Wednesday, May 7, 2008 3:27 AM
By Joe Hallett, Alan Johnson and Mark Niquette
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Ohio lawmakers have a request for Attorney General Marc Dann: Resign so we don’t have to impeach you.
In a Dispatch survey yesterday, members of the General Assembly were virtually unanimous in calling for Dann to step down and save them — and him — the painful ordeal of an impeachment vote in the House and trial in the Senate.
Of 51 lawmakers interviewed among the 132 in the House and Senate, 44 said Dann should resign and seven had no comment. None said he should stay in office.
But most lawmakers stopped short of pledging to support an impeachment resolution, saying they need to see evidence that Dann’s misdeeds rise above irresponsible behavior.
“I don’t know whether we should impeach somebody for being stupid,” said Rep. Joseph F. Koziura, a Lorain Democrat.
“He’s betrayed the public trust and disappointed everyone,” said Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, a Chesterland Republican who ran for attorney general in 2006. “We don’t have enough information to say whether he should be impeached. Everyone is entitled to due process.”
In another development, all 13 special agents at the Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation have sent Dann a scathing letter accusing him of politicizing the agency by substituting what they called a top-heavy management plan that will cost $800,000 annually. The April 14 letter said the agents, many of them longtime employees, were considering a “no confidence” vote on the Dann administration.
At issue is Dann’s plan to reorganize BCI&I, based in London, Ohio. The agency does investigations and forensic lab work for many law-enforcement agencies statewide.
The agents urged Dann to revise his plan to add six new managers they said would be paid $95,000 apiece, or $800,000 annually, including benefits. They said the agency “must remain free of even the most remote appearance of being under the influence of partisan politics.”
“Your proposal demonstrates a lack of historical knowledge of what we do and how we have served Ohio for 80 years. …We consider your actions to be punitive, retaliatory and a detriment to the future of BCI&I.”
A call and e-mail seeking comment on the agents’ letter were left with Dann’s office yesterday.
Dann has said he doesn’t think he has done anything that warrants having to resign or being removed from office, and two major Ohio newspapers — the Youngstown Vindicator and the Akron Beacon Journal — so far have editorialized that removing Dann under these circumstances would be too harsh.
But both Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern continued to dispute that yesterday, especially a suggestion by Dann’s father-in-law on a Youngstown radio program that Dann may be guilty of adultery but committed no impeachable offenses.
“I certainly don’t think that, in and of itself, would ever cause me and probably no one else to suggest that he should step down or certainly not to be the subject of an impeachment process,” Strickland said of Dann’s admitted affair.
The governor did say it appears that Dann lied to John Haseley, Strickland’s chief of staff, when the question of the rumored affair surfaced during a meeting with Haseley in recent weeks.
“Does it affect the way I perceive certain things? Yes. But no, I’m not going to say someone should be removed from office because they told a lie to somebody else,” Strickland said. “Now, if they’ve done that under oath that would result in a charge of perjury, that’s something else.”
Dann’s father-in-law, Bentley Lenhoff, told Youngstown radio host Rob Mangino that Dann does not fear an impeachment process. Lenhoff, a keynote speaker at Dann’s 2007 inauguration, said all of the attorney general’s dirty laundry came out in an investigative report last week detailing sexual harassment, cover-ups and other questionable behavior that led to two firings and resignations of two Dann staffers.
“Any impeachment process would be nothing but a vindication of Marc Dann,” Lenhoff said. “I’m serious.”
Yesterday, Dann appeared to be standing alone on Capitol Square, abandoned by Strickland, other statewide Democratic officeholders and the Ohio Democratic Party, which removed his name and bio from its Web site. Still, he remains on the job, even as lawmakers began building a case against him.
Rep. William G. Batchelder, the Medina Republican charged by GOP House Speaker Jon Husted to gather evidence and review the impeachment process, said he expects to present findings to legislative leaders today. Batchelder’s report will be the basis of an impeachment resolution House Democrats likely will introduce as early as next week, Redfern said.
The resolution, which would list the grounds for impeachment, probably would be referred to a committee, whose chairman would have the power to issue subpoenas, Redfern said.