Skip to comments.Report rips Dann's 'house of scandal' (Former 'Rat Ohio AG)
Posted on 12/22/2008 3:31:53 PM PST by buccaneer81
Report rips Dann's 'house of scandal' Probes find 25 misdeeds by disgraced ex-AG, wife, others Monday, December 22, 2008 12:22 PM Updated: Monday, December 22, 2008 04:33 PM By Alan Johnson and James Nash THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Former Attorney General Marc Dann "violated the public trust," misused his state office and his campaign and transition funds, and turned his office into a "house of scandal," Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles concluded in a scathing investigative report released today.
"This office was built for disaster," Charles said in a press conference outlining the report. "He came in and brought a lot of people who were unqualified. It was very difficult not to make that an X-rated report," he said, citing dozens of incidents of boorish behavior, sexually charged situations and foul language.
Charles and other investigating agencies found 25 acts of wrongdoing by Dann, his several underlings and his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff Dann. Some of them, mostly those concerning Anthony Gutierrez, Dann's head of general services and long-time friend, could be felonies, explained David Freel, head of the Ohio Ethics Comission. Wrongdoing by Gutierrez was referred to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in Franklin, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Dann fires back
In a conference call with reporters responding to the report, Dann denied wrongdoing and accused Charles of having a vendetta against him dating back to the scandal at the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Dann was critical of what he saw as Charles' lax handling of that investigation.
"He has never forgiven me for that," Dann said. "We've never had a good relationship. He knew that I knew what he did."
David Freel, head of the Ohio Ethics Commission, said there was no vendetta: "We just followed where the facts and money took us."
Dann and his attorney, Donald McTigue, said there were "no new facts" in Charles report. They described it as an aggregation of information included in news accounts in the past seven months.
"He's thrown them together in the most unfavorable way," Dann said.
"There was no self-enrichment of anybody, that I was aware of or my wife was aware of, in the campaign or transition committee." State auditor's findings
But there was a lengthy listing of findings, both in Charles' report and one issued by state Auditor Mary Taylor, who conducted a separate special audit of Dann's office. She reported $618,584 in findings that she said showed a "general lack of understanding, blatant disregard, or inability to manage an office." Taylor identified another 175 expenditures totaling $3.6 million that merit further investigation, including use of state airplanes, purchase of vehicles, and use of cell phones.
"Marc Dann used his position as attorney general to indulge himself, his family and his friends...," Charles' 63-page report said. "He supplemented his statutory wage from the state of Ohio and used money to pay personal expenses that had no relation to his office or his campaign ... he used money donated by campaign contributors as a personal honey pot."
Gov. Ted Strickland, who had helped force Dann out of office with a threat of impeachment, said he had not fully read the inspector general's report, but was aware of many of the details.
"There was a level of immaturity that was astonishing that led to all kinds of, apparently, poor judgments and inappropriate behaviors," Strickland said.
"I'm just glad that he did not remain in office. I think that would have been incredibly harmful to our state if we had had months and months and months of this."
With Democrat Richard Cordray poised to become attorney general, "the people will be able to have confidence in the attorney general's office," Strickland said. "Marc will have to sink or swim with whatever the outcome of whatever the investigation or possible prosecution may be." Prosecution possible
Charles referred the matter to other authorities for possible further action, including whether Dann and others violated state ethics law and other statutes. Some findings also were referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Elections Commission for possible charges, as well as the Franklin County and Columbus city prosecutors, the Internal Revenue Service, the Ohio Department of Taxation, and the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel.
Charles' report excoriated Dann and his staff on numerous counts, saying they misused state resources, squandered $30,000 a month on expensive BlackBerry phones, and "ballooned" the size of the state fleet by 99 vehicles at a cost of $1.9 million, including more than $300,000 tapped from an inappropriate fund.
In addition, Dann was faulted for office management, including hiring a "coterie of young women who were dubbed 'the Dannettes.' So unprofessional was the dress and conduct of some of these women that a project assistant was assigned to conduct etiquette classes for them," the report said.
The report specifically cited wrongdoing in Dann's handling of a campaign transition fund, nine incidences of misused of campaign money, seven cases of misuse of state property (including vehicles, planes and telephones and a print shop), and eight incidences of cronyism and office management.
The probe also found some instances in which money wound up in the pocket of Mrs. Dann, too. Saga began in April
Dann, 46, a Democrat who successfully campaigned against the "culture of corruption" to win the 2006 race for attorney general, resigned May 14 -- 5 1/2 weeks after The Dispatch published the first story about sexual-harassment complaints filed against one of Dann's top aides by two of his employees, Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout.
The complaints against Gutierrez triggered a chain of events that unraveled Dann's 17-month term as Ohio's top lawyer.
The inspector general said he did no further investigation of the sexual harassment complaints, which he said were dealt with in a May 2 internal investigation by the attorney general's office that concluded there was a "hostile work environment" in the office.
Gutierrez was fired and Dann spokesman and confidante, Leo Jennings III, was also fired after attempting to obstruct the investigation into the harassment complaints. Dann's chief of staff and another longtime friend, Edgar C. Simpson, resigned under pressure in the face of numerous management shortcomings. Dann himself admitted to an extramarital affair with Jessica Utovich, his 28-year-old scheduler; he acknowledged that the relationship might have contributed to the permissive office environment.
Dann's resignation came the same day Charles launched an unprecedented investigation of his office. Normally, the watchdog agency can't investigate independent elected offices other than the governor, but the Ohio General Assembly gave Charles special authorization to investigate Dann.
