By David Skolnick
Ex-Attorney General Marc Dann resigned under pressure more than eight months ago, but the legacy of his scandal-plagued administration still makes news.
With several outstanding investigations, including a criminal one by a Franklin County grand jury, it will be a long time before we read the last article or column on Dann’s 17 months as attorney general.
But it keeps me busy and off the streets.
The two women who blew the whistle on the improper and highly unprofessional atmosphere at the office that eventually led to Dann’s downfall agreed to a $495,000 settlement with the state.
Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout will each receive $200,000 in taxpayer money with another $95,000 going to the attorneys who represented them.
The two filed complaints against Anthony Gutierrez, Dann’s director of general services and a close friend, accusing him of sexual harassment.
No one’s come to Gutierrez’s defense publicly stating he didn’t sexually harassed the two women, who were his subordinates.
The two received an apology from the attorney general’s office, now run by Richard Cordray, and no longer work there.
There are those who can argue that Stankoski and Stout didn’t have the qualifications to work at the attorney general’s office and were employed only because Gutierrez made it happen and kept them there for purely sexual reasons.
Stout had a criminal record and was still hired to work in an office that oversees a number of law enforcement agencies.
Dann, a Democrat from Liberty, acknowledged right after a damning internal AG report was released May 2 that the two shouldn’t have been hired.
But his signature is on letters hiring the two.
There are those who say the two didn’t deserve any money because there is some evidence in a Dec. 22 report by the Ohio Inspector General’s office that they were willing partners in Gutierrez’s sexual shenanigans. [Yes, “South Park” fans, I declared shenanigans.]
Cordray and Nancy H. Rogers, who served as interim AG after Dann’s resignation, didn’t agree.
The office under Rogers spent six months trying to work out a settlement. It took Cordray’s office two weeks to resolve the matter.
Dann questioned the payouts.
“While I am sympathetic to the challenges that these women faced, in my view the facts do not support a payout of this magnitude,” he said.
The two had originally sought $400,000 each. They received half.
Should the women be praised for what they did?
I ask really good questions. Unfortunately the answers aren’t always easy.
The sexual harassment by Gutierrez went on for a while without Stankoski or Stout saying anything. When they initially stepped forward, the office ignored the complaints.
When the complaints were finally treated seriously they led to the downfall of Dann and his administration.
If the two had said nothing, Dann and his cronies including Gutierrez, Leo Jennings and Edgar Simpson, would still be running the attorney general’s office.
Dann has admitted he was overwhelmed and ill-prepared to run the office, but the situation was improving with time.
Dann has also acknowledged he made poor decisions with some of his hires.
It’s frightening to think that, at least in Dann’s eyes, things were getting under control when the many problems at the office were revealed as a result of the complaints filed by the two women.
Did Stankoski and Stout do the state a great service by helping to expose the serious problems at the attorney general’s office or did two people who had little to no business working there file the complaints to get paid?
It’s probably both.