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Former AG says the Ohio inspector general has a ‘clear bias’ against him



Published: Tue, December 23, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

photo

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann

By David Skolnick

The former attorney general says the Ohio inspector general has a ‘clear bias’ against him.

Though mistakes were made during his short tenure as attorney general, Marc Dann said, a state inspector general’s report on the agency under his watch is “filled with innuendo rather than fact.”

The report, released Monday, states that Dann, “a cadre of his former senior managers and a handful of employees” turned the “office of the ‘people’s lawyer’ into a house of scandal.”

Dann fired back Monday, saying that Inspector General Thomas P. Charles has a “clear bias” against him, and the two “never had a good relationship.”

Charles listed 25 acts of wrongdoing by Dann, some of his closest friends in the attorney general’s office, and his wife, Alyssa Lenhoff.

The report accuses Dann and the others of improperly using money from the state, his campaign fund and a transition corporation he established shortly after his improbable victory in the 2006 election for attorney general.

“Regrettably, Marc Dann used his position as attorney general to indulge himself, his family and his friends,” Charles wrote in the report.

As part of the investigation, the Ohio auditor also conducted a special audit of the attorney general’s office under Dann’s watch identifying 175 expenditures, totaling $3.66 million, for further examination. That report states the attorney general’s office under Dann bought 99 new vehicles, totaling $1.94 million, with 14 of them, at a cost of about $310,000, paid from an “unallowable funding source.”

Among the purchases questioned by Charles from Dann’s campaign and transition funds are $12,263.47 paid to a dinnerware sales company owned by his wife, Lenhoff; $9,955 directly to her; and $3,182 to one of her company’s suppliers.

“It is inconceivable that the payment made to Zesty Dishes was anything other than a personal use of Dann’s campaign account,” Charles wrote.

The purchases were for dinnerware, dried fruits, jellies and jams given as gifts to supporters, donors and volunteers, which is legal and appropriate, Dann and Lenhoff said.

Buying the items from Lenhoff’s business and the supplier, Dann said, was less expensive than buying them elsewhere.

“We could get better prices,” Lenhoff said. “I made zero profit. I could buy them wholesale.”

Lenhoff said the $9,955 was a reimbursement to her for other such purchases.

Dann refused to talk to the inspector general. Lenhoff said she would have been willing to discuss the questions raised about her involvement in the investigation but a letter was never sent asking for her cooperation.

Dann resigned under pressure May 14 after an internal attorney general report criticized the office for cronyism and a lack of professionalism.

Dann also admitted having an affair with Jessica Utovich, his then-scheduler.

“The last seven months have been difficult for me,” Lenhoff said. “Overall, it’s a really sad time for me and has been for me for a really long time. Marc did some things that were horrendous and hurtful to me.”

But what Charles did with this report — questioning money given to her as well as the improper use of cell phones and free travel by her and her children — was worse, Lenhoff said.

“There is innuendo, half-truths that paint us in a way that’s absolutely unforgivable.”

In the report, Charles wrote that there were “two other curiosities” involving Lenhoff and the M&R Land Co., a company owned by Michael Harshman, Dann’s attorney and confidant.

The first was $10,000 given to Lenhoff. She and Harshman said she borrowed the money in April for her business. Lenhoff added that she’s paid back a portion of the loan.

Another charge was that Dann’s campaign account wrote a $2,480 check to M&R, deposited March 6. During that same month, Lenhoff made five cash deposits to her and Dann’s personal bank account for that exact amount, Charles said.

Harshman said the two events are not related.

Lenhoff said she didn’t think she made that deposit amount, and added that the two aren’t connected in any way.

The report also questions a $50,000 check to Harshman by Dann’s campaign fund May 14, the day Dann resigned as attorney general.

Harshman said that he wasn’t sure about the date of the check but that it was after May 14.

The $50,000 was for legal work Harshman did for Dann for a five-week period before, during and after the attorney general’s resignation.

The report states the check was deposited into Harshman’s personal account instead of his business account, and no explanation of the check was given.

“To the best of my knowledge, it was to the M&R Land account,” Harshman said.

Harshman said he and Dann discussed a price for his legal services and agreed on the $50,000 amount.

“For five weeks of my life I didn’t do anything else” except provide legal advice to Dann, Harshman said.

Harshman sent an e-mail statement to Dann for the legal fees, but said the hours aren’t itemized on the bill.

“I’m concerned about illegalities,” Harshman said. “I don’t see anything illegal in [the report]. I’m not saying I’m happy with everything in the report.”

Dann also said he didn’t do anything illegal.

The report was forwarded to numerous agencies for investigation including the IRS, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, the Columbus City Attorney’s Office, the Ohio Department of Taxation, the Ohio Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel, the Ohio Elections Commission and the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Charles criticized the working conditions at the attorney general’s office while Dann was in charge.

