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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2008

Sex harassment inquiry in Dann's office intensifies

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS - A woman who claims she was sexually harassed by a manager at Attorney General Marc Dann's office asked police to investigate the matter yesterday, intensifying pressure at the office of Ohio's top law enforcer.

Cindy Stankoski, 26, has alleged that Anthony Gutierrez, the office's general services supervisor, engaged in inappropriate comments and touching, and had previously filed complaints within the attorney general's office and with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The report she filed yesterday with Columbus police raised the stakes against Mr. Gutierrez.

Ms. Stankoski's plan to seek a criminal investigation was reported by the Columbus Dispatch and the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Another staff member, Vanessa Stout, also 26, has filed claims against Mr. Gutierrez, who roomed with Mr. Dann at a Dublin apartment at the time of one of the alleged incidents. Their attorney, Rex Elliott, said the women have been scheduled for another meeting with investigators in Mr. Dann's office Tuesday.

The filing occurred as Mr. Gutierrez and another aide suspended with pay in connection with the probe faced growing scrutiny.

The Plain Dealer reported that Mr. Gutierrez, who oversaw the office's vehicle fleet, was arrested on a drunken-driving charge near Youngstown in September, 2006, and later pleaded no contest to a charge of reckless operation.

Mr. Gutierrez didn't disclose the arrest on a state application that asked about recent traffic citations or things that could be an embarrassment to the state. Mr. Dann knew about the arrest, records show, because he picked up Mr. Gutierrez at the State Highway Patrol post in Canfield where Mr. Gutierrez was being held, the newspaper reported.

The other aide, communications director Leo Jennings, twice answered "no" on a state employment form to whether he had any employment outside Attorney General Dann's office or received any financial compensation for such work - even as he was receiving compensation from the Dann for Ohio campaign, documents obtained by the Associated Press show.

Mr. Jennings, Mr. Dann's communications director, filed the form on March 5, 2007, just three days after his political consulting business - Progressive Solutions Group - received $8,000 from the Dann campaign.

That payment, for February consulting, was followed the next month, on May 25, with a $2,000 payment to "Progressive Solutions Group-Leo Jennings," according to a copy reviewed by the AP.

The payments continued throughout the year: $700 in June and $3,000 a month through the end of 2007. The checks sporadically included reference to Mr. Jennings by name. Progressive Solutions was not incorporated with the state, but was simply a name under which Mr. Jennings sometimes did business. He initially intended when he took the state job to take a break from his consulting work, which may explain his answers on the employment form.

However, Mr. Jennings also failed to list the business name on a 2007 financial disclosure form he filed Thursday with the Ohio Ethics Commission. When reached by phone yesterday, Mr. Jennings said he could not comment because of the sexual harassment investigation.

The women did not accuse Mr. Jennings of harassment, but Mr. Dann said he suspended him for undisclosed information he learned related to the probe.

Mr. Jennings, Mr. Gutierrez, and Mr. Dann stayed at the Dublin apartment when they weren't at home in Youngstown. All three are married.

Ms. Stankoski alleges that she gave in to pressure from Gutierrez, 50, who is her boss and Mr. Dann's friend, to go out for drinks after work on Sept. 10. They ended up at the apartment. She fell asleep drunk, and when she awoke hours later her pants were undone and Mr. Gutierrez was next to her in his underwear, her attorney Mark Collins said.



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