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New e-mails detail state of Dann’s office

Staff scrambled to train new hire, releases show

May 13, 2008
By STEPHEN ORAVECZ and RON SELAK JR. / Tribune Chronicle
More e-mails released by the attorney general’s office late Monday afternoon show Marc Dann moved quickly to get his former scheduler some help just days after she exploded on him in an emotional e-mail of her own.

The office staff scrambled to get new employee Arvin Donner ready to begin work in only a couple days last year, seemingly against standard operating procedure.

Donner was hired last September as an assistant to Dann’s former scheduler, Jessica Utovich — the woman with whom Dann had an affair. Utovich resigned earlier this month after Dann admitted to the affair following an investigation into sexual harassment claims in the office.

Three top aides, including chief of staff Edgar Simpson, lost their jobs as a result of the investigation.

‘‘Team, this ‘timing’ is unfortunate, but at times, when the big boss needs something ASAP, we all jump into gear, and I thank you for your quick action in this matter,’’ Joyce F. Chapple of administrative operations wrote on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007.

She went on to ask to Simpson why the eagerness to have Donner start after just having a ‘‘big issue’’ on the quick hiring of staff ‘‘without all the necessary ‘due diligence’ being carefully completed.’’

‘‘I do not understand why the guy below could not have started ‘after’ proper preparations were completed for him to report to work. Help me understand,’’ Chapple wrote.

A week earlier, Utovich wrote an emotional e-mail to Dann, saying, ‘‘Please do not EVER tell me to stop acting emotional.’’

She continued: ‘‘I try to do my job to the best that I can and you s--- on it. I try my hardest to make sure you are taken care of, do what you need to and prioritize only to have you complain and change everything without telling nobody. Your emotional crap is what makes everyone else miserable. I’ll stop being so emotional if you let me do my job and stop taking things out on me and other people here.’’

Utovich told Dann the two needed to talk and she asked him to go to the bathroom and call her.

The exchanges between Dann and Utovich were contained in more than 2,000 messages released last month by the office.

The e-mails released on Monday showed employees were hustling to get Donner ready for work.

Stephanie Bostos Demers, human resources director, said her department had no lead time to process anything regarding Donner.

‘‘Gee that is because he only came to HR yesterday morning ... We were told on Friday he is starting on Monday,’’ she wrote responding to the question why Donner could not access the computer network.

In an e-mail from Dann’s executive assistant, Colleen K. Brown, she wrote there was a desk, chair and phone at his work station, but the phone may not have been programmed and he didn’t have a computer.

She wrote that Dann wanted him working ‘‘ASAP,’’ the messages show.

Workers were hustling again when Donner moved from temporary part-time to full-time a month later. When the switch happened, Bostos Demers wrote that human resources was unaware Donner would be becoming a full-time employee.

Chapple also had questions.

‘‘Stephanie, Should we be getting something from a ‘Supervisor’ telling HR that he is to go full-time? No (sic) just a staffer tellinig (sic) us his new status???? Otherwise, I am going to come down and tell you guys that I have a ‘raise’ coming — I am kidding, but want our team up here to do things right. That may be wishful thinking,’’ Chapple wrote.

A message was left with Dann spokesman Ted Hart seeking comment.

The e-mail messages also deal with the involvement of Dann’s wife, Alyssa Lenhoff Dann, head of the Youngstown State University journalism program, in the office.

Lenhoff Dann was included in e-mail messages concerning the office’s response to a bill revising Ohio’s open records law, and she made presentations at sessions training public officials about the new law.

On Oct. 18, 2007, Simpson wrote to Lenhoff Dann telling her she was supposed to pick dates for sessions she wanted to handle. The next day, she responded: ‘‘Look below, butthead.’’

At that point, Simpson apparently realized Lenhoff Dann had put her name by six sessions she was interested in. Two of those also had Simpson’s name. Simpson replied, ‘‘Oh ....OK, that’s me.’’

Simpson and Lenhoff Dann became friends when they both worked at the Tribune Chronicle.

If is unclear if Lenhoff Dann taught all of those sessions. A message seeking comment was left on Lenhoff Dann’s cell phone.

The e-mails also deal with the application for a $6,200 grant from the attorney general’s office for YSU to offer a joint journalism/criminal justice class on old unsolved murders, so-called cold cases. The class was offered this spring, but Lenhoff Dann apparently did not administer the grant or teach the course.

In another exchange between Lenhoff Dann and Simpson, she wrote on Oct. 18 that the money would be used for the instructor’s fee, a field trip and to promote the class.‘‘So what say you?’’ she wrote to Simpson.

He responded, ‘‘I’ll take it to the crew... It sounds very cool. If you break up the class into groups, what do you think about me running one of the groups?’’

Lenhoff Dann replied Oct. 19: ‘‘We would love for you to run one of the groups. We could absolutely do it.’’



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