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Our Q&A with Dann



Published: Sun, May 10, 2009 @ 12:04 a.m.

On May 14, 2008, Marc Dann resigned as attorney general under a great deal of pressure. An internal attorney general’s report, released 12 days earlier, criticized Dann for running an office filled with cronyism and unprofessional behavior. Shortly after the report was made public, fellow Democrats, including the governor, called on Dann to resign or face impeachment. In this 45-minute interview with David Skolnick, The Vindicator’s politics writer, Dann reflects on his time as attorney general, where he went wrong, why he resigned, how he’s putting his life back in order and what he’s doing now.

Q: You wrote a heartfelt apology that’s being published with this interview. Why did you feel the need to apologize to the Valley again a year later?

A: Well, I’ve had time to really focus on what’s important and to think about the decisions I’ve made and what brought me to this place in my life and what brought my career to the sad end to my time as attorney general. I thought it was important to reach out. I don’t think that the information conveyed to the people in the community here had been terribly fair. So I thought it was important that people understood that I really did have a strong feeling about wanting to let people know how much I care about the community and how broken-hearted I really was at having to leave office and to leave the dreams and aspirations of not just myself, but others behind when I did. Because we were on the road to doing some really exciting and innovative things in the office, and doing some good things for the Valley, including the opening of the downtown office here, which to the credit of Rich Cordray [the current attorney general] is still open.

Q: Jumping to that, do you feel that if you kept your mind on your work, you really could have accomplished great things? If so, what would that have been?

A: We were way ahead of the rest of the country in Ohio in beginning to litigate and identify the bad actors in the mortgage meltdown, long before it became a national news story. I think we could have continued to be a significant leader in that regard. Going after not just as a shareholder, the state as a shareholder, which is what we’re continuing to do, but we were really developing a legal theory on behalf of the consumers, on behalf of the homeowners, who literally had their houses stolen from them here in Youngstown and throughout the state of Ohio. I think we could have been part of bringing some ground-breaking cases that would have move that issue along.

We were doing great things, and I’m sure that they’ll continue to do great things in the AG’s office. But I was particularly interested in using science and technology to solve crimes. We had talked about in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic when I left opening up a state-of-the-art forensic center in Cleveland. One of the things that I understood I think differently than other folks that have held the office was our BCI [Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation] concentrations were in London, Ohio, Bowling Green and Boardman when I took office. Well, the crime is in places like Youngstown and Cleveland and Toledo. So we had plans to make the crime-fighting capabilities of the attorney general’s office much more relevant to taking on urban street gangs, to taking on drugs, to using DNA and to solve old, cold cases. We’ve done that in some of the cold cases that we’ve worked on here have actually come to fruition and people have been held accountable for those crimes. We would have made progress in that arena.

I was on the track to holding government more accountable. One of the very first things I did, and it came to light because Gov. [Ted] Strickland recently reappointed some of the same members to the PUCO [Public Utilities Commission of Ohio], is when I discovered that the process for selecting PUCO members wasn’t held in public. I threatened and achieved the resignation of three of the PUCO members who were improperly appointed. I thought that was a victory not just for consumers because my political opinion has been that the PUCO has not been a terribly consumer-friendly organization. They tend to favor the utility companies in the state. Those resignations came in. Rather than take the opportunity to appoint more consumer-oriented activists to the job the governor chose instead to reappoint those folks.

But it was a victory for transparency because I said, “I’m not just going to go along and say it’s OK just because the result would have been the same for openness and transparency in government not to be respected.” Secondly, there was a chance to make a significant change on behalf of consumers in the state; literally to appoint the majority of the PUCO and ... the governor chose to do differently.

Q: Getting back to the letter for a moment, you wrote that you had deep regrets that the reputation of the community that you love was tarred by your failures. Obviously, the Valley’s had quite a few problems with its reputation. Do you feel that what you call your failures heightened the area’s past problems and brought them back?

