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How was Dann involved in fiasco?



Published: Tue, April 15, 2008 @ 12:07 a.m.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann must know that his decision to place his communications director and confidant, Leo Jennings III, on paid administrative leave will simply cause reporters to redouble their efforts to get to the bottom of the sexual harassment scandal that has rocked his office.

Indeed, the action against Jennings puts the scandal uncomfortably close to the inner sanctum.

The overarching question today is this: How involved was the attorney general in what Jennings did and said in response to the sexual harassment allegations made by two female employees against Anthony Gutierrez, a high-ranking official who now is on paid administrative leave?

Did Dann sign off on the public statements the communications director made in explaining some of the circumstances surrounding the harassment claims?

Did Dann help formulate Jennings’ explanation for why the scheduler for the attorney general’s office, Jessica Utovich, would be at the condo he was sharing with his confidant and Gutierrez at night?

Jennings told the Columbus Dispatch that staffers occasionally visited the condo, but only for work-related purposes. “She was there to deliver schedules,” he said of Utovich.

Who were the other staffers (not including Jennings and Gutierrez) who paid work-related visits at night?

From the time Jennings was hired as the main spokesman for the attorney general’s office in January 2007, the question from this writer has been, “Why?”

Why hire someone who is not a professional journalist to deal with the press?

Why hire someone whose background is that of a political operative to be the face of credibility for an office that depends on credibility?

And, why hire someone who had political baggage from his endeavors in the Mahoning Valley?

When such questions were raised, Dann; his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff; and his father-in-law, Bentley Lenhoff, talked about what a great addition Jennings was to the attorney general’s office.

If only they had stepped back and looked at things objectively and impersonally.

Monday’s announcement that the communications director had been placed on paid leave opens a Pandora’s Box, rather than slamming the lid on the sexual harassment scandal.

The press release issued by the office did not provide any details of what Jennings did to warrant his forced leave of absence, other than to say there was information that surfaced over the weekend.

What information?

This story is snowballing, and if Dann isn’t careful, he will be buried.

His refusal to make public e-mail communications between him and Utovich has raised eyebrows — especially since he has long insisted that e-mails are public record.

Attorney General Marc Dann must come clean with everything, as quickly as possible, or else he’ll find himself dying from a thousand political cuts.

On Sunday, this writer called on Dann to get rid of Jennings. He has done so — somewhat.

Now, he should take the following advice: Stop stonewalling and let reporters have a go at you — assuming that you’ve got nothing to hide.


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