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COLUMBUS A legislative panel voted along party lines yesterday to transfer state funds to cover nearly half a million dollars in settlements with the two women at the center of the sexual-harassment scandal that led to the fall of former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.
Republicans questioned why the checks had been cut before the issue was brought before the Ohio Controlling Board, which reviews large spending items that veer from the approved state budget.
Attorney General Richard Cordray, a Democrat like Mr. Dann, reached the settlements with Vanessa Stout and Cindy Stankoski for $247,500 each, including attorney fees.
The two women had accused top Dann aide and friend Anthony Gutierrez of harassing them. Neither woman is still with the office.
Mr. Cordray said the payments were a result of an Ohio Court of Claims settlement judgment that did not require controlling board approval.
He attended the meeting seeking approval of a transfer of funds to reimburse the Office of Budget and Management for checks already cut.
I don t think there s been any effort by us to hide any aspect of this, he said. This matter has been fully aired. We do believe that the settlement that was reached was a reasonable settlement in light of comparable verdicts and settlements in other cases involving not only state officials, but universities and private sector matters.
That wasn t enough for Sen. John Carey (R., Wellston), who cast one of the no votes in the 4-3 decision.
It s not that I doubt the veracity of the attorney general, he said. It s just the fact that, even though it s legal, the request should have come before the controlling board.
Mr. Dann resigned under pressure from Republicans and fellow Democrats in May amid allegations he reigned over a frat house atmosphere in his office that ultimately led to harassment allegations against Mr. Gutierrez.
Mr. Dann admitted that his extramarital affair with his office scheduler may have set a poor example.
The Ohio Inspector General and Secretary of State have referred allegations to the Ohio Elections Commission that Mr. Dann misused his campaign committee and transition account for personal slush funds for family vacations, cell phones, and a security system for his Youngstown-area home.
Allegations also have been referred to the Franklin County prosecutor s office for possible criminal charges against Mr. Gutierrez for allegedly using state property to benefit his private construction business.
Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) asked whether the state is going after Mr. Dann and Mr. Gutierrez to recoup some of the settlement for the state. Mr. Cordray said such action is possible, as well as potential action against the bonding company that insured the office.
By all accounts, it appears that Anthony Gutierrez may well be judgment-proof. There are many issues going on there as you are aware, Mr. Cordray said. With Marc Dann, there, too, it may be very unlikely that we ll be able to recover monies.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 614-221-0496.
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