A: I think that unfortunately ... my personal conduct in how I handled my personal life, some of the hiring decisions I made that I shouldn’t have made, allowed people’s already negative preconceptions about the community to be reinforced. I really hoped and one of my most significant objectives when I took office was to change that view of this community in this state. I thought in the substantive ways, don’t forget, David, nobody took any issue with the legal or law enforcement work that was done in the AG’s office. I said that a year ago and that remains true today. It was a year of a very thorough investigation of my time in office. Nobody has raised any questions about that. I thought bringing that kind of seriousness and purpose and bringing that kind of aggressive work on behalf of consumers, on behalf of victims of crime, on behalf of others who the attorney general’s office is established to protect would have greatly enhanced the reputation of the Valley. So I regret the missed the opportunity and I regret the fact that some of the things I did, typically in the way that the hiring decisions I made were characterized, really played into the negative stereotypes people have of our community. That is really one of my biggest regrets.

Q: Let’s go back to the day after you won the attorney general’s race. What three decisions did you make after that election in the time frame between being elected and taking office that you would like to take back? What would you have done differently.

A: I probably would have been both more hands-on and more hands-off. I didn’t have a good sense how to allocate my time as attorney general. I would have hired managers that had more experience to report to me. I would have given them more independence, authority and autonomy. I was used to working in a very small law office. Then I was in a very small caucus in the state Senate with 13 people. We weren’t in charge and so I didn’t have the bottom-line responsibility of managing a large organization.

My style was very collaborative and open and unregimented. Managing an office like that, being an attorney general or a governor or a secretary of state was very different than being a candidate. When you’re a candidate for office, you’re reaching out and bringing in information and ideas from everybody across the board. I think I was way too open and accessible to people on my staff. What that served to do — while it helped me have better information about what was going on — it served to undermine the people that were trying to manage in the structure below me. I needed to slow down first of all.

The three things I could have done, one, I would have slowed down. Four years to me seems so short. They may turn out to the longest four years of my life because of the fact that I didn’t take my time and work at a measured pace, a thoughtful pace, to let decisions rest a day or two before taking action. Now when it came to law enforcement decisions where people’s constitutional rights were at stake I was very deliberative and very careful. When it came to the legal decision making at the office, again, I think we had a good structure in place. In that situation, the collaborative nature, allowing the debate to go on among the bright folks in the office, to come to a conclusion about what the best legal position to take for the state was had a great deal of value and added to our success as lawyers during the time I was in office.

But in terms of managing the day-to-day information I didn’t clearly empower the managers below me. That made people feel empowered to do whatever they wanted to do; some people, some people. Most of the people in that office did exactly what they’ve been doing for 20 years. They got up the next morning whether Jim Petro’s attorney general or Marc Dann’s attorney general or Rich Cordray, and they’re going to go and do their job and do a good job for the people of the state. Of the 1,500 people in the office, there are probably 13 or 1,400 that do their job, know their job and just do the work for the people of the state every day. But there was a core of people, and they tend to be the people politically appointed, that operate in a different mode. I wish I had a better appreciation of what motivated people when I took office, and slowed down dramatically. I’m doing that as I build my little, new law practice. I’m being very careful and thoughtful about what cases I take and what cases I don’t take. I don’t have to worry about the political implications of it, but I have to worry about the implications on my family.

That’s the other thing I would have done differently. I would have set up the office in a way that I would have been much more accessible and available to my family because at the end of the day my kids are only going to be the ages that they are only once. I missed out as a senator running for office and as attorney general way too much of the day-to-day of their lives. Probably would have either moved to Columbus or found a way to be much more engaged and accessible to my family.

Q: Speaking of family, how has the public been toward your kids and your wife?

A: Some people have been pretty tough on everybody. We’re in the public spotlight. That had benefits for my family at certain times. But clearly the embarrassment and some of the scrutiny that they’ve come under as well as the judgementalism that some people have shown to them has been significant and I really regret that. That’s caused my kids and certainly my wife a lot of pain. One of the things that is great about the community we live in is how kind people have been. I’ve received notes. Members of my family have received notes, even notes that say, “Don’t let Marc read this,” from people we know and from people that we don’t know. From people at Giant Eagle or as times were a little tougher at Aldi and at the flea market, people have come up to us and embraced us physically and emotionally and so as much as there have been people who have been judgemental there have been people who have been very, very kind and supportive. We’re really grateful for that.

