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Dann’s charges of bias by inspector stem from Coingate probe in 2005



Published: Sat, December 27, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By JAMES NASH

The inspector general declined to respond to Dann’s allegation of bias from that office.

COLUMBUS — To hear Marc Dann tell it, this week’s scathing report on his 17 months as Ohio attorney general really was the second chapter of a story that began more than three years ago, when Dann railed against corrupt investment practices at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Then a state senator, Dann loudly criticized the bureau and then-Gov. Bob Taft, while a task force led by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles investigated the corruption with less fanfare.

Early on, Dann praised Charles as a “hero” for looking into the matter. But later, Dann faulted the investigation for allegedly going easy on Taft and pushed for a separate legislative inquiry that Charles resisted.

That history came to the forefront this week after a task force led by Charles outlined a litany of alleged abuses by Dann, family members and senior aides during Dann’s term as attorney general.

Dann responded to the report by saying that the report was littered with innuendo and that Charles had a “clear bias” against him and that the two had never gotten along.

In a follow-up interview this week, Dann pointed to comments that Edward P. Waters, a deputy inspector general, made during an investigative interview of Anthony Gutierrez, the former Dann aide at the center of the scandal that drove Dann from office.

Waters minimized Dann’s role in exposing corrupt coin investments during the 2005 scandal at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, according to interview transcripts released this week.

“The one thing I remember about the workers’ comp investigation is that we collectively, along with many others, put an awful lot of work into that,” Waters said. “But every time there was a news camera around Marc Dann who, I’ll be frank, did nothing on that investigation, but he was out front with the news camera talking about pay to play, all this kind of stuff.”

Dann said Waters’ comments betrayed the inspector general’s bias.

“It was not an honorable, honest investigation,” the former attorney general said.

Reached Friday, Charles declined to respond to Dann’s remarks.

Other members of the investigative team that looked into Dann’s term have defended the investigation as a bipartisan effort that stuck to facts.

Dann, a Democrat from Liberty, was elected attorney general in 2006, largely because of his outspoken criticism of favoritism and wrongdoing by Taft, a Republican, and his top aides. In addition to speaking out, Dann filed lawsuits to pry loose information about questionable investment decisions.

Sometimes, his efforts paralleled Charles’. Other times, their agendas diverged.

Most notably, Dann and many other Democratic lawmakers pushed for a legislative probe into investment practices at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation at the same time Charles and other investigators were looking into the matter.

Dann did not criticize Charles publicly but said lawmakers could not wait to get to the bottom of the investment scandal.

Friday, Dann said he refrained from public criticism of Charles’ investigative team during the 2005 scandal, but investigators “complained to me often that I was pushing them.”

Three years later, when many of the same investigators came knocking for Dann, he refused to speak to them.

Dann said he decided against cooperating with the investigation of his term as attorney general “because of my growing concern about their bias.”


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