To the Editor:
In the race for governor, no attention has been paid to Gov. Ted Strickland’s acts in forcing Attorney General Marc Dann from office in 2008. Strickland’s behavior in that matter ignored the Ohio Constitution and the decision of the voters, and thus raised serious questions about his character.
Dann was elected in 2006 by over 2 million Ohioans after campaigning to be “the people’s lawyer.” Although Dann obviously made mistakes in his 16 months in office, he also made state government more transparent to the public, more responsive to the needs of average citizens, and less likely to engage in the types of corruption he had campaigned to stop.
Whether Dann’s mistakes were enough to have him removed from office was not for Strickland to decide. Under Ohio law, an elected statewide official can be removed either by impeachment proceedings in the Ohio legislature or by a complaint signed by 15% of the voters and a subsequent determination by the courts. Both methods involve a trial and careful weighing of the evidence; neither method involves the governor.
Despite those clear legal procedures, Strickland not only took it upon himself to decide that Dann should be driven from office but used extralegal and heavy-handed means to accomplish that result. He convinced the statewide elected Democratic officeholders, along with Democratic leaders in the Ohio Senate and House, to sign a letter publicly calling for Dann’s resignation or impeachment. He offered jobs to Dann’s top aides to have them abandon him and urge him to resign.
Strickland then had the Ohio Democratic Party denounce Dann and throw him out of the party. He goaded Democrats in the Ohio House to introduce a ridiculous impeachment resolution. And he allowed the Ohio inspector general to raid and ransack the attorney general’s office, effectively crippling Dann’s ability to function in office and forcing his resignation.
All this conduct was inconsistent with the strict legal procedures set forth in Ohio law for removing an elected statewide official. By arrogantly and recklessly applying strong-arm tactics, Strickland showed disrespect for the legal and democratic processes. His acts in that regard should be considered in deciding whether he deserves reelection.
Joseph C. Sommer
Attorney at Law