Q: Is it kind of strange for you now

to be out in public realizing people are staring at you or whispering to their spouses, “That’s Marc Dann over there?”

A: I was much more used to it than members of my family were. A, I wasn’t spending nearly as much time with them before as I am now, and, two, they picked and chose when they wanted to be part of what was going on with the election and my office so they knew they were there for a reason so it was a little bit different. It doesn’t bother me. Look, as big a community as we live in and we are; we’re bigger than the whole state of Montana, the Mahoning Valley, half a million people that live here is more than people who live in some entire states. [Editor’s note: Montana’s population is close to 1 million.] In some ways, we’re big. But in some ways, we’re really a small town. I’ve had been experiencing that from the time I was a lawyer practicing with somewhat of a high-profile law practice. To be honest with you, I miss that interaction. I enjoy hearing I’m trying to help people solve their problems. One of the sad things for me is people reach out to me less often for that help and I’m clearly not nearly in as good a position to be able to help people when things go wrong.

Q: Do you watch or do you read videos and news accounts from that time and second guess yourself or do you focus maybe too much on what happened?

A: No, well, look, yes. I spent a lot of time and I’m continuing to spend time thinking and doing a little bit of writing, not for anybody’s consumption but my own, about what happened and why and trying to really put together what I could have done differently and what I could have done better. Over the course of the last year, I’ve spent an appropriate amount of time doing that. I don’t think it’s something I need to dwell on every day. But the truth is it is something I think about every day. But I also want to make sure I learn from it. What good is it to have gone through an experience like this? And, David, what I have left for my kids as a legacy is to show them how I respond to adversity. I’m determined to be a success at getting through a difficult personal challenge.

Q: I spoke to Mike Harshman, your attorney during your final days as attorney general. We were talking about the impeachable offense aspect. He said there was no accusation against you that rises to an impeachable offense. Do you think you would have survived an impeachment hearing? As a flip to that, you weren’t charged with any crimes. You were very insistent you wouldn’t resign after the internal [attorney general’s office] report came out. You did 12 days later [on May 14, 2008]. Talk about surviving an [impeachment] hearing and what made you decide to resign after digging in your heels saying you weren’t going to do so.

A: Let me answer the second question first because it’s an easier question. What I would have needed to do to hold on to office was wholly inconsistent with what I needed to do to make sure my family had what they needed from me. I had broken my trust with my wife. I had much work to do to repair that relationship. My kids were in a situation where they were being photographed and observed and ridiculed at school in ways that were beyond what was something I could tolerate. The requirements of running the office in light of the fact that the entire political structure in Columbus had seized this opportunity to push me out the door meant that my staff at the senior level was being co-opted. I would have had to spend more time in Columbus and not less at the very time my family needed me to be here more and I needed to be with my family more than ever. That was the only matrix that I was evaluating. Could I do the job well and at the same time do what I needed to do for my family, which is my first responsibility? The conclusion I came to on May 14 was I couldn’t do that. It was not without risk. I didn’t have a job. I’m not a rich guy so I didn’t have a reserve of money sitting around. Running for office was expensive. Holding office was expensive and not just in terms of what I spent, but with the earnings I didn’t earn. I went from a very successful law practice, which I was able to balance with the state Senate for a period of time, to being kind of a sole voice when the workers’ compensation problems broke out back in 2005. Being a minority member of the state Senate started to require eight, nine, 10 hours a day, six or seven days a week of my time. Every year I was in politics, my income went down and my responsibilities and need to be away to do the job to my satisfaction went up. I needed to make sure that I put myself in a position where I could take care of my family and support my kids, most important, emotionally, and to give Alyssa [Lenhoff, his wife] what she needed, which is up to her. That’s not my decision.

Q:Was it initially you thought on May 2 [2008, the day the internal report was released] there could be some sort of balance, but 10 or 12 days later you thought that balance could no longer exist?

