Law career and state Senate
Dann practiced law in Youngstown, Ohio, and became active in Democratic Party politics. His disciplinary record as attorney consisted of a single reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court for handling a 2002 alimony case without proper preparation.
Dann was involved in Ohio's "Mandategate" scandal (2001), acting as the lawyer of Legislative Service Commission whistleblower Dr. Matthew Wells. Wells's report claimed that the state had saddled school districts with $500 million worth of unfunded mandates. Wells's report was only released after complaints by the Ohio Democratic Party. In 2000, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the state to "immediately" fund the mandates (in DeRolph vs. State of Ohio).
Dann's most notable and noted role was as the leading critic of "Coingate", an investment plan in which $50 million of the state's workers compensation reserve fund was given to Tom Noe, a politically connected coin dealer. Noe invested the money in rare coins, the location of many of which are not known. Noe, who had served as the chair of the Republican Party in Lucas County, Ohio, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to state, federal, and local GOP candidates. Noe, a college dropout, had been appointed to the Board of Trustees of Bowling Green State University and to the Ohio Turnpike Commission by Gov. Taft.
When the Coingate scandal broke, Taft, who was a regular golf partner of Noe's, denied having knowledge of the Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) decision to invest money in Noe's coin funds. Sen. Dann demanded to see memos, emails, and other communications transmitted between Gov. Taft's office and the BWC, and sued to gain access to the documents when the governor asserted a broad claim of executive privilege and refused to turn them over. In April 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court held that, although executive privilege does exist under Ohio law, its scope is not as broad as asserted by Gov. Taft.
The Cafaro controversy
Dann had been questioned by some for supporting Capri Cafaro's successful bid to fill Dann's unexpired term in the state Senate. Cafaro, heiress to part of the Cafaro shopping-mall empire, had never won election to office. In addition, Cafaro's father, J.J. Cafaro, had pleaded guilty in 2001 to bribing then-Congressman Jim Traficant to push legislation that would benefit his aviation-equipment company. Capri, then in her early 20s, was president of the aviation company but was not charged with any wrongdoing.
Allegations of hypocrisy over government transparency
In 2008, Dann has come under fire from the Ohio media for refusing to turn over emails he exchanged with his scheduler, Jessica Utovich over a three-month period. Dann campaigned on a pledge to uphold transparency in government. Dann has previously stated that emails are public records and also has sought emails from other politicians.
- Cafaro's candidacy prompts questions
- Columbus Dispatch, "Dann won't release his emails", April 13, 2008
- Akron Beacon-Journal, "AG Dann struggling with dirty laundry", April 13, 2008
- Columbus Dispatch, "State worker says Marc Dann aide could have worn sweatpants", April 11, 2008
- State sunshine and open records, "Transparency is great", April 14, 2008