by ALEX HAAS '21
Have you heard about the recent corruption in Cincinnati’s City Council? Within one year, three members of our city council have been charged with federal corruption charges.
The first to be arrested was Tamaya Dennard. In February 2020, Dennard was accused of wire fraud. Essentially, she bribed a person with her vote on a developing deal in exchange for $15,000, but her scheme was discovered when that person went to the FBI. She resigned in March, pleaded guilty in June, and started her 18 month sentence in November.
The second council member to be arrested was Jeff Pastor on November 10. Pastor is accused of accepting $55,000 in bribes in exchange for two development projects in 2018 and 2019. Two FBI agents posed as developers to build their case against Pastor. In addition to bribery, Pastor also faces charges of extortion, wire fraud, money laundering, and other crimes related to his role on council. If convicted of all charges, Pastor could face up to 90 years in prison. Pastor is currently suspended from the council and denying all charges against him. He will face trial soon.
Two weeks after Pastor was arrested, councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested on November 23. Like Dennard and Pastor, Sittenfeld is accused of exchanging his votes on development deals for money, among other corruption-related charges. He is currently suspended from the council and pleading not guilty. Sittenfeld’s attorneys are in a legal battle challenging his corruption charges, accusing the FBI of misstating facts and the law in his indictment.
Unfortunately, this culture of corruption in politics does not come as a surprise, yet it is especially disappointing to see it in our own city. Instead of taking their job to represent the people seriously, Dennard, Sittenfeld, Pastor, and many other politicians selfishly used their platforms for money and power. While in court, Dennard said she was elected to serve undervalued communities. Instead, she sold her votes for money. “They are people used to being let down,” Dennard says, “I let them down again.”
Dennard has been replaced by Jan Michele Lemon Kearney and Pastor and Sittenfeld have been temporarily replaced by Steve Goodin and Liz Keating, respectively. Additionally, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley recently announced the nine members of a new anti-corruption panel that he says will clean up City Council. Hopefully, the new council and panel will work together to earn back some of the trust and respect that many Cincinnatians lost in the past year.