A: Right. The members of my staff were being recruited to work in the governor’s office, members of my senior staff, people that I relied on for the day-to-day in the areas that were working well, the law enforcement arena, the legal arena, the representation of the state, the important work for consumers that we were doing, people were literally being recruited by other Democratic officeholders to leave my office and come work for them and encourage me to resign. That makes it very difficult to manage in that scenario. What I would probably have to had done is turn to those career folks in the office that are there to do their job and serve the state and remove that layer between me and them of the political appointees. That would have required literally very, very significant hands-on management. I think I could have done it. I think I could have made the very strong political case. Impeachment, while it’s a legal process, is also an inherently political process. I believe I would have been up to that challenge, but it would have required all of my time and attention. Even that would have drained from my ability to manage the day-to-day of the office as well. So when you have all three balls trying to keep in the air, I maybe could have kept two of them in the air. I certainly couldn’t keep three in the air. That’s what it really came down to.

Q: You feel you could have survived this but at the cost of effectiveness?

A: The cost of effectiveness of the office or at the cost of my family. Those were prices I wasn’t willing to pay. The office is too important. The work that the AG does, day in and day out, no matter who’s name is on the door is too important to allow it to be impeded by somebody’s personal problems or the loss of political support.

Q: I want to be clear of something you said earlier when you said the governor’s office and other offices were recruiting your senior officials. That was being done purposely?

A: Some of them were called before I was, to tell them the governor was going to ask me to resign. There were members of my staff that received calls before I received calls.

Q: So it wasn’t just the public stuff that Gov. [Ted] Strickland was doing, he was behind the scenes with others trying ...

A: He didn’t personally make those calls. He personally made the call to me. But I’m not aware whether or not who made the calls. But people on his behalf were making those calls. I faced the first Monday after the governor called for my resignation a senior staff recommending that I resign. It’s a pretty challenging management situation.

Q: Can you say who?

A: You know, I don’t think it really would do any good for anybody to talk about that. The advice that was offered me was offered confidentially at the time. Although I litigated the issue of executive privilege I think if anything would have risen to that level, those discussions, none of which are on paper, nobody put a memo out saying that was what they wanted to do, but several of them approached me privately about the same thing. You know what? In some ways I wish I hadn’t been so responsive to what they had to say, but I was with people who’s views I respected. These were people I recruited to work with me. Some of them were people I’d been working with for decades and they made those recommendations and I had to take it seriously.

Q: Did you feel a sense of betrayal?

A: It was such an unusual scenario. The way things all played out here that I really don’t think you can hold anyone accountable for how they acted or reacted other than me. I definitely should be held accountable for how I did. I was the person who was at the bottom line responsible.

Q: Mike Harshman said that while all of this was going on, the biggest mistake you made was admitting to the affair and being so open about the shortcomings. Do you believe that was your biggest mistake?

A: I learned a lot in the last couple of years. I made my career mercilessly and unequivocally attacking Gov. [Bob] Taft and other officeholders for their failures in managing workers’ comp and the work they did. I felt my attacks were much more substantive then the reasons people gave for me to resign. But I was unrelenting and really unopen to hearings the other side of the story. All of a sudden, I found myself on the other side of that scenario. I didn’t know quite what to do. I didn’t know how to react because I know a lot of the information that was being conveyed wasn’t true. But my ability, my voice, had been lost.

Here’s the other thing. I had been successful, I believe, to contributing to changing the dynamic of Ohio politics, paving the way for the elections in 2006 for Democrats in the work I did in the state Senate because I was always incredibly open and honest, even when it didn’t serve me well. I just can’t be any other way. It was hard for me and it was inconsistent with my values, it was certainly much more inconsistent with my values to betray my family the way that I did, and that I’m going to have to take responsibility for and I’m going to have to live with rest of my life. But it was also inconsistent with my values to not be transparent. I didn’t just make this stuff up about wanting to have transparent and open government. I actually believed it. So if there was a reason that people might think I would be compromised as attorney general I thought it was important that the public understand and know what it is. So I couldn’t have been any other way. Maybe a smarter, more strategic politician would have done it differently.