The office was “marked by abusive and vulgar language, excessive flirtatiousness and a failure by Dann and other managers to maintain professional boundaries,” Charles wrote. “Dann hired into his office 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 in the office was assigned to conduct etiquette classes for them.”

Among “the Dannettes,” was Utovich, Charles wrote.

Dann said he never heard that nickname for women in his office and that it’s an insult to refer to them in that way.

Also, Charles criticized a $40,610.28 security system at Dann’s house in Liberty.

“We are left to conclude that Dann used his campaign account to fund a major capital improvement for his home,” Charles wrote.

He also questioned why new windows were installed at Dann’s home because the owner of the security company installing the system said the existing windows were adequate.

During the investigation, Charles said he learned that Anthony Gutierrez, a close friend of Dann’s and his director of general services, instructed the contractor installing the windows to add $5,000 to the bill.

Gutierrez then instructed the contractor to write three checks to three creditors to whom Gutierrez’s company, MTV Construction, owed money, according to the report.

Dann said that is the only new item to emerge from the lengthy investigation and that he had no idea Gutierrez did that.

Gutierrez couldn’t be reached Monday to comment.

Dann also said Monday that his home in Liberty is no longer for sale.

The report also accuses Leo Jennings III, another close friend of Dann’s and his communications director, of wrongdoing.

The report states that Dann made “consulting fee payments” to Jennings from his campaign fund to pay for a condominium in Dublin shared by the two along with Gutierrez.

“It is clear that the consulting fee payments to Jennings were nothing more than a way to misappropriate campaign funds for personal use,” Charles wrote.

Jennings couldn’t be reached Monday to comment. Dann denied the allegation.

The report accused Jennings of engaging in “unprofessional conduct,” including an affair he had with Jennifer Urban, an assistant attorney general, who acknowledged the relationship.

Charles added that inappropriate behavior by Jennings, who is married, wasn’t limited to the affair with Urban.

“We found a number of sexually explicit e-mails on his state computer,” Charles wrote.

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1computer_rick(137 comments)posted 6 years ago

Can't we just get over this? Yes, the Mahoning valley is crooked. Yes, there is a long and interesting history of public officials taking graft, kickbacks, graft, but hey, who doesn't? And yes, the media outlets in the area, WKBN 570 Radio, the three TV broacasters, the Vindicator, all know the names and know the particulars and yet ignore it all. And yes, the police force spends all there time botching small time arrests of hoods, and winks and nods at the big players, because you don't want to make waves in a pond as small as this.

My question is, so what? Who cares? I don't. Everybody does it. Look, someday, I hope to have enough cash stashed away to get away with whatever I want to get away with. But in the meantime, this is just a nothing story in a nothing town. Please leave us alone, and let us get back to doing what we do best. Whatever that is...

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2JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years ago

Posts by Robert and computer_rick are right on.

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3scrooge(563 comments)posted 6 years ago

“For five weeks of my life I didn’t do anything else” except provide legal advice to Dann, Harshman said.

Sounds like Harshman will be doing a lot more of the same for Dann and possibly himself in the future.

Computer_rick's comment that "everybody does it" doesn't make it right. With attitude like that it's no wonder the valley, state, country is in the position it's in.
Probably voted Democrat in the past election

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4VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 6 years ago

Our Democratic method of appointing leaders who we feel will best represent us has taken a real hit with recent political embarassments in Ohio as well as other states. We are showing the rest of the world how great our political system is. What a shame.....these "crooks" need to be put to prison for 30 years...how dare they think they are "all and powerful" and abuse their privilages given to them by us, the voters and citizens who are expected to abide by all laws of the land. "WE THE PEOPLE" are the ones who put these jerks in their positions. "WE THE PEOPLE" are the ones who remove them and "WE THE PEOPLE" are the ones who demand justice.

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5leftofstr8(33 comments)posted 6 years ago

These are times when I am embarrassed to be a Democrat. Between Dann and the Governor of Illinois, it's hard to keep your head up. That being said, you can spin the wheel and pick a Republican scandal on any given day as well. I am a Dem because I believe in our social platform, and that will never change, so I am stuck with it.

Computer Rick does scare me that he is as much of the problem as Dann is, and the Valley in general. The "that's just the way it is," attitude of most is unfortunately a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Rick notes in wanting to have enough money for him to do the same. That attitude is as much of why people leave this valley in almost equal number to the reasons of no jobs. Why stay in a town where even if you have a good job, it's still never wanting to improve by it's citizens.

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6projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years ago

Can't Mark Dann just go away? Seriously, move to Alaska, Canada, Mexico, somewhere far, far away from Ytown. Hasn't he disgraced his name, his family and his associations enough? Oh, and let's not forget the valor and esteem he has left Youngstown with. Don't even get me started on the trash he had hired and the uber shady Guiterrez (he should move, too). I can't believe Dann actually is surprised he is being investigated (what an ego!). Just wait until the IRS gets ahold of him . . .

