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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Ex-attorney general's wife faces ethics charge

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The wife of former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann faces a misdemeanor ethics charge that she exploited her connections with his office to solicit a $6,500 grant to fund a journalism class she was to teach at Youngstown State University.

Alyssa Lenhoff, 47, who filed for divorce last week, is expected to appear Monday before Franklin County Municipal Judge Harland H. Hale on a charge of having an unlawful interest in a public contract.

"It is a violation of the law to solicit a public contract for your employer, yourself, or for your own benefit," said David Freel, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission. "This is a result of ongoing discussions between the prosecutor and her counsel."

Prosecutor Ron O'Brien filed the charge Monday. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

As part of a potential plea deal, Ms. Lenhoff would be required to cooperate with investigations into the scandals that led her husband, a Democrat, to resign in disgrace in 2008 just 16 months into his term.

Ms. Lenhoff is accused of repeatedly soliciting her husband's former chief of staff, Edgar Simpson, between April, 2007, and February, 2008, for a grant to fund a cold-case course as part of YSU's journalism program. Ms. Lenhoff is the program's director.

The grant was approved, but Mr. Dann stopped payment after a former assistant attorney general and staff raised concerns.

"She was scheduled to be the instructor," Mr. Freel said. "Under her contract with YSU, she has to teach so many courses. It's unclear whether this was payment toward her salary, but it was a benefit for her employer."

University spokesman Ron Cole said the provost has asked a professional-conduct committee to look into the allegations of misconduct involving Ms. Lenhoff. She is paid $48,191 a year from the school

Last month, Leo A. Jennings III, Mr. Dann's former communications director, and Mr. Simpson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor ethics charges. Mr. Dann has not been charged. The statute of limitations for the filing of misdemeanor charges will expire in mid-May, two years from his resignation.

Mr. Dann was pressured by Republicans and Democrats to step down following revelations of sexual harassment involving his aide, Anthony Gutierrez, and after Mr. Dann confessed to his own extramarital affair with his office scheduler.

Gutierrez pleaded guilty in August to theft in office and unauthorized use of public property and other crimes.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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