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COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the six-month suspension of the law license of disgraced former attorney general Marc Dann.
“While Dann has offered substantial mitigating evidence, he has previously been disciplined by this court, he has admitted that he knowingly engaged in the conduct that resulted in his criminal conviction for soliciting improper compensation, and his conduct with respect to his financial-disclosure statements was at best reckless,” the court wrote. “He also engaged in this unlawful conduct while serving as the state’s chief legal officer.”
The decision comes more than four years after Mr. Dann, a Democrat, was pressured into resigning as state attorney general after allegations of sexual harassment were brought against a top aide and allegations of cronyism were leveled against him. In the midst of the resulting investigation, he admitted to his own consensual affair with his office scheduler.
He pleaded guilty to two first-degree misdemeanors for using campaign and inaugural accounts to funnel extra pay to two top aides and for failing to disclose income and gifts on ethics forms.
Among the gifts in question was $20,000 in air travel to a 2007 Arizona conference for himself and family members that was financed by a Texas lobbyist for a firm doing business with the Ohio Lottery at the time.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which acts as prosecutor in attorney discipline cases, had initially recommended a stayed six-month suspension that would have allowed Mr. Dann to continue his private practice. But it was overruled by the state attorney disciplinary board, which recommended a flat six-month suspension.
The Supreme Court has now upheld that decision.
Among other examples made in his argument that a six-month suspension was out of line, Mr. Dann had pointed to the public reprimand handed Republican former Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded “no contest” in 2005 to four first-degree misdemeanor counts of failing to disclose golf outings and other gifts worth $75 or more.
Among the sources of those gifts was Tom Noe, a former Toledo-area coin dealer and past chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, who is now serving an 18-year state sentence for the theft of $13 million from a $50 million investment he ran for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.
That Republican scandal had helped fuel a Democratic election wave in 2006 that also carried Mr. Dann into office. He was gone by May of 2007, admitting that even he didn’t expect to win. He cannot hold public office again for seven years.
“Like judges, the attorney general has a heightened duty to the public by virtue of his elected office. As the chief law officer for the state, the attorney general is charged with providing legal representation and advice to all officers, boards, heads of departments, and institutions of this state,” the court wrote.
“For that reason, the work of the attorney general touches upon virtually all areas of our state government,” it wrote. “Thus, Dann’s criminal and ethical violations reflect poorly on his fitness to practice law and the legal profession as a whole, but also cause incalculable harm to the public perception of the attorney general’s office and those government agencies, departments, and institutions that the attorney general advises and represents.”