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Suspend Dann’s license 6 months, state panel urges

Published: Tue, December 6, 2011 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick



A state disciplinary board is recommending a six-month suspension of former Attorney General Marc Dann’s law license.

The recommendation, filed Monday by the Ohio Supreme Court’s 28-member board of commissioners on grievances and discipline, said the suspension is warranted as its members “cannot help but wonder at the harm to the reputation of the legal profession and to the confidence of the public in the office of the attorney general when the chief law officer in the state has committed ethical errors and tries to explain them away as [Dann] has.”

The final decision on Dann’s law- license suspension rests with the Ohio Supreme Court.

It isn’t known when the court will act on the board’s recommendation, said Bret Crow, a court spokesman.

“It varies,” he said of the amount of time for a decision. “It could be a long drawn-out process with other cases in the pipeline. Parties objecting or filing oral arguments could make the process more lengthy.”

The court could choose to accept, increase, decrease or dismiss the board’s recommendation or ask for another hearing, he said.

Dann, a Democrat from Liberty, was found guilty in May 2010 of two misdemeanor-ethics violations, making the attorney subject to sanctions from the state Supreme Court.

Dann and the Ohio Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel had signed a tentative agreement Oct. 23 for a six-month stayed suspension, meaning he could still practice law during the suspension.

But the counsel recommended a 12-month stayed suspension after a Nov. 3 hearing in front of three members of the state disciplinary board after saying that Dann tried to minimize what he did.

The disciplinary board, however, is calling for Dann to serve an actual suspension without a stay, according to a 10-page recommendation written by Richard A. Dove, its secretary. Dann now has a law office in Cleveland.

Dann’s “position as the attorney general of Ohio sets him apart from other lawyers,” Dove wrote. “In the least, [Dann’s] explanations for his conduct speak poorly to his judgment. Poor judgment is not an aggravating factor. However, whether or not his explanations were sensible or credible, they are not an excuse.”

Alvin Mathews, Dann’s attorney, said: “Obviously, we are disappointed and we’ll access our options as to whether we will object. We’re disappointed the recommendation is more severe than that recommended by the disciplinary counsel.”

When asked if Dann should be held to a higher standard because he’s a former attorney general, Mathews said, “That’s the point they made [in the decision]. We have to consider whether to object or concede that point. It’s up to Mr. Dann.”

A Franklin County judge convicted Dann in May 2010 of filing a false financial disclosure form and providing improper compensation to state employees from his campaign and transaction accounts.

At the Nov. 3 hearing, Dann’s “explanations for his missteps revolve around his self-described hubris and arrogance,” Dove wrote.

Dann resigned as attorney general in May 2008, about 16 months into a four-year term, after a critical internal-office investigation determined he ran an unprofessional operation filled with cronyism. That led to multiple investigations and convictions for Dann, three of his former high-level staffers and his then-wife, who divorced him in July 2010.

The Supreme Court gave Dann a public reprimand in March 2004 for filing the wrong pleading in a divorce case regarding spousal support in Mahoning County. Both sides agreed the reprimand was an “aggravating factor” in recommending Dann’s suspension, Dove wrote.

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