We can’t let Chicago and Philadelphia have all the fun, can we?
First elected in 2011, the Democratic councilman was the presumptive front-runner in next year’s mayoral election, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Charged with bribery, wire fraud, and attempted extortion, Sittenfeld is now the third member of the city council to be arrested on charges related to bribery.
An indictment unsealed after Sittenfeld’s arrest detailed a scheme to put money from developers into Progress and Growth, a political action committee secretly controlled by Sittenfeld. The developers in the scheme were undercover FBI agents who gave Sittenfeld more than $40,000 in 2018 and 2019. Sittenfeld reportedly “solicited the money in exchange for his support of a plan to develop the former Convention Place Mall.”
Sittenfeld did not get the cash outright, but as a city councilman, he is not legally permitted to oversee the PAC where the funds were sent. In conversations with the undercover agents, Sittenfeld “made it clear … how they should donate the money, how much they should donate and what they could expect in return,” according to federal prosecutors.
According to the indictment, Sittenfeld told the agents that the donations should be considered “an investment in his ability to deliver” rather than a quid pro quo arrangement.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the monthslong investigation into Sittenfeld is “not directly related” to those involving Tamaya Dennard, a Democrat, and Jeff Pastor, a Republican — the two other members of the Cincinnati City Council arrested on charges of bribery for favorable votes. However, Sittenfeld’s case was indirectly related to Pastor’s: Both are accused of seeking money in return for the development project at the former mall.
“They were both drinking out of the same cup…….But there’s no evidence they knew what the other was doing.”David DeVillers
Dennard resigned from the council in March following her February arrest regarding charges of extortion and bribery. She received incremental payments of $5,000 and $10,000 and asked for more funds in return for “future help relating to official action for the benefit of CHS and CHS’s client,” according to documents from the case. Denard entered a plea deal in June and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Following the bout of arrests, DeVillers said that the investigations revealed “a culture of corruption” within the city government.
“We are concerned about this almost acceptance that this is how it’s done.”David DeVillers