I have many friends in the AG’s office, and here’s what I hear. This comes from Democrats who joined the office last year, from Democrats who were there from Lee Fisher and TOny Celebrezze, from Republicans, and from totally apolitical staff:
Yes, he should resign, and yes, the scandals are the biggest news, but the office has been a mess since day one. The press never figured that out until they had a sex scandal. Sure, they did stories on little pieces, especially the bad appointments of the ones that had to resign or get fired. But the press still does not fully appreciate how fully he turned a professional office into a crony-driven nuthouse, and how much the staff have been grumbling all along.
They are upset that all the signs were there long before Dann’s election, but the Democrats picked him anyway. The ethics charges and other items showed that he was a loose cannon with no management skills. No one knew what form the train wreck would take, but everyone knew that there would be a train wreck. But the ODP ran him as thanks for his Coingate efforts and because they thought he could win, but they knew or should have known that he was a ticking time bomb.
So if we’re really honest, part of the blame goes to Redfern and the entire Democratic establishment, and it even goes to those of us who knew better and went along. We sat on our knowledge last year, hoping the stories would eventually die down and that Dann would get his act together.
People may fault Montgomery and Petro for not being active on foreclosures or other progressive issues, or for not calling out Taft on Coingate, but they both ran the AG’s office professionally. They also ran it in a fairly non-partisan manner, keeping Democrats on staff and even hiring more and promoting them.
Dann started right in the transition of making things more partisan and more unprofessional. Eventually he backed off a little on the planned firings, but he was firing low-level line lawyers for purely political reasons — something the others never did. He sent partisan invitations over e-mail, and he made the hiring very partisan, even for new lawyers right out of law school. He kept many holdovers, too, but he did so only when he realized he had too, and they’re the ones that have kept the place running for 18 months.
Of Dann’s management team, his best people are both Democrats who were already there from older days, or Republicans who stayed on. The majority of his own hires are incompetent. Some, of course, turned out to be unethical scum. Others are well-meaning and honest, but just bad managers. A few of his hires are good, but they are the exception.
I’ve been hearing this since the beginning. The worst hit are the Democrats from the old days, because they were excited about the pro-consumer part of the new wave, and have all been whispering that they wish Betty had won. They are hit hard enough that they would trade off the policy activism for having an office they could be proud of, rather than being ashamed to tell people where they work.
In an odd way, some are thankful that this explosion has been so large that it should lead to a resignation and a fresh start. Otherwise, they’d have put up with plain mismanagement for four or eight years with no one on the outside fully knowing or caring about how bad it was.
I have heard variations on the above sentiments from many good lawyers and non-lawyers there. Ask around, and you’ll hear the same, but only if they really trust you. Many are scared and keep their mouths and doors shut.
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