COLUMBUS - Lawmakers have begun preparing for what could be the first Ohio impeachment proceedings in nearly two centuries after Attorney General Marc Dann yesterday rejected calls from fellow Democrats to resign.
Democrats, including Gov. Ted Strickland, vowed to lead the impeachment march, and the head of the state party announced plans to essentially shun the attorney general in the wake of his admission that he had an extramarital affair with an employee at the same time that two other employees were being sexually harassed by a top aide who lived with him.
A defiant Mr. Dann refused to step down in two phone conversations Sunday with Governor Strickland, again in a memo to employees of his office, and a fourth time in a comment yesterday to his spokesman, James Gravelle.
"There is nothing I have done to make me resign," he told Mr. Gravelle.
Mr. Strickland sent a letter Sunday night to Mr. Dann asking him to resign. It was signed by the governor and top elected Ohio Democrats, including U.S.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Treasurer Richard Cordray, Senate Minority Leader Ray Miller (D., Columbus), House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (D., Columbus), and Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island), chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
"We believe that your actions have irreparably harmed your ability to effectively serve the people of our great state," they wrote. "The work of the office of the attorney general matters more, and is far more important, than any one person. In many, many cases it is all that stands between the people and the powerful.
"Sadly, we no longer have even the most remote hope that you can continue to effectively serve as attorney general and that is why we are asking for your resignation," the letter reads.
House Democrats are considering introducing a resolution to impeach Mr. Dann. If a majority of the 99 members in the Republican-controlled chamber agree, Mr. Dann would be subjected to a trial in the Ohio Senate where it would take 20 of 33 votes to convict.
Mr. Dann admitted Friday that he began an affair with an employee shortly after taking office last year and that he feared his behavior may have contributed to an office atmosphere that encouraged the alleged sexual harassment of two other office workers by a top aide, Anthony Gutierrez.
"I am in the office, have rolled up my sleeves, and am working on behalf of the people of state of Ohio. I hope all of you will do the same," Mr. Dann wrote in his memo to staff members yesterday.
"I know that this is difficult, and I am truly sorry to have put all of you in this position," he wrote.
"But our work is too important to do anything but our jobs today."
Mr. Dann, perhaps more than any other statewide Democratic candidate, rode Republican scandals into office in 2006, vowing that Democrats would hold themselves to a higher standard.
"This is an embarrassment for all Ohioans, regardless of partisanship, and the most important priority right now is to restore the integrity of the attorney general's office," said Rep. Kevin DeWine (R., Fairborn), deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday added his voice to the Democratic chorus calling for Mr. Dann's resignation.
"What went on in the attorney general's office in Columbus was disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful," he said. "There is no place for compromises on morality when it comes to the leader of the team, in this case the attorney general."
Governor Strickland said he feels Democrats must lead the way on impeachment.
"I think it's very important that Democrats send the message that we will clean our own house," he said. "We promised the people when we sought these offices that we would do our best to serve them confidently, sincerely, honestly with integrity.
"All of us felt that we had an obligation to the people of our state to send a very clear message that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated, whether it's coming from a Republican officeholder or a Democratic officeholder," he said.
The last impeachment vote in the House occurred in 1820 while the last Senate conviction occurred in 1805.
"If in fact articles of impeachment are brought before this chamber, they will be considered and reviewed in a thorough, thoughtful, fair process," said House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).
"I am keenly aware of the gravity of this situation and the precedent any impeachment process might set."39.96196 -83.00298 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section State!
Lawmakers have begun preparing for what could be the first Ohio impeachment proceedings in nearly two centuries after Attorney General Marc Dann yesterday rejected calls from fellow Democrats to resign. A defiant Mr. Dann refused to step down in two phone conversations Sunday with Governor Strickland.