Written By: Ishton W. Morton – November 19th, 2020
On Thursday morning November 19th, 2020 Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld has been arrested on federal corruption charges. Sadly Sittenfeld is the third member of council to be arrested this year. Seemingly these people knows absolutely nothing about mental gymnastics causing one to ask; What is going on with Cincinnati City Council?
According to Federal officials, Sittenfeld was arrested this Thursday morning at his East Walnut Hills home on public corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for favorable votes on development deals.
According to information received P.G. Sittenfeld was indicted on a 6 count indictment of solicitation of money in exchange for his support to develop a complex at 435 Elm Street in downtown Cincinnati.
Subsequently, federal officials said the complex is being developed by former Cincinnati Bengals player Chinedum Ndukwe. Accordingly the complex was going to be transformed into a hotel and office complex.
Sittenfeld, 36, a Democrat, has been charged with two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery and two counts of attempted extortion by a government official.
It is alleged he accepted eight checks totaling $40,000 in exchange for specific action in his role as a city official.
Federal officials added, these are only allegations. Nonetheless federal officials followed after a similar continuum and suggesting, it is alleged that Sittenfeld corruptly solicited and received payments to a PAC he controlled.
Specifically, in November and December 2018, Sittenfeld promised he could “deliver the votes” in city council to support a development project in exchange for four $5,000 contributions to his PAC.”
Furthermore federal officials added, it is alleged that Sittenfeld again corruptly accepted four $5,000 checks in September and October 2019.
Reportedly, authorities said, Ndukwe worked with the FBI in connection with the case. Currently, Sittenfeld is serving his third term as a member of Cincinnati City Council. Officials said during a press conference that Sittenfeld solicited bribes in 2018 and 2019. He then received 10 checks in exchange for “official actions” on City Council.
Moreover, Sittenfeld has spent the last three years embroiled in council’s Gang of 5 scandals. Himself and four other members of council were sued and later admitted they violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act by holding secret meetings via text messages among themselves. The lawsuit, which cost taxpayers $101,000 in legal fees and fines, resulted in an embarrassing release of text messages that showed a more colorful side of Sittenfeld not typically seen in council chambers.
During a Thursday’s press conference U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said, his experience investigating public corruption cases, politicians rarely offer a “gotcha moment” in which they explicitly promise official action in exchange for campaign contributions.
He continued to say “We don’t have to prove an expressed quid pro quo. And we’re alleging there’s a quid pro quo in this case, don’t get me wrong. But what we have to prove is even an implicit agreement.”
Also, the complaint says Sittenfeld agreed to try to help use city zoning laws so the developers’ project could have a sports-betting window. Sittenfeld discussed sports betting at a September 24th, 2019 meeting in Columbus, the day after undercover FBI agents met with Householder, the former Ohio House speaker, to discuss amending a pending sports-betting legalization bill to include the project.
His arrest follows that of Republican Jeff Pastor, 36, last week, who was indicted on federal bribery, extortion, money laundering and fraud charges. According to federal investigators, Pastor was “aggressive and cavalier” about soliciting bribes, starting shortly after he took office nearly three years ago.
Again, he’s the third City Council member to be accused of creating a pay-to-play scheme this year. Just last week, Council Member Jeff Pastor was charged after officials say he took $55,000 in bribes for a similar scheme.
Incidentally, he recently announced he will be running for Cincinnati mayor in 2021, and to many is considered the front-runner in the race to replace term-limited Mayor John Cranley. Ironically he has already raised $710,000 in campaign donations.
However, in wake of Pastor’s indictment, Sittenfeld released a brief statement, saying, “This is a sad day for our city. If the allegations are true, a new member of Council needs to be appointed to move forward with the many pressing issues facing our community. My prayers go out to Councilmember Pastor’s family.”
Democrat Tamaya Dennard, 40, was the first member of the current council convicted in a bribes-for-personal-gain case. She was elected to City Council November 2017, and resigned on March 2nd, 2020.
Also, be reminded Sittenfeld was the mentor for former Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard. Dennard was arrested by the FBI in a pay-to-play scheme in February and has since resigned and pleaded guilty. She volunteered on Sittenfeld’s first council campaign, then went to work for Sittenfeld’s council office. Dennard rose to be his chief of staff and ran for council herself and won in 2017. The two had a falling out over the text message scandal.
Sittenfeld is charged with two counts each of honest services wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion by a government official.
Former Council Member Tamaya Dennard was arrested in February and pled guilty to honest services wire fraud this summer.