Dann’s misdeeds haunt Democrats
By Bertram de Souza
As the debate over the $700 billion federal bailout of Wall Street was raging last week, a host of one of the cable business shows had this advice for the presidential candidates and members of Congress who were flapping their gums about the crisis: “Just shut up.” The host’s contention was that the politicians were making things worse with their comments.
Disgraced ex-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann would do well to consider that advice as the investigations into his 17-month tenure picks up speed. His attempt to politically rehabilitate himself is embarrassing and disgraceful.
The more Dann talks, the more he draws attention to his misbehavior in office and to the sexual harassment complaints filed by two employees of the attorney general’s office against one of his top staffers and close friend, Anthony Gutierrez. The complaints will end up costing the taxpayers close to $1 million.
But there also is a political cost that could be borne by the Democratic Party in the November general election. Republicans believe they have a chance to take over the attorney general’s office by making Dann the poster child of sordid government.
The GOP candidate is Michael Crites, a former United States attorney for the southern district of Ohio and former assistant U.S. attorney; the Democrats have put up Richard Cordray, currently the state’s treasurer. There also is an independent, Robert Owens.
Dann was forced to resign on May 14 after the revelations about Gutierrez and other staff members and his own admission that he had an extramarital affair with his scheduler. He was replaced by Nancy Rogers, dean of the Ohio State University college of law. Rogers, appointed by Gov. Ted Strickland to serve until the general election, has dedicated herself to cleaning up the mess left by the Liberty Township resident and the Mahoning Valley cronies he put on the public payroll.
She expressed a willingness to settle the sexual harassment complaints against Gutierrez and also launched an investigation to determine what took place and how such problems can be avoided in the future.
A report released recently calls for changes in policies, procedures and practices and it talks about establishing clear criteria for the hiring of new employees. This is important, given the background of the two women who were hired by Gutierrez and ended up alleging that he had sexually harassed them. In addition, the report calls for standards that would prohibit consensual romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and those they supervise to “avoid even the appearance of conflict.”
While these are all positive developments, they have become political fodder.
The problem for the Democratic Party is that the Dann can’t keep his mouth shut. He is so intent on rehabilitating himself that he’s actually spinning into the ground.
Consider his reaction to the report commissioned by Attorney General Rogers.
“I am delighted that the committee has recognized the success that was achieved during my term in office,” he said in a moment of extreme delusion.
If you are of the opinion that delusion is too strong a description, consider this statement:
“I think the other recommendations in the report make good sense, and I am glad the attorney general has continued to implement the policies initiated prior to May 2008. The report is an important public recognition of the great work done by the men and women who comprised the attorney general’s office during the time I served.”
To quote the television talking head, “Just shut up” Dann.
He is beginning to sound shrill — and desperate.
Perhaps it should be the Ohio Democratic Party leaders who tell the former Ohio attorney general that he has become a liability. After all, to no one’s surprise, Republican Crites has joined his Democratic opponent Cordray to Dann’s hip. A commercial aired last week could be interpreted thus: If you want more of the Marc Dann style of governance, elect Cordray.
If the Democrats lose this important position, it will be Dann’s fault. If they retain the seat, it will be despite what Dann did in bringing shame to the party.