Cincinnati Metropolis Corridor hopes new ethics panel will shore up public belief after council arrests

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CINCINNATI – Afterwards three top-class Arrests Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has set up an ethics panel to reassess the city’s official interactions with the city council members accused of closing crooked deals with local real estate developers.

The need for the panel is dire, Cranley said on Wednesday.

Cranley appointed the members of the nine-member panel, which includes former lawyers, judges, business leaders, political leaders, a pastor, and a real estate developer.

“We are in a deep hole in terms of public confidence,” added Councilor David Mann. “It’s something that requires a meaningful and serious response.”

One of the Ethics Committee members, Doug Schimberg, is a real estate developer who has donated to Cranley’s political campaigns in the past. When a reporter asked Cranley if the developer’s previous posts might also constitute a conflict of interest, the mayor said, “The alleged corruption came from the city council, not the mayor’s office.”

Cranley went on to say that the input of a developer into the panel is necessary.

“There is no way the committee can fully understand all of the issues involved unless it hears directly and, in my opinion, receives a meaningful, high-quality contribution from a committee that knows all the elements and sides of that experience,” he said.

The nine people appointed by Cranley who are yet to be ratified by the city council are:

  • Ann Marie Tracey (Chair): Former Chair of the Ohio Ethics Commission; retired judge in Hamilton County’s Common Pleas Court; Professor emeritus at Xavier University; former U.S. Assistant Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio
  • Verna Williams: Dean and Nippert Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law
  • Alicia Bond Lewis: Partner, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
  • Dan Schimberg: President of Uptown Rental Properties, LLC
  • Bobbi Dillon: Senior Manager, State Government Relations, Procter & Gamble Co.
  • Smith Concentration Camp: Senior Pastor of the Corinthian Baptist Church
  • Bernadette Wilson: Retired Information Officer for the Cincinnati Department of Health; Chief of Staff, former Mayor Charlie Luken
  • Tim Burke: President, Manley Burke LPA; former Chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party
  • Guy Guckenberger: Judge, Hamilton County Municipal Court; former member of Cincinnati City Council; former Hamilton County Commissioner

The three council members arrested were Tamaya Dennard, who campaigned for the promise to bring a non-stuffy, accessible policy to town hall; Jeff Pastor, the described himself as a “New Age Republican” committed to combating poverty; and PG Sittenfeld, once an obvious frontrunner in replacing Cranley in the mayor’s office.

All three have been accused of soliciting money to tip the City Hall’s scales in favor of certain local developers. Downtown and the nearby riverside are sought-after properties. The three council members offered, according to the FBI, to give their potential benefactors a competitive advantage if their projects were put up for vote.

Dennard resigned from the city council and later pleaded guilty in federal court. Pastor and Sittenfeld remain suspended.

“We’re planning a 360-degree review of the development process in the city of Cincinnati,” said Ann Marie Tracey, former Hamilton County judge and US assistant attorney who was appointed chairman of the Cranley Panel Don’t Just Look What The Process, but also who the players are. What changes in the processes might be needed, whether some proposed changes to city law should be proposed. “

City manager Paula Boggs Muething said the discussion will likely focus heavily on which parts of the city council are allowed to interact directly with developers.

Currently, only the city council is negotiating with developers – which means the mayor can speak to developers directly, but the city council members cannot. The decisions of the council are purely legislative, said Boggs Muething.

“That’s probably the gist of what we’re talking about,” she said.

The city council must approve the nine appointed members of the Cranley Ethics Committee before it can meet. After approval, the committee meets publicly every two weeks.