That eventful day began about 11 a.m. as Charles and about a dozen investigators arrived unannounced at Dann's offices and began seizing paper records, desktop and laptop computers, telephones and other electronic devices. Dann's office computer and his state BlackBerry phone were seized, as was his state vehicle, a GMC Suburban. Investigators simultaneously raided Dann's satellite office in Youngstown.
Authorities formed a multi-jurisdictional task force, including the Ohio Ethics Commission, the Department of Administrative Services, the State Highway Patrol, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, State Auditor Mary Taylor, and the Ohio Elections Commission. The team issued subpoenas, interviewed witnesses and gathered thousands of pages of documents, including campaign finance reports, bank records, e-mails and other records. Denials steadfast
In the months since stepping down, Dann has put his Youngstown-area home up for sale, worked for his wife's dishware retailer, set up a small law practice in Cleveland, and strenuously denied allegations of wrongdoing that have dribbled out during the investigation.
Dann came under pressure to resign after a May 2 report by two of his office's attorneys described widespread mismanagement, cronyism and tolerance for sexual harassment in his office. That day, Dann also admitted to the affair with his scheduler.
Top Democratic officials demanded that Dann resign or face impeachment, and the state party formally disowned him. House Democrats filed nine articles of impeachment on May 13.
Dann was replaced temporarily by Nancy H. Rogers, former dean of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Cordray, the state treasurer, was elected in the Nov. 4 election to fill the remaining two years of the four-year term.
Late last Thursday, Charles and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner filed two complaints with the Ohio Elections Commission against Dann and others, alleging that they broke state law numerous times by converting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, then disguising it in falsified reports submitted to the state.
Receipts and expenditures that Dann's campaign filed with the secretary of state "contain incomplete, inaccurate and false information concerning expenditures from the fund for travel, food, beverages, cell phones and other expenditures," Charles said in a sworn statement last week.
The complaint includes the allegation that payments from the campaign fund were made to a supplier of a business operated by Mrs. Dann. That constituted illegal conversion to personal use, according to the complaint. Air travel and lodging for Dann's family, along with cell phones for his wife and two minor children, were cited.
Brunner's 160-page complaint focused on more than $40,000 in campaign cash that Dann spent to install a security system at his Youngstown-area home. Dann explained the expenditures were justified because he had received death threats.
Dann's defenders have pointed out that some of the questioned expenditures -- such as candy, newspapers and other sundries -- are common among officeholders and are rarely disputed. Controversy widens
Other Dann staffers have become embroiled in the controversy.
Dann's former campaign treasurer, Mary Beth Snyder, denied any suggestion that she had cooked the campaign books at Dann's behest. Snyder said over the weekend that she merely "paid the bills that were presented to me."
"I had no authority to approve anything -- I was definitely the lowest man on the totem pole," Snyder said in an e-mail message to The Dispatch yesterday.
Snyder said she played almost no role in the decision to pay for the security system at Dann's home with campaign funds. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office has questioned the $40,000 expenditure.
"Meetings were held regarding how the security would be handled with senior staff of the (attorney general's) office and (the office's law-enforcement unit) and I believe the local police and possibly others. I was not included in those meetings, I was not asked to give permission or to authorize anything -- that was not my role. I was told they decided the campaign would pay for the security system instead of charging the state/taxpayers and I was to pay the bills as they came in."
In 2007 and early this year, Dann's campaign fund paid Snyder $2,000 a month for consulting services -- plus an additional $1,200 in June for work relating to the inspector general's investigation. Snyder also worked for Dann in the attorney general's office, earning $52,000 a year as a Youngstown-based public-relations staffer. She still has that job. Attorney resigns
Erin G. Rosen, an attorney in the office who was close to Dann, resigned last week amid the investigation. The office suspended Rosen for five days last month after concluding that she had used a confidential law-enforcement database to check up on social acquaintances. That information was passed along to Charles, who documented 27 questionable records checks.
Earlier, Rosen and Dann denied any wrongdoing in Rosen's personal child-support case, during which Dann had helped her draft legal papers. The attorney general's office does not allow its lawyers to provide legal services to their colleagues in personal matters.
Rosen did not respond to a message from The Dispatch.
He hails from Youngstown, the baby Chicago of political corruption.
Dann should have enough street cred now to successfully run for Congress and represent the Mohoning Valley.
Ah, but he still lacks the panache, not mention the hair-do, of Jim Trafficant.
BTW, the hair thing should now be scrutinized. Look at Traficant and Blago. It's a wonder Donald Trump hasn't gone to prison...yet.
or be appointed by Blago to serve as an Illinois senator. :-)
Investigations of the attorney general’s office under Marc Dann have turned up that:
Dann’s security detail provided “chauffeur services” for his family in state vehicles, including taking Dann’s daughter and friends to see Miley Cyrus in Cleveland and riding along as his son practiced for his driver’s test.
Dann “squandered” $30,000 a month by giving staff members BlackBerries and bought 99 vehicles for his office costing $1.9 million.
Dann hired a group of young women dubbed the “Dannettes” whose conduct and dress were so inappropriate that they had to be sent to etiquette classes.
Dann set the tone for office conduct in which displeasure with subordinates “was expressed by screaming, yelling, breaking phones and other office property.”
Dann, who had $9.11 in checking when he became attorney general, used campaign cash to pay for everyday living expenses.
In a meeting on a death-penalty case, Dann asked a female staffer, “Do you want to make a porno?” When she once rejected a dinner invitation, he said, “I’m the (f-ing) attorney general and if I give you an order to have dinner with me you’ll be there.”