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7gistol(72 comments)posted 6 years ago

"Get over it" "Who Cares?" I seriously hope that is sarcasm and not a feeling that residents could care less where their money is spent. Unless, of course, those posting those comments are not actually tax-payers and are living off the system. As a tax-payer that sees cops & firemen laid off because 'money is gone' while the crooked politicians enjoy blackberrys and limo rides to Miley Cyrus concerts, I am totally disgusted. The sad part is this is just a drop in the bucket compared to all the corruption that has yet to be found. Every local city should be investigated on a regular basis. There is corruption found after months and years of personal spending and waste, in the meantime cops are laid off, firemen laid off, streets go unpaved or unsalted, crime rises, other city employees are laid off.... If they would investigate regularly, put an end to it before the money is gone, this area could actually start to grow. But instead it's always after the fact, after the fact that dozens of people are laid off and tax dollars are blown.

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8hardyharr(4 comments)posted 6 years ago

From another Ohio publication today:

"He [Dann, the man] specifically defended the payments his transition committee made to his wife and her business, saying those payment covered small gifts given to supporters at the time of his inauguration.

He said he opted to use his wife's company as a supplier because it was able to secure wholesale rates on the gifs, which included jams and jellies.

'We will prove that there were no double billings, there was no self-enrichment that I was aware of,' he said. 'All my activity, and all the activity of members of my family were lawful at all times."

No self-enrichment that he was aware of? Why qualify your statement be suggesting that he may not have been aware of something? Pathetic.

Was Danny-boy aware of his office's sexual harassment policy? Was he aware that slepping with the help is a sin?

At a time when Marcy-Marc could have kept his head down, his strategy is to attack the integrity and judgment of the inspector general. On what moral high ground can he stand? On what record of good judgment does he rely on?

And we are looking at the inaurgural committee donors and the contracts that may received from Dann?

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9xytown(63 comments)posted 6 years ago

What a shame! And people wonder why business and visitors stay away from Youngstown and it's suburbs.

One of the major problems is "the majority" of Youngstowners feel that it is the same everywhere and don't seem to recognize how bad and embarrasing the Youngstown region really is.

It is a city that time forgot.

There is certainly no light at the end of the tunnel and it is sure to get worse before it gets better.

SUGGESTION: GET OUTTA YTOWN FAST BEFORE IT CONSUMES YOU!!!!

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10Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years ago

“We found a number of sexually explicit e-mails on his state computer,” Charles wrote."

Where did he find time to do any real work?

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11da_truth(6 comments)posted 6 years ago

Wait a minute, don't put this crap on Youngstown. This was about Marc Dann and his cronies. None of them lived in Youngstown. None of this happened in Youngstown. Youngstown may have its issues like all cities do, but this atrocity was not about Youngstown so lets keep that straight.

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12OhioPerson(76 comments)posted 6 years ago

Yeah, and don't put this on Democrats either- there are many reasons to be embarrassed to be a Democrat, but Marc Dann is just a power-monger like any Republicrat who gets into office.

Real reasons to feel embarrassed about being a Democrat are:

You believe Democrats who get into office stand for the everyday working American.
You believe Democrats who get into office are anti-racist and anti-sexist.
You believe Democrats who get into office are interested in democracy.
You believe Democrats who get into office want to end wars.
You believe Democrats who get into office want to help the poor.
You believe Democrats who get into office want to help the middle class.
You believe Democrats who get into office don't take money from the same oil companies, weapons manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, health insurance companies, etc. that the Republicans do.
You believe Democrats who get into office run for office in order to change things, make those Republicans play fair, etc.

Thinking those things might be cause for embarrassment. Marc Dann is easily matched by any number of crooked Republicans caught in the act. Nothing new.

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13ldchian(56 comments)posted 6 years ago

xytown: i'm curious. how do you know what "the majority" of youngstowners thinks? have you asked them? and why did you use quotes?

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14xytown(63 comments)posted 6 years ago

Idchian:

One needs only look at the candidates being voted into office time and again (re-elected) to come to the conclusion that the "majority" thinks ever thing is great here in Ytown so let's keep voting in the incompetent politicians and career political hacks and keep things at the status quo.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again....Even when it doesn't work!

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15ldchian(56 comments)posted 5 years, 12 months ago

marc dann was the ohio state attorney general not the youngstown attorney general. so more than just the people of youngstown voted for him.

and your advice to "get outta youngstown fast" is sound. if a city is dying, everyone should do their little part and leave.

i bet i'm not the only one who's glad you're an ex-youngstowner.

oh, and i looked up the definition of insanity. you were wrong there too.

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16OhioPerson(76 comments)posted 5 years, 12 months ago

YSUGrad99, how do we do this...... on a large scale I mean.

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17Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 12 months ago

After all the debating I see no suggestion of what Marc's next career move should be.

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