But to be honest with you, David, a smarter, more strategic politician wouldn’t have tried to bounce the Consumers Counsel, wouldn’t have taken on the mortgage industry and the investment banks that, at that time, were still the lions of the economy and not the lambs. Wouldn’t have taken on the fights that I did in terms of forcing the state Board of Education and the state Board of Regents and the other state agencies to act in a transparent and open way. I didn’t have to take those fights. I didn’t have to do it all at once. I wish I had slowed down. I wish I had been a little bit more of a strategic kind of a politician. But I just felt that we had all this work to do in such a short time to do it. That’s part of what hastened the end of my time.

Q: But that would have been inconsistent with you as a person.

A: I can’t be any other way than I am. For better or worse, I’ve always been that.

Q:What was, in your mind, the biggest mistake you made between those two times, the 2nd and the 14th? Do you feel you made any mistakes during that period?

A: Yes, that I went back into a shell. I went out and I talked about what was wrong and then I said, “OK, that’s it. I’m not going to talk about this stuff anymore,” when people weren’t done talking about it. My voice, because there was really nobody once the governor and the other statewide officeholders decided and the Democratic Party decided that they weren’t going to support me, there really wasn’t anybody else to provide that balance. The truth is to this day nobody has made any attack on the legal work done at the office or the law enforcement work, the two fundamental functions of the attorney general’s office, or the job of representing state agencies thoroughly and zealously. Those are the three things the attorney general is elected to do. There’s been nobody who’s questioned any of that. People can certainly question my personal decision-making. There were some personnel decisions. There were some managers I hired that I shouldn’t have hired clearly. There were some managers that I hired ... that the media and history has not treated fairly. There were smart and capable people working with me also who got caught up in all that as well.

Q: You had mentioned earlier there eere some untruths. Give me a couple of examples of what was not true that people were saying were facts.

A: People were saying I somehow had misused taxpayer money, for example, or people were confusing, and maybe deliberately, campaign money with taxpayer money. I’ve had a couple of minor violations of my campaign committee, which, by the way, every statewide officeholder has had one or two elections commission’s violations. [Editor’s note: That’s not the case.] It’s an emerging area of law. Campaigns are changing and become more sophisticated. What we spend money on and what we don’t spend money on is different every two and every four years. Other than some very small issues related to campaign spending there were no issues about any kind of misuse of office, misuse of taxpayer dollars at all. For whatever reason that perception was allowed to fester.

Q: Who do you think lost the most in the fallout of all of this?

A: I’m not sure I understand the question.

Q: Who lost the most from the controversy, scandal, that occurred in the office, and fallout from it? From what you’ve said it seems almost like you feel your family were the ones who had the biggest fallout. Is that the case or is a combination of that with people in the office?

A: My family has had a really challenging time. I wish I had never allowed that to happen to them. I think there were certain people that worked for me who were mis-characterized, good people trying to do the best they could under the circumstances. In some cases, I wish they had acted sooner. In some cases, I wish they hadn’t acted at all. The bulk of the work, taking on the gambling machines that we did, the work that we did in consumer protection, revamping the access to the office.

Right now you go to AG for Ohio, I don’t know if they cut that Web site or the phone number. We had phone lines coming in to six or seven sections at the AG’s office. It was not a single number to call when you had a consumer or a charitable trust question or an issue about whether you should give money to this veterans organization or that veterans organization. We made the office so much more user-friendly. Ed Simpson [Dann’s chief of staff] and Leo Jennings [Dann’s communications director], both who had to leave office before I did, were instrumental in making that happen and in creating that environment. Those accomplishments, unfortunately for them, they’re never going to be able to embrace.

Q: You thought Ed and Leo did their jobs?

A: I think Ed and Leo made some mistakes, but they, by and large, did their jobs well. The office ran, other than my own mistake in how I got involved in a relationship with a staff member and I think there’s a mis-characterization that the office operated as some sort of a fraternity house. It was just completely inaccurate. Those folks were serious, hard-working people who did their best to try to do well for the state. In the vast majority of the work they did, they did do well for the state.

