Ohio AG office harassment scandal

by Walter Olson on April 19, 2008

Do as we say, not as we do?

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is leading a group of 18 state Attorneys General seeking a ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court that employees can not be retaliated against by their bosses for filing a sexual harassment complaint.

The case comes at an ironic moment for Dann, as his office is investigating claims by two 26-year-old women who work at the Attorney General’s office that they were sexually harassed on and off the job by their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, a close friend of Dann’s who shared a Columbus condominium with him.

(“Dann Defends Woman Amid Own Office’s Sexual Harassment Flap”, Fox8 Cleveland, Apr. 16; Mark Rollenhagen and Reginald Fields, “Employee in Ohio attorney general’s office files police report”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Apr. 19). Amid talk of a cover-up, Dann has also denied a request from the Columbus Dispatch under the state’s public records law “to review three months’ worth of e-mail messages between him and his then-scheduler, Jessica Utovich,” both of whose names turn up as possible witnesses in colorful text messages offered as evidence in the claims. “Dann in the past has said e-mails are public records and also has sought troves of messages from public offices when he was a state senator and the Democratic candidate for Ohio’s top legal office.” (James Nash, “Dann won’t release e-mails”, DispatchPolitics (Columbus Dispatch), Apr. 13; Julie Carr Smyth, “Sexual complaint probe at top cop’s office intensifies”, AP/Akron Beacon Journal, Apr. 18; Mark Naymik, “Dann has habit of hiring his friends; some have proved to be embarrassments”, Openers (Cleveland Plain Dealer blog), Apr. 12; Reginald Fields, “Dann employee files complaint with police”, Openers, Apr. 18).

After initial resistance, Dann did release some information that raised reportorial eyebrows:

In a surprising reversal, Attorney General Marc Dann’s office released 12 pages of notes that detail allegations of repeated sexual harassment and possibly an attempt to destroy text messages that may document the incidents. …

Dann’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer, Angela Smedlund, interviewed Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout on March 31 about problems they had had with their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, who is Dann’s friend and former roommate.

Smedlund’s notes reveal the following:

Stankoski agreed to go out for drinks with Gutierrez last Sept. 10, but said she soon “felt tipsy and trapped.” She agreed to go to an apartment Gutierrez shared with Dann and Communications Director Leo Jennings III. She called and text-messaged friends that night.

In the margin, Smedlund wrote: “Leo & Tony destroyed texts Tony admitted to Charlie.” The notes do not identify Charlie’s last name.

Jennings and Gutierrez are now both on paid administrative leave.

(Laura A. Bischoff, “Dann’s office unveils documents detailing harassment report”, Lebanon, Oh. Western-Star, Apr. 16; Rollenhagen/Fields, “Reports show Dann was aware of Gutierrez’s history of troubles”, Cleveland Plain Dealer/Youngstown Vindicator, Apr. 18; Bertram de Souza, “Will Dann survive the crisis?”, StirFry (Youngstown Vindicator), Apr. 17). Perhaps unfortunately in retrospect, the noisily anti-business Dann had been lionized in the New York Times after his election as a possible “next Eliot Spitzer“.

More: Above the Law, John Phillips (“Other key words are pajamas, condo, inappropriate text messages, Hawaiian pizza, booze, passing out in a bedroom, unbuttoned pants upon waking up, and nothing on but his underwear.”), Law and More. Update: Dann’s emails with scheduler released (Dispatch via Genova)

{ 1 comment }

1 Michael L. Gooch, SPHR 04.20.08 at 8:54 am

The sad fact is that most people who suffer from sexual harassment, are the ones that never report the offense. In my years as a human resource professional, I have witnessed this time and time again. Just as sad, is that a number of reported sexual harassment incidents are actually people trying to get back at a boss that they do not like or resent for some reason. Sometimes the reason is as simple as envy. I detail these situations and offer solutions in my book, Wingtips with Spurs: Lessons From the Ranch. In fact, I devote an entire chapter to these issues. Until we learn deep, moral lessons, there will be prey on both sides of the coin. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR http://www.michaellgooch.com

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