser-included offense, but I still find this argument unpersuasive.

I find more plausible a reading of the Constitution that uses "misdemeanor" in the traditional sense of meaning a "misdeed" or "an instance of misbehavior." (See various definitions here.) Under this definition, Dann has clearly committed impeachable offenses, even if one ignores his affair, including misleading investigators, misappropriation and misuse of state resources, accommodating and enabling misdeeds by his subordinates, and contributing to the creation of a hostile work environment within the state AG's office, among other things. And I am willing to bet more will be revealed by pending investigations and litigation.

For more on whether Dann should be impeached, see this debate between two Columbus Dispatch writers. (Yes, No).

Interestingly enough, under Ohio law, there is another way for Dann to be removed from office. The Ohio Constitution provides:

Laws shall be passed providing for the prompt removal from office, upon complaint and hearing, of all officers, including state officers, judges and members of the general assembly, for any misconduct involving moral turpitude or for other cause provided by law; and this method of removal shall be in addition to impeachment or other method of removal authorized by the constitution.
The relevant removal provisions of the Ohio Code provide for the initiation of judicially administered removal proceedings upon the filing of a complaint signed by a number of voters equal or grater to fifteen percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Importantly, the standard for removal incorporates a fairly broad definition of official misconduct that would justify impeachment. Section 3.07 of the Ohio Code provides:
Any person holding office in this state, or in any municipal corporation, county, or subdivision thereof, coming within the official classification in Section 38 of Article II, Ohio Constitution, who willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, refuses or willfully neglects to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance is guilty of misconduct in office. Upon complaint and hearing in the manner provided for in sections 3.07 to 3.10, inclusive, of the Revised Code, such person shall have judgment of forfeiture of said office with all its emoluments entered thereon against him, creating thereby in said office a vacancy to be filled as prescribed by law. The proceedings provided for in such sections are in addition to impeachment and other methods of removal authorized by law, and such sections do not divest the governor or any other authority of the jurisdiction given in removal proceedings.
Whether or not one believes Dann is guilty of a "misdemeanor" justifying impeachment under the Ohio Constitution, it seems to me that he is clearly guilty of "misconduct" as defined by the Ohio Code, and vulnerable to a removal action. Initiating such an action would be costly - requiring the collection of over 600,000 signatures -- and placing Dann's fate in the hands of the judiciary could unduly politicize that branch. Bipartisan impeachment proceedings would be preferable to a citizen-initiated removal action, and a resignation would be best of all.

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Democrats Oust the Dannimal:

The Ohio Democratic Party officially withdrew its 2006 endorsement of Marc Dann for Attorney General. (The official resolution is reproduced here.) Though largely symbolic, this move strips Dann of the privileges of an elected official within the party, and officially changes his status from that of a Democratic officeholder, to an "Independent elected as a Democrat." The Ohio AFL-CIO, a key Democratic constituency, has also called for Dann to resign.

Meanwhile, new revelations about Dann and his cronies keep coming, and the state legislature is poised to authorize an Inspector General investigation of the AG's office as it prepares for impeachment proceedings.

Dann stubbornly holds onto his position, seeking personal and professional vindication. He claims he can still serve the Ohio people effectively, but there are doubts he was ever particularly good at his job -- either as AG or in private practice.

When Dann was elected as Ohio's top lawyer in 2006, he had practiced at a small Youngstown law office handling divorces, business filings and routine criminal cases. His record included a reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court for mishandling a divorce case and the lowest rating in a respected law directory.

Dann's “C” rating on the Martindale-Hubbard peer rating system, which only grants ratings of A, B and C, is troubling for a lawyer of Dann's experience, said John T. Brown, a Mansfield lawyer who previously served on the Ohio Supreme Court's commission on grievances and discipline. Dann, 46, was licensed to practice law in 1987.

“All I know is he has a very low rating for being a lawyer in practice that many years,” Brown said. Most successful lawyers move up to an “A” or “B” rating after five or 10 years in practice, he said.

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Caged Dannimal:

Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment against state Attorney General Marc Dann this morning. The articles, available here, feature nine counts of "misconduct in office rising to the level of malfeasance, neglect, nonfeasance, gross neglect of duty, improper exercise of authority and gross immorality," including the obstruction of an investigation into sexual harassment complaints in his office and misleading statements to investigators. 42 of 45 House Democrats signed on.

Also this morning, the Columbus Dispatch reportedon a potential FBI investigation of Dann's ties to gambling interests. Such an investigation would come on top of several others already, or soon to be, underway, including an independent review of the AG office's investigation of sexual harassment complaints, an official audit of the AG office's expense reports to investigate the alleged misuse of state property, and an overall investigation by the state's inspector general. Meanwhile, rumors of additional allegations against Dann and his cronies continue to swirl around the state capitol, something I have heard from several sources.