Q:But we had a situation where one was dating another one.

A: The only person other than me that was accused of having an affair was Leo Jennings and Leo’s affair had nothing to do with his responsibilities. It was with somebody who he didn’t have any authority over. In fact she brought a sexual harassment case that’s been dismissed. Leo worked both for the campaign committee and for the state; extraordinarily long hours and did a very good job of helping frame some of the fights we took on both as a candidate and as attorney general. With his substantive work I have no dispute.

Q: And the same could be said for Ed?

A: Ed did great work. It may have been a bigger management challenge than he had prepared himself for. But Ed is an honorable, honest, decent human being who tried from the bottom of his heart, and unfortunately he was a little bit like me. We tend to listen when somebody tells us they have a family problem or a concern. An example, we were the only office, the winter of 2007, we hit in Columbus the fourth snow day for schools in a row. I finally said and Ed said to the staff, and I put out an e-mail saying, “If you have to, bring your kids to the office.” Well, that caused all kinds of things to happen, which we didn’t anticipate. There were union grievances that were filed as a result of that. There were other things. But, at the end of the day, I would have done it all over again exactly same way. Ed and I were confronted with the situation. He was a single father raising a child or his son had graduated and started college. I know what it’s like because my spouse and I always had professional lives. Sometimes you just need to bring your kids to work. There’s just no other way to make sure they’re well-cared for. Your back-up plan after the fourth day of the snow day or the third day of the snow day becomes challenging. None of the other officeholders did that. That was one of those risky things that we did, I guess. But I think it spoke well of Ed. It was the kind of thing that people weren’t used to.

Some people in government saw that as weakness and an unwillingness to put the hammer down and manage in a way they had been used to being managed in a more militarist, really going back to Tony Celebreeze [attorney general from 1983 to 1991]. Tony Celebreeze was an old military guy. He ran that office like a military operation. That was not a comfortable work environment for me. To characterize the fact that I said, “You don’t have to wear a tie if you don’t have to go to court,” as operating the office like some sort of fraternity house really is inconsistent with the truth.

Q: Have you analyzed your personality in the last year and what have you done to change that?

A: I’ve spent a lot of time on my bike. I’ve spent a lot of time with my family. I’ve sought professional help and I’m not embarrassed about that. One of the things that I advocated for and was successful advocating for was requiring as part of police training that law enforcement become much more sensitive to mental health issues, not just the mental health issues of criminals, but the mental issues of those who work in law enforcement. There are a myriad of challenges when you are working in the law enforcement world. I’ve never been shy, I have a brother who suffers from severe mental illness. I’ve talked about that publicly in the past, and he’s been an advocate for others in that situation. I’ve tried to advocate for that. Of course, I’ve sought out counseling and I’ve gotten, I think, good help from some counselors. I feel like I’ve got a good grip on what’s real about what I did wrong and not to allow myself because it’s very easy when you’re in politics, to allow yourself to be defined by what’s in the newspaper or on TV, which is why I’m glad that “Law and Order” runs at 11 o’clock every night so I don’t have to watch the news.

Q: In the letter you wrote about the difference between fast friends and true friends. What is the difference?

A: What amazed me, and you talked about one of them, Mike Harshman, I had lots of friends a year ago today even in the throes of the difficulty I was going through. Literally hundreds of people that would call, that I would call, that would send notes when there was a small item in the newspaper or when I had a birthday. I think I had 2,000 Christmas cards in 2007 and I had I think 20 in Christmas of 2008. There were people ... It’s almost like when I counsel my kids about school. The day you aspire, aspire, aspire to be accepted by all these people and then when you get accepted and something goes wrong you look around and there’s nobody there.

