Dann probe winds down

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Candidates forum: The League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown will hold a candidates forum Monday for those running for Mahoning County commissioner — incumbent David Ludt of Poland, Youngstown Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, both Democrats, and Republican Don Manning of North Lima. The event at the Holiday Inn, 7410 South Ave. in Boardman, starting at 7 p.m.

The candidates will be asked a series of questions by the moderator and from those in the audience. The event is free and open to the public.

Endorsements: The South County Democrats, a Mahoning County political club, is endorsing incumbents county Commissioner David Ludt, Auditor Michael Sciortino and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of the 33rd District in the May 4 primary. The group also endorsed Don L. Hanni III in his race against incumbent state Rep. Robert F. Hagan in the 60th Ohio House District primary.

It’s taken close to two years, but an investigation into wrongdoing at the attorney general’s office during the Marc Dann administration appears to be coming to an end very soon.

The Ohio Ethics Commission and Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation agencies in this case, have slowly built their case.

Three of Dann’s top administrators are already convicted.

His estranged wife, Alyssa Lenhoff, said she’ll plead guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of having an unlawful interest in a public contract.

Investigators say she broke ethics laws by working to secure a $6,500 grant from the attorney general’s office, while her husband was in charge, to fund a cold-case course at Youngstown State University, her employer.

Lenhoff was to be an instructor for the program.

The attorney general’s office awarded the grant to YSU on Jan. 31, 2008, and then canceled it Feb. 28, 2008, because of a conflict of interest.

There’s more to it and investigators will provide those details Monday.

There’s only one person left to charge: Dann, a Democrat from Liberty, who resigned May 14, 2008, as attorney general.

That was 12 days after an internal attorney general report sharply criticized his administration for cronyism, unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.

The immediate fallout from that attorney general report led to Dann firing Leo Jennings III, his former communications director and political adviser, and Anthony Gutierrez, his general services director.

Also, Edgar C. Simpson, Dann’s chief of policy and administration, resigned.

The three plead guilty to misdemeanor ethics counts with Gutierrez also convicted of theft in office.

What has happened to Lenhoff, Simpson and Jennings in the past few months was spelled out in a December 2008 investigation report of Gutierrez.

The last two pages of that report list other investigations into key figures in the administration — Jennings, Simpson, Lenhoff and Dann.

The first three, and Gutierrez, are cooperating with investigators.

That’s bad news for Dann, who is the investigation’s final and highest-profile target.

If Dann committed crimes — he repeatedly insists he didn’t — those four know.

It stands to reason that with the cooperation of those already convicted that Dann will be charged.

If the charges against Dann are misdemeanors, they must be filed by May 14 under the statute of limitations. If they are felonies, investigators have a few more years to charge Dann.

The report states Dann is being investigated for the questionable use of his campaign fund and a transition account that raised money for the time between November 2006 election and his January 2007 swearing-in as attorney general.

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