After three members of the Cincinnati City Council were charged with bribery last year, one thing became clear: the Cincinnati Charter did not provide for the removal of a council member charged with a crime.
Cincinnati residents could vote in May to change that.
Councilor Tamaya Dennard resigned after being charged. With council members PG Sittenfeld and Jeff Pastor were charged but did not resign; the state suspended them for payment. Both remain in this status while their cases progress through the court system.
All three council members are charged in pay-to-play programs that involve developers doing business outside the city.
Two other council members, Republican Betsy Sundermann and independent Christopher Smitherman, want to ensure that any other council member who has ever been charged with a crime has the opportunity to remove the offending member from office.
The Cincinnati City Council will discuss its two constitutional amendments at 2 p.m. on Wednesday
The Sundermann proposal
Sundermann has proposed an amendment to the Articles of Association that provides for the suspension and dismissal of a council member in the event of a criminal offense. In particular, after a council member has been charged with a crime, seven council members could vote to suspend the member for consideration. In the event of a trial or objection conviction, six council members could vote in favor of removing the member within 10 working days of the conviction. If there is no vote, the council member automatically loses his seat, says the amendment to the statutes.
This part of the constitution change would also prohibit council members from changing their designated successor. Under the Charter, upon taking office, councilors select one or more council members to elect their replacement if for any reason they cannot end their term.
In addition, Sundermann’s proposed amendment to the statutes requires that new council members complete compulsory ethics training.
The Smitherman proposal
Smitherman has proposed another amendment to the Articles of Association. According to his proposal, the city’s attorney would hire a special prosecutor when a councilor is charged with a crime to investigate the councilor’s possible dismissal. Smitherman’s proposal also prohibits the accused councilor from changing his successor.
The council will vote on whether to include the constitutional amendments in the main election in May. That would take six votes.