Lee Fisher, a 30-year relationship with Lee Fisher. When he ran for state rep for the first time I filled out big, green index cards in his living room. Not heard from him once since I left office. Sherrod Brown, I was his driver in 1982 when he was running for secretary of state. We drove all over Ohio together, and he won that campaign. When I came on staff it was a summer job in college he was running third to Tony Calabrese and Dennis Kucinich. We fought through that battle together. We’ve been friends for a long time. He did call once since I left office to see how I was doing. I really did oddly thought that these folks in politics, some of them were my friends. My friends are people that are in my family. My friends are the parents of my kids’ friends. They’re the folks that I represented as a lawyer. I have a lot of clients who’ve become friends over the years. But it’s a very narrow and very personal group. This is a good lesson not just for me, but for others who aspire to political office is to make sure you recognize the difference between those fast friends and your true friends.

Q: Surprised by sources of support in the past year?

A: Yes, yeah, the nice thing about not being in public life is I don’t have to identify that. I can just tell you that there have been people coming from places that I would have never imagined. Clients that have hired me to represent them. That was not the easiest decision to make. A couple of them got calls from newspapers after they hired me if I entered any kind of public appearance on their behalf asking, “Why did you hire this guy?” So that took a real act of courage for people to do that so I’ve had some wonderful people emerge in the last year, and I’m looking forward to doing a better job of appreciating them. To be honest with you, some of the people that I didn’t appreciate as much as I should of when I was in office were the ones most supportive of me.

Q: This would be friends...

A: Friends, family. People that it’s easy to put off that call when you’ve got this big call to make or this big decision to make or this big fundraiser to go to. One of my biggest regrets is not paying attention to those lifetime friends that have been there to support me and Alyssa and the family.

Q: What have you been doing the past year?

A: I’ve been practicing law. I’m representing some labor unions and representing consumers in some class-action cases. A little bit like the work I did in the AG’s office. I’ve developed a little bit of a niche practice in representing people who [have] identified federal government fraud. It’s called the federal false claims act. There are a limited number of lawyers, I learned about this because I’d be advocating it as senator and then as attorney general for the creation of a state false claims act. Ohio is the largest state in the country without the ability of the citizen who identifies fraud against the government to bring a case on behalf of the government. In the state cases, it would be to bring it to the attorney general. In the federal context you bring it to the U.S. attorney. They decide whether or not to bring a case. Even if they don’t decide to bring a case, you as a lawyer can bring it on behalf of your client. If you’re successful, the client, the whistle-blower, gets a portion of the proceeds. A lot of the people that reach out to me, ironically that couldn’t reach me when I was attorney general to report fraud in government, state and federal, reached out to me after I left office. A number of those people have become my clients.

Q:What are you working on right now?

A: I can’t talk about it. One of the rules is that you can’t disclose until the court unseals the case. You can actually file the case under seal and it’s not until the court decides that it can be unsealed because you want to protect the rights. People also can make false claims. You want to protect the right of people being accused. That gives the U.S. attorney the opportunity to review the claims and decide whether there’s merit, decide whether there’s a criminal case. A couple of cases I’m working on, there’s also potentially a criminal component. Interestingly, I find myself back collaborating with law enforcement on cases, which I really very much enjoyed in the office. I think I’ve found a niche practice that will be something that I can do and have a good, positive impact on the community and hopefully make a living.

Q: Why is the office in Cleveland?

A: Some of my clients are in Cleveland. It was more convenient for them to be there. I have a small office here as well so I’m able to meet with clients. In this day and age, with your laptop and your Blackberry, you can work from virtually anywhere.

Q:Where do you see your self personally and professionally in five years?

A: I really haven’t even ventured what to think. Five years is the time frame, my youngest is a freshman. My goal is to make sure that my kids do as well as possible, make sure they get good grades, get into a good college. That’s my focus. That’s the other part, David. What I envision is a much more balanced life than I had a year ago today. This year, five years from now, where I do put my priorities where they belong on my family, on my children, on my wife, and not on chasing some political dream.

Q: Is there any chance of you re-entering politics in any capacity?

A: I just can’t imagine that.

Q: Under any circumstances?

A: No. I can’t.

Q: Why is that?

A: To be honest with you I want more balance in my life than a candidate for office can have. I’ve learned a lot. I hope that I can, whether it’s in the capacity of a lawyer or in the capacity of a citizen, be able to advocate for good causes. I don’t expect to not do that in the future. But I don’t see myself running for political office.


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