Women in Dann scandal cleared of harassment
By JAMES NASH
The two women had triggered the events that led to Dann’s downfall.
COLUMBUS — The two women whose sexual-harassment complaints led to the downfall of former Attorney General Marc Dann have been cleared of accusations that they had harassed two co-workers.
After a six-month investigation, the attorney general’s office concluded last week that Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout might have been rude to co-workers at times, but that their behavior didn’t meet the formal definition of harassment.
Stankoski, 27, and Stout, 26, triggered the series of events that brought down Dann in May when they accused their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, of unwanted advances and vulgar comments on a number of occasions.
Gutierrez, 51, had been a longtime friend and neighbor of Dann’s whom the attorney general had hired as general services director.
During an office investigation in April into Stankoski and Stout’s harassment complaints against Gutierrez, co-workers Amanda Saxton and Erica Haske offered accounts of events that sometimes differed from versions by Stankoski and Stout, who is formely of Masury.
Haske told investigators that Stankoski and Stout had sometimes played along with Gutierrez.
After results of the investigation were made public and Gutierrez was fired, tensions simmered between the Stankoski-Stout and Saxton-Haske factions.
Saxton and Haske filed formal complaints in June accusing Stankoski and Stout of trying to intimidate them through snide comments and actions.
Among their charges: Stankoski tossed a pile of expense reimbursements across Saxton’s desk instead of putting them in her in-box; Stankoski or Stout took a magnet from Saxton’s workspace; and Stout accused Haske of getting her job by sleeping with people in the office.
“This situation makes me feel uncomfortable and threatened when I come to work,” Haske wrote in her complaint.
In an internal investigation completed Dec. 24, the attorney general’s office said some of Saxton and Haske’s accusations could not be verified, and others fell short of the definition of workplace harassment.
“Regardless of whether such actions constituting general intimidation rise to the level of an [equal employment opportunity] matter for this investigation, such action by employees is clearly inappropriate and does not demonstrate the professional nature in which employees are expected to treat one another,” wrote investigators Eric C. Harrell and Pooja Alag Bird, who looked into the complaints.
Stout resigned Dec. 19, said Ted Hart, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
Rex Elliott, attorney for Stankoski and Stout, said Monday that Stout didn’t quit voluntarily but was pressured out by multiple stresses related to the harassment investigations. Stankoski also has left the office on an indefinite medical leave stemming from the same circumstances, Elliott said.
Saxton and Haske still work in the attorney general’s office.
Elliott said that if Stankoski and Stout were ever rude toward Saxton and Haske, it’s not difficult to fathom the reasons.
“In response to this notion that maybe Vanessa and Cindy weren’t the nicest people in the world, it was basically Vanessa and Cindy against the world over there,” Elliott said. “Given the stress that they’ve been under, it’s understandable.”