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Dann knew, victims say



Published: Sat, May 3, 2008 @ 12:09 a.m.

By ALAN JOHNSON

The women’s lawyer says they will seek compensation from the state.

COLUMBUS — The women whose complaints triggered the sexual-harassment investigation that brought down three top officials in Attorney General Marc Dann’s office are relieved that it’s over.

They told The Dispatch that they feel vindicated but are by no means satisfied with the results.

“I do not think it’s fair, and I don’t think all the truth is out yet,” said Cindy Stankoski who, along with Vanessa Stout, filed sexual-harassment complaints on March 31 against their boss, Anthony Gutierrez.

“Marc Dann says he didn’t know what Tony was doing,” Stankoski said. “He’s his roommate, his best friend, and his neighbor in Youngstown, and he doesn’t know what he was doing? I know he’s lying.”

“He lied,” Stout added. “Marc Dann was every bit as involved in this as Leo [Jennings III, communications director], Tony and Ed [Simpson, chief of staff].”

Jennings and Gutierrez were fired; Simpson resigned rather than be fired.

Dann said repeatedly Friday that he deserves no more punishment than the “swift and severe” punishment he received at home, and that the price he must pay is the pain and public humiliation of having to admit his affair with a woman on his staff.

Stankoski and Stout, both 26, said they were offended that Dann refused, even when asked, to apologize to them for the “hostile work environment” that investigators said allowed harassment to flourish. He apologized to his family and to the people of Ohio but never to them, they said.

“He admitted he had sex with Jessica Utovich, and he’s sorry, and everything is supposed to be all right?” Stout said.

Although Dann did not name the staffer with whom he had an affair, e-mails and witnesses indicate an unusually casual relationship between Dann and Utovich, the 28-year-old former scheduler who Dann acknowledged had stayed overnight at his condo.

Utovich resigned Thursday. Other staff members reported seeing her crying in the office all day. Dann said he did not know why she resigned.

Other than vindication of their harassment claims, Stankoski and Stout were offered little by Dann’s office. The office offered to pay for counseling and to restore Stout to her job in general services, a position she had before being abruptly transferred by Gutierrez.

Rex Elliott, one of their attorneys, called the report “a complete vindication of two very courageous young women.”

Elliott, however, said a report and recommendations aren’t enough. He said he expects to file a lawsuit seeking financial compensation for the women from the state unless he can reach a settlement with Dann’s office.

The finding of a “hostile work environment” is a key element in pursuing further legal action, he said.

“These girls have been through enough. I would not want them to have to go through a civil suit. But if that’s what it takes, we’ll do it.”

Dann said he didn’t open the state to financial liability for a lawsuit.

“While certainly I have great sympathy for the pain these young women have gone through … what you don’t see is any job action taken related to their employment. There was no demotion, no promotion related to that alleged environment.”

Stankoski and Stout said the events soured them on working for government.

“I came here to start a career,” Stankoski said. “I was once proud to say I worked for the attorney general. Now it’s become an embarrassment.”

Stout, formerly of Masury, said she, too, once was excited to work for the attorney general.

“Now I tell people that I’m a dog groomer,” she said.


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