CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In the final months of her life, Pamela Smitherman decided she wanted to speak out about Cincinnati City Council’s “Gang of Five."
“She said to me, Christopher, I want to record a message,” said her husband, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman. “This would clearly be the last message Pamela ever recorded alive."
Among one of the thousands of the “Gang of Five’s” text exchanges released last week, one between Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach accuses Smitherman of using his wife’s illness for political gain.
Pamela Smitherman, 48, lost her battle with breast cancer almost two months ago, before the messages came out as part of a lawsuit settlement.
She passed away at the family’s North Avondale home Jan. 15.
Now, the vice mayor is sharing his late wife’s statement about those messages.
“I have no idea why I am being talked about. I question the moral integrity of anyone who wants to take cancer and make a mockery of it,” she said, according to a copy of the recording her husband gave to FOX19 NOW Monday. “Mr. Sittenfeld, you are just young and immature and I think your parents are probably ashamed of you and your behavior. Shame on your Mr. Sittenfeld for talking about me.”
Christopher Smitherman said he is honoring one of her last requests in releasing the recording.
Pamela Smitherman wanted to personally address the texts about her, he said, so her voice was heard.
“She made it very clear, not only to me, but also our children," Smitherman said in an interview with FOX19 NOW’s Tricia Macke.
Sittenfeld and Seelbach mentioned Pamela Smitherman during a series of messages they exchanged following the vice mayor’s radio show appearance in January 2018.
“I guess you heard Smitherman was going after you super hard today on 700,” Seelbach texted Sittenfeld.
Later in the texting discussion, Sittenfeld tapped: “He’s so unhinged. I did hear it. Do you think it’s worth my doing anything?”
Seelbach: “Do nothing. He wants to get under your skin.”
Sittenfeld responded: “It seems so desperate, and like he feels so threatened.”
“And the fact that he’s using his wife, saying ‘While I’m home caring for my dying wife...' is disgusting," Seelbach texted.
Sittenfeld: “It really is grotesque. Using that for a political agenda is actually staggering.”
Seelbach: “As I’ve said for 6 years, both (Mayor John) Cranley and Smitherman seem to have serious mental illnesses."
While these texts and others were released last week, the grieving widower spent the afternoon at Spring Grove Cemetery.
His wife’s grave markers had arrived. He talked to her, finding comfort once more at her side.
The next day, he released a statement, which read in part: “There is nothing political about death. Nothing!"
FOX19 NOW is seeking comment from Seelbach and a spokesman for Sittenfeld. We will update this story when we hear back.
Smitherman said he struggled with whether to release his wife’s recording.
He feared he would once again be accused of using the situation for political gain.
“I’ve decided to follow Pam’s instructions and release her message no matter what,” Smitherman said.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Sittenfeld says he “wishes nothing but peace" for the Smitherman family.
“I certainly share prior thoughts wishing nothing but peace for the family and other than that focusing on doing my job and I’ll let his actions at this time kind of speak for themselves,” Sittenfeld said, "but I wish peace for the family and obviously I’m trying to do the work of the city such as things like announcing $150 million in investments.”
He briefly spoke with FOX19 NOW after a news conference announcing $150 million investment in