CINCINNATI – Voters in Cincinnati’s May 4 primary will pick up two amendments to the Anti-Corruption Charter after a year of scandal in City Hall.
Three city council members – Tamaya Dennard, PG Sittenfeld and Jeff Pastor – were arrested by the FBI in 2020 and charged with seeking bribes in exchange for favorable positions from certain local developers. A fourth, Wendell Young, was charged on April 15 for manipulating evidence related to a year-long text messaging scandal.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and Councilor Betsy Sundermann have each condemned the behavior of their colleagues and proposed a solution.
Issue 1 on your main ballot is Smithermans. Issue 2 is Sundmanns.
You’re not incompatible, said Smitherman. He would like to see both of them over.
Smitherman’s proposed amendment to the Articles of Association would prevent an accused councilor from changing his “successor proxy form,” the official records of her preferred substitute, after the indictment.
It also allows the city’s attorney – the attorney who represents the Cincinnati government in most cases – to appoint a dedicated prosecutor to handle the case.
“What it does is, it tightens the charter to what we thought was impossible, which is now possible,” said Smitherman. “Right now we’re asking our legal team to make a decision about your nine bosses and that just doesn’t seem sensible.”
Sundermann, who is among the most outspoken local voices expressing her frustration with the city hall’s tarnished image, believes her amendment is “badly needed this year,” she said.
It gives the city council the option to suspend another councilor if they are charged. The council has nine seats; If the problem is resolved, a seven-person vote can suspend a member officially charged with a crime.
“If Issue 2 had passed a year ago, we could have suspended Mr. Pastor, Mr. Sittenfeld and Mr. Young, who is currently under indictment and is still sitting here voting with us,” said Sundermann. That is a big problem. “
Currently, an accused councilor can only be suspended through a lengthy legal process that must be requested by the Ohio Attorney General or the public.
Each way can take months, said Sundermann.
Issue 2 also requires council members to complete ethics training and, as in issue 1, prevents an accused member from changing their designated successor after arrest.
“One and two deal with corruption and try to codify and support our charter and I want a yes vote for both of them,” Smitherman said.
Click here to read the elective language for yourself and see what’s on the table for elementary school on May 4th.