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Dann still mum on Jennings



Published: Thu, April 17, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

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Cindy Stankoski

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Leo Jennings

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Anthony Gutierrez

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Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann

By David Skolnick

Dann still mum on Jennings

A note scribbled on a piece of paper may shed light on the suspension.

YOUNGSTOWN — Attorney General Marc Dann’s office is tight-lipped on the details that led to the suspension of Leo Jennings III, the agency’s communications director.

This is the same office that’s provided e-mails, text messages and documents detailing sexual harassment allegations by two females employees against Anthony S. Gutierrez, its suspended director of general services.

Dann’s office won’t discuss the reasons for Jennings’ suspension although attorney general officials did when Gutierrez was suspended April 7 with pay. He receives about $87,500 annually.

An entry in notes taken during an interview with one of the women about the harassment complaints may shed some light on the reason for Jennings’ suspension.

The statement was written March 31 by Angie Smedlund, the office’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer, in a complaint filed by Cindy Stankoski ¬≠— one of the two 26-year-old attorney general employees accusing Gutierrez of sexual harassment.

A note scribbled above page four of the eight-page complaint statement reads: “Leo Tony destroyed texts. Tony admitted to Charlie.” It’s unclear if Smedlund made that notation or whether “text” refers to text messages reportedly sent by Stankoski.

Stankoski wrote in a March 27 e-mail to Smedlund that “the text messages I am referring to is a big part of this investigation.”

The information is related to the investigation of alleged sexual harassment by Gutierrez, 50, of Liberty, also a longtime friend and neighbor of Dann.

Dann, Gutierrez and Jennings shared a condominium in Dublin from February to December 2007.

Jennings, 52, of Poland, is Dann’s communications director and longtime friend.

The office suspended Jennings on Monday, with pay, based on “new information received over the weekend.”

Attempts to reach Jennings, who is paid about $102,000 annually, have been unsuccessful.

Ted Hart, the office’s deputy communications director, says the attorney general’s policy is to not disclose information about the investigation until it’s finished.

However, responding to an inquiry from The Vindicator, the office released the contents of Jennings’ personnel file Wednesday night.

“An allegation has been raised in connection with your actions related to an open investigation of sexual harassment charges,” the letter to Jennings reads.

Dann has spoken briefly about portions of the investigation to reporters when confronted by them.

With rumors mounting in Columbus of an impending resignation, Dann, a Liberty Democrat, told reporters Wednesday that any thought of him resigning is “ridiculous” and that’s he’s doing a “great job.”

Gutierrez was questioned Wednesday as part of the investigation, Hart said. Dann hasn’t been questioned yet and Hart didn’t know if Jennings has been questioned.

There is no time table for the completion of the internal investigation being handled by two senior staff members, Hart said.

Late Tuesday the office released Smedlund’s notes from her March 31 interviews with Stankoski and Vanessa Stout of Dublin, formerly of Masury.

Not included in Stankoski’s statement, written by Smedlund with many abbreviations, is when the text messages were allegedly “destroyed.” It’s unclear what is meant by “destroyed.”

If that claim by Stankoski is proved, the timing and its motive could get Jennings and Gutierrez in legal hot water, according to some Mahoning Valley attorneys.

Any attempt to hinder this type of investigation could lead to charges of obstruction of justice and/or tampering with evidence, the attorneys say.

“It’s pretty bad if that’s true,” said state Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th and an attorney, when asked what would happen if Stankoski’s claims are proven.

State Rep. Thomas Letson of Warren, D-64th and also an attorney, said he “wouldn’t speculate on” any charges until the investigation is over.

The notes taken during the interviews with Stout and Stankoski paint a picture of Gutierrez, who won’t comment on the investigation, as a supervisor who constantly harassed the two women.

Stout, who acknowledged a “bad criminal record,” said Gutierrez told her “you owe me” for getting her the $14-an-hour job at the attorney general’s office.

Stout said she went a few times to the condo shared by Gutierrez, Dann and Jennings.

While she never felt threatened, Stout said they “all drank a lot” and “all are pigs.”

Stankoski described being pressured to go out with Gutierrez on Sept. 10, which ended with her passed out drunk, waking up in his bed. Stankoski said she went to the condo at the invitation of Dann to eat pizza.

She acknowledges that she “didn’t feel violated but could have been.”

She also described another time when she went out with Gutierrez, Jennings and Jennifer Urban, an assistant attorney general. When the latter two left, Stankoski said Gutierrez told her he wanted to have sex.

skolnick@vindy.com


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