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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

Troopers on guard as Dann investigation gets under way

Dann Dann

COLUMBUS A broad investigation of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann s office was under way Wednesday amid tighter-than-usual scrutiny by highway patrolmen of those entering and leaving the offices.

"We are assisting the inspector general s office," said patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Landis. He referred all other calls to Inspector General Tom Charles, whom the legislature and Gov. Ted Strickland Tuesday granted unprecedented, one-time authority to investigate an independent, constitutionally elected office not under the governor s control.

Troopers closely watched the Rhodes Tower elevators leading to Mr. Dann s office, checking identification of employees, but they insisted they weren t preventing people from coming and going.

"[The inspector general s people] are here," said attorney general spokesman Jim Gravelle. "Exactly what they re doing, I don t know. They are talking to people on the floor, very casually I would say."

Mr. Gravelle shot down a report that Mr. Dann, under heavy pressure to resign, planned to make a statement Wednesday. A horde of reporters arrived at the attorney general s office for a statement that never came.

"We did not call a press conference," said Mr. Gravelle. "I don t expect a statement from the attorney general."

On May 2, Mr. Dann admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate in his office, and said he feared that may have contributed to an office atmosphere that led to sexual harassment allegations by two other employees against one of his top aides.

He fired that aide, Anthony Gutierrez; fired communications director Leo Jennings for allegedly trying to convince another employee to mislead internal investigators; and accepted the forced resignation of chief-of-staff Edgar Simpson for failing to act swiftly on the harassment complaints.

Mr. Dann has resisted calls for his resignation from Republicans and threats of impeachment from fellow Democrats, although he has been involved in talks with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a former attorney general, that continued Wednesday.

Mr. Dann s private lawyer put out feelers to see whether lawmakers would consider delaying the start of Mr. Charles investigation in exchange for his immediate resignation, but the offer was rebuffed. Instead, the law appropriating $250,000 for the investigation was swiftly passed and signed by Mr. Strickland Tuesday. Investigators wasted little time beginning their work.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.

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