Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dann places another staffer on administrative leave in harassment probe

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -- For the second time in a week, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has placed a staff member on administrative leave while an internal investigation into alleged sexual harassment by at least one member of his senior staff continues.

In a statement issued Monday, Dann said he placed Communications Director Leo Jennings on administrative leave, effective immediately. According to Ted Hart, a Dann spokesman who has assumed Jennings' media responsibilities pertaining to the investigation, the action occurred based on "information we received over the weekend related to the ongoing investigation."

With Jennings on administrative leave, Jim Gravelle, Dann's press secretary, has assumed overall responsibility for the AG's communications department.

Hart refused to offer specifics behind Jennings's suspension other than "I am not saying anything about what he might be accused of."

According to Hart, Dann will "not be taking any time off," from his post as Ohio's top lawyer despite the whirlwind of scandal surrounding the AG's office. He noted that Dann was in Northeast Ohio both Monday and Tuesday, making scheduled appearances, attending various meetings and giving speeches. He is scheduled to be in Columbus Wednesday and Thursday to attend to various matters.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland says the governor has not spoken with Dann about the sexual harassment allegations currently plaguing the AG's office. Keith Dailey also said the governor is not currently contemplating appointing an outside agency to investigate the alleged wrongdoings at the AG's office.

Over the weekend, Dann's office denied a request by The Columbus Dispatch for copies of e-mails exchanged between Dann and his former scheduler, Jessica Utovich, between September and November, 2007. Utovich is not one of the two women accusing Dann's staffers of sexual harassment.

According to Hart, Dann intends to comply with the newspaper's request for e-mails, but denied it initially because it was "not a specific enough request." He noted that the AG's office is "in contact with the Dispatch to more clearly define what they want."

Meanwhile, Ben Espy, a senior staffer in Dann's office whom Hart has called a "top dog," continues the internal investigation into the allegations. Said Hart, "Interviews have already begun."