Perhaps because he was feeling the heat, Dann allegedly offered to resign if state legislators did not authorize an immediate IG investigation of his office. According to the Dispatch:

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan said Michael Harshman, Dann’s attorney, told him to offer Dann’s resignation this afternoon “within the hour” if the Senate removed an emergency clause in a bill giving the state inspector general the power to investigate the scandal.

Taking out the clause would have the bill to take effect in 90 days instead of immediately.

But Hagan, a Youngstown-area Democrat, said Republican Senate President Bill M. Harris refused, and the bill was passed by both the House and Senate today with the emergency clause included. . . .

In response to media reports that his resignation was imminent, Dann issued a terse statement saying he has not resigned and there would be no further announcements today.

Sources said Dann told a number of legislators that an investigation by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles “would cause all sorts of problems” for him and he offered to leave office if the bill was scotched.

Despite Dann’s request, the House and Senate today approved the bill directing Charles to investigate and sent it to Strickland, who signed it tonight.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is also on the story.

UPDATE: The Blue bloggers at BuckeyeStateBlog understand the implications of today's developments:

Dann has completely given up hope on his political career and instead might be trying to avoid more serious allegations from coming to light that would have more serious consequences. He must have something juicy to hide that he feels will be exposed by the IG in an investigation.
One other thing about this scandal, it has a catchy tune and beat you can dance to.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: From this AM's Dispatch: "Sources close to Dann say he was caught off guard by the surprisingly rapid action from by the Democrats and is trying desperately to leave office with some dignity intact." Um, it's a little late for that.

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Dann Announcement - Is Resignation Imminent? - MULTIPLE UPDATES

Embattled and scandal-ridden Ohio Attorney General Marc "Dannimal House" Dann will give a statement at noon today amid reports that his resignation is imminent. Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE: At 12:15pm there's still no sign of Dann. Meanwhile, the Dispatch reports on a truly ridiculous rumor:

some of those close to Dann speculated this morning that he would not be stepping down, and instead may launch a legal battle to halt an independent investigation of his office by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles. Dann had not made any announcements to his top advisers as of 10:30.

Some Dann advisers have raised the possibility of Dann raising a constitutional separate of powers challenge, since the inspector general normally does not have the authority to investigate the attorney general's office.

Such a challenge would be absurd, bordering on frivolous. It would also prove that these scandals are preventing the AG's office from doing its job, and validate widespread speculation (reinforced by the daily trickle of new disclosures) that Dann's misdeeds run far deeper than what's been disclosed to date. It's ever-more embarrassing to acknowledge that this clown is a Case Western alum.

BREAKING UPDATE - 12:30pm: Dann's press statement has been canceled and the AG's office is on "lockdown" to prevent the destruction or removal of documents. From the Dispatch:

A press conference by Attorney General Marc Dann will not be held and the 17th floor of the Rhodes Tower where his office is located is apparently on lock-down to protect sensitive documents that may be subject to investigation.

The State Highway Patrol is in the attorney general's offices, checking employee badges and monitoring to see if documents are being removed from the floor, sources told The Dispatch. Troopers were even searching the purses of employees leaving the offices.

Whether the patrol was working at with Inspector General Thomas P. Charles, who promised to launch an investigation today, could not immediately be confirmed.

MORE from the PD: Dann Out to Lunch.

UPDATE - 1:20pm: A television news report on the Ohio News Network added some new details to the deal Dann sought yesterday. Specifically, the report claims Dann demanded another job and immunity from criminal prosecution in return for his resignation. To their credit, neither Democratic or Republican officeholders would contemplate such a deal.

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Dann Is Done:

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has finally resigned. Based on the early reports, it does not appear that he was able to strike any exit deal to ensure a soft landing or protect himself from prosecution. More here and here.

Until Governor Ted Strickland appoints a successor, First Assistant Attorney General Tom Winters will serve as AG. Here is Winters' memo to AG personnel.

UPDATE: Dann's resignation letter is here.

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Dann Fallout:

The Columbus Dispatch reports on how disgraced Ohio Atorney General Marc Dann's mismanagement of his office could make the state liable in several expected and potential lawsuits.

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A Marc Dann Mystery:

An Ohio state AG office attorney's Blackberry was mysteriously stolen just hours after the Inspector General's office swept the AG's office, locking down staff computers. What a weird coincidence.

UPDATE: The missing BlackBerry has been found.

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