By DAVID SKOLNICK
Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is expected to plead guilty today to two ethics charges for improperly using campaign funds to benefit himself and two of his top officials, and for filing false financial disclosure statements.
Dann, a Democrat from Liberty, agreed to plead to the two counts after lengthy discussions with the Franklin County prosecutor’s office that concluded Thursday, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien confirmed Dann would be in that county’s municipal court today for an arraignment “regarding an Ohio Ethics Commission investigation that has now concluded.”
O’Brien declined to comment further, and David Freel, the ethics commission’s executive director, declined to make any comment Thursday.
The investigation, according to ethics commission documents, focused on Dann’s illegal use of his campaign fund and a transition account that raised money for the two months from the November 2006 election until January 2007 when he was sworn in as attorney general.
Dann couldn’t be reached Thursday by The Vindicator to comment on the two misdemeanor charges.
In the past, and as recently as two weeks ago, Dann repeatedly insisted he did nothing illegal during his 17 months as attorney general. He resigned from the job May 14, 2008, accused of running an unprofessional office filled with cronyism and inappropriate sexual behavior.
The first count against Dann charges him with giving “improper supplemental compensation” from his campaign fund to pay the rent for a condominium in a Columbus suburb he shared with Anthony Gutierrez, his general services director, and Leo Jennings III, his communications director. It also accuses Dann of knowing Gutierrez improperly received an interest-free $5,000 loan from the transition account.
If convicted, Dann would be barred from serving in a public office — something he told The Vindicator a year ago he never planned to do again — or holding public employment for the next seven years.
The second count accuses Dann of filing false financial disclosure statements with the ethics commission. He is accused of using his campaign fund to not only cover Jennings’ rent, but also his meals and travel expenses. That count also includes Dann receiving money for his expenses from his transition account.
Dann could face up to six months in jail and $1,000 fines for each count. He’ll likely receive a suspended jail sentence.
Jennings; Gutierrez; Edgar C. Simpson, Dann’s former chief of policy and administration; and Alyssa Lenhoff, Dann’s estranged wife, have pleaded guilty to ethics charges and cooperated with investigators. Gutierrez was also convicted of two felony counts of workers compensation fraud. Only Gutierrez served any jail time, and that was for the felonies.
Also, Dann, an attorney, would likely be investigated by the Ohio Supreme Court and could have his law license suspended.
Contributor: Marc Kovac, Columbus correspondent