Written By: Ishton W. Morton – March 7th, 2019
On Thursday, March 7th, 2019 Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman blasted five Cincinnati city council members calling on them to resign for conducting public business privately last year.
Present were the self-proclaimed “Gang of Five” – city council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard and Wendell Young – admitted they conducted public business in private, a violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. As a result, the city will pay $101,000 to settle a lawsuit.
Subsequently, Ruehlman spoke to a crowded courtroom, which included the five council members in question. What had been a messy political situation for several months finally came to a head, with Ruehlman doing most of the talking.
Ruehlman continued to say; “When you commit an act like this, and you’re essentially lying, being dishonest and violated The Ohio Sunshine Law – conducting business on the side in clear violation of the sunshine law, the trust is gone. The citizens of the city thought, when you had a city council meeting that, in fact, it was the city council meeting. However, in reality it was a charade and it was smoke and mirrors. And it wasn’t the real meeting. The real business was being handled through these emails and texts.” They have completely betrayed the trust of the citizenry of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
In retrospect most people have no idea of the connotations on this law. Nonetheless, Ohio’s Sunshine Laws is defined as follows: It includes the Open Meetings Act (Ohio Revised Code Section (RC) 121.22) and the Public Records Act (RC 149.43). This fact sheet focuses on Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, which requires that all acts and most deliberations of boards of education and other public bodies, as well as their committees and subcommittees, be conducted in public meetings. Since its enactment in 1975, the Open Meetings Act has been a continuing source of inquiry and litigation for boards of education.
All five council members admitted that they violated the Open Meetings Act by texting each other about official city business.
Some of the controversial secret texts included in the settlement agreement cover topics such as FC Cincinnati, and the drama surrounding former City Manager Harry Black.
Accordingly Attorney Brian Shrive filed the suit on behalf of a Hyde Park resident concerned about open meetings and public records violations.
Apparently, these concerns first surfaced when council members were debating Black’s fate as City Manager in March of 2018.
The Cincinnati’s self-proclaimed “Gang of Five” turned over text messages exchanged between them as part of the agreed order issued today in our litigation to expose the secret communications between the majority of the Cincinnati City Council.
Read the text messages below or online here.
According to Shrive, “The point of this lawsuit from the get-go was to make sure that the people of Cincinnati knew what their government was doing.” He added, “As Judge Ruehlman so wisely put it, for a year we had a charade of city council and hopefully that charade is over now.”
Predicated on the terms of the settlement, Young acknowledged destroying records by deleting text messages included in discovery requests. As a result, the city will pay the plaintiff in the case $10,000.
However, immediately after Thursday’s hearing, Young’s attorney, Scott Croswell, claimed Young did not violate an order issued by Ruehlman.
Croswell continued after a ridiculous and preposterous debate saying; “There’s been an issue concerning the deletion of emails. It has been rather publicly bantered about that Mr. Young deleted text messages after the court instructed him not to, and that simply is not true.” In the courtroom, his stupid debate with Judge Robert Ruehlman did not help his case.
Moreover, after Thursday’s hearing, Councilman Landsman was the only one spoke in front of a camera, saying he owns the mistakes he has made and hopes all parties involved can move forward.
I had two simple questions for him. (1) Are going to follow the courts recommendation and resign? He replied and said. No! (2) Are you going to repay the City? He did not answer. My comment to him was simple. I said to him, you need to do both.
Dennard refused to comment at all immediately following the hearing.
Sittenfeld indicated he will be do an on-camera interview but instead released a written statement.
In his statement, Sittenfeld added what the five council members did was wrong. He then blamed the right-wing for making an issue out of it.
Meanwhile, in a dim-witted or an unintelligent respond Chris Seelbach, sent out a tweet Thursday morning, ignoring the underlying issue completely and attacking Ruehlman.
Seelbach’s contention(s) are there no such thing as a meeting by telephones. Seelbach needs to be reminded that teleconference or teleseminar is defined as a live exchange and mass articulation of information among several persons and machines remote from one another but linked by a telecommunications system.
Terms such as audio conferencing, telephone conferencing and phone conferencing are also sometimes used to refer to teleconferencing.
The telecommunications system may support the teleconference by providing one or more of the following: audio, video, and/or data services by one or more means such as telephone, computer, telegraph, teletypewriter, radio, and television.