For Cincinnati, it’s been a one-two-three punch.
The primary blow got here in February when Tamaya Dennard, the president professional tem of the Cincinnati Metropolis Council, was arrested and charged with accepting $15,000 in bribes in alternate for a vote on the Council. She pleaded responsible in June and faces as much as 20 years in jail when she is sentenced in federal courtroom subsequent week.
The second landed final week when Jeffrey Pastor, one other member of the Metropolis Council, was charged with taking $55,000 in bribes in return for promising to assist metropolis growth initiatives, together with the redevelopment of a downtown constructing. Mr. Pastor has pleaded not responsible and has resisted calls to step down.
Then, on Thursday, Alexander Sittenfeld grew to become the third member of the Metropolis Council charged with corruption when he was arrested at house and charged with taking $40,000 in bribes whereas promising to “ship the votes” for a similar downtown growth undertaking that Mr. Pastor was concerned in, federal prosecutors stated.
The fees in opposition to a 3rd member of the nine-person Council surprised native political leaders and strengthened what federal prosecutors have known as a “tradition of corruption” that has undermined belief in Metropolis Corridor.
“The residents of Cincinnati must be questioning proper now: How can that belief be restored when one-third of Metropolis Council has been arrested this 12 months for bribery and extortion and sincere companies circumstances?” Chris Hoffman, the particular agent answerable for the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati subject workplace, stated at a information convention on Thursday.
The fees in opposition to Mr. Sittenfeld instantly upended Cincinnati’s political pecking order.
A Democrat who is named P.G., Mr. Sittenfeld misplaced to former Gov. Ted Strickland within the 2016 Democratic major for U.S. Senate, however was thought-about a promising candidate for mayor subsequent 12 months. A graduate of Princeton College who was awarded a Marshall Scholarship to attend graduate college at Oxford College, he was first elected to the Metropolis Council in 2011 and was Cincinnati’s prime vote-getter within the two most up-to-date citywide elections, in keeping with his Council biography.
“He was the brilliant younger boy marvel of Cincinnati metropolis politics with the Ivy League pedigree and the outdated cash household,” stated David Niven, an affiliate professor of political science on the College of Cincinnati. “This was not an area pol who everybody anticipated was blended up within the seedier facet of politics.”
Prosectors stated Mr. Sittenfeld had accepted six checks totaling $40,000 from federal brokers posing as actual property traders and had stashed the cash in a political motion committee that he secretly managed.
Based on a six-count indictment, Mr. Sittenfeld accepted the bribe cash in 2018 and 2019, whereas promising to “ship the votes” and carry out different official acts for the downtown growth undertaking, which wanted Metropolis Council approval.
The case started in 2018 when Mr. Sittenfeld requested for cash from Chinedum Ndukwe, a former participant for the Cincinnati Bengals, whom Mr. Sittenfeld knew was actively looking for an settlement with town to develop the undertaking and had been unsuccessful in his makes an attempt, prosecutors stated.
Mr. Sittenfeld didn’t know that Mr. Ndukwe was already cooperating with the federal authorities on the investigation that will result in bribery costs in opposition to Mr. Pastor, a Republican.
At a gathering in November 2018 arrange with Mr. Ndukwe’s assist, Mr. Sittenfeld went for lunch at a downtown Cincinnati restaurant and indicated to undercover brokers that he would shepherd votes for the true property undertaking, prosecutors stated.
He offered voting information displaying that he was politically well-liked in Cincinnati and stated he was prone to be the subsequent mayor, in keeping with prosecutors.
“I can transfer extra votes than some other single individual,” Mr. Sittenfeld stated, in keeping with the indictment. On one other event, in December 2018, he stated, “Don’t let these be my well-known final phrases, however I can at all times get a vote to my left or a vote to my proper,” in keeping with prosecutors.
Over the subsequent a number of months, prosecutors stated, Mr. Sittenfeld advised undercover brokers that he was persevering with to strain officers to help the undertaking.
David M. DeVillers, the U.S. legal professional for the Southern District of Ohio, stated prosecutors didn’t consider that Mr. Pastor and Mr. Sittenfeld had been working collectively, though their circumstances each concerned Mr. Ndukwe as a cooperating witness.
Mr. Sittenfeld was charged with two counts every of sincere companies wire fraud, bribery and tried extortion by a authorities official, prosecutors stated. He pleaded not responsible in federal courtroom in Cincinnati on Thursday and was launched with out money bond. His lawyer, Diane Menashe, declined to remark.
Political leaders expressed outrage on the costs, saying that they had badly broken public confidence in native authorities. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat who should depart workplace subsequent 12 months due to time period limits, known as on Mr. Sittenfeld to resign and urged new candidates to get entangled in metropolis politics.
“With three Council members arrested, it’s laborious to not argue there’s a tradition of corruption drawback on Metropolis Council,” he advised reporters. “We have to clear home and alter it.”
Drawing a distinction between the 2 earlier corruption circumstances and the one in opposition to Mr. Sittenfeld, Mr. Cranley stated that whereas Mr. Pastor and Ms. Dennard, a Democrat, gave the impression to be “determined for cash,” Mr. Sittenfeld appeared pushed by the “accumulation of energy.”
Alex Triantafilou, the chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Social gathering, stated leaders of each events wanted to return collectively “to root out unhealthy actors and restore religion in our metropolis.”
“This Metropolis of Cincinnati has now been dropped at its knees,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’d like drastic reform in contrast to something we’ve ever seen within the historical past of this metropolis. The voters of this metropolis should make severe modifications in 2021 and they should perceive how really damaged Metropolis Corridor has turn into.”