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« Stirfry

In defense of marc dann

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Published January 9, 2007

This writer's column last Sunday "Dann risks alienating friends in the press" about some of the staff appointments made by Attorney General Marc Dann, one of the Mahoning Valley's favorite sons, prompted the following letter from Bentley Lenhoff, Dann's father-in-law. Lenhoff has long been involved in community theater in the region. His letter, which has been edited only to delete "off-the-record" comments or telephone numbers, is being reprinted because it addresses the column and provides some insight into Dann's thinking.

"Dear Bertram,

I am writing to you in numerous capacities. First, I am writing to you as a father to Alyssa. Second, after 20 years of being my son-in-law, I am writing to you as a father to Marc as well. Third, I am writing to you as a person who has long admired your work. Finally, I am writing to you as a someone who is intelligent and who, by service, has proven that he cares about this community.

So, with that preface out of the way, here is my thesis statement: Your Sunday column is off-base.

You took a superficial look at the hires that Marc has made. You used those superficial observations to craft a weak and unfair argument about how Marc has strayed from his pledge to be open and accountable.

You are viewing the role of chief of staff, the role of head of law enforcement and the role of communications director in a jaundiced way. You are assuming that the only value that those positions bring is to insulate, spin and protect Marc. I understand why you could make such a narrow assumption because other officeholders have used those positions that way. But this is not Marc's plan. This is not Marc.

Marc hired and will continue to hire people he knows who have ability, integrity and honesty. He hired them for those qualities, not for their spin ability.

In the case of Simpson, for instance, he knows that Ed has the qualities of a great leader because he was a great journalist. You, Bertram, possess many of those same qualities. Great journalists ask questions. Great journalists know how to dig for information. Great journalists know how to analyze. Great journalists know how to seek balance. This will be Ed's value as the chief of staff for the Attorney General. His commitment to the public's right to know will be as strong as it was when he worked with Alyssa to change Ohio law making it easier for people to access public records. His commitment to journalism was displayed when he and Alyssa changed people's lives for the better in countless investigative stories that revealed deep-seated corruption and long-buried secrets in the community. To assume that Simpson's value is to insulate Marc from public scrutiny is simply a bad call and one that you might not have made had you taken the time to talk to Ed, to talk to Marc or to even talk to someone who worked with Ed.

The Ohio Attorney General must have a strong outreach operation with the public. As Attorney General, Marc intends to be aggressive in going after consumer fraud. He also intends to make the Ohio Attorney General's office accessible to taxpayers in a way that his predecessors haven't managed to do. All of this takes staff members who understand how to communicate with the public. It takes people who know how to write. It takes staff members who know how to ask questions. It takes staff members who know how to analyze information.

I realize that it is often fun to throw grenades. But you are better than that. Pick up the phone. Call Marc. Call Ed. Heck, call me. (You might have even found out what true role Leo Jennings will be playing with Marc in the future.)

There's nothing like setting up a "Straw Man" to knock him over. That's what your column today does.

What would you like to know that hasn't been disclosed, Bertram?

Do you forget that, after he won the election, Dann, on his own, came to you and the editorial board of the Vindicator and told you his plans for opening a satellite A.G's office in the area AND his reasons for endorsing Capri Cafaro?

He did not have to tell you, the public, or anyone else whom he was endorsing or why he was endorsing.

To deride Leo Jennings is to deride a person who was instrumental in Marc's winning the election. He has made enemies. He is opinionated and passionate. He speaks sometimes when it's not prudent. He lacks polish. But he's not a spinner. Just the opposite. He's brazen. But he's dedicated. He is principled. And, sure he is flawed. But find a person of capability and passion and intelligence who isn't. His accomplishments are many and I am wondering if you are even aware of them. I can fill you in if you'd like.

I've gone on too long.

If you want to talk, call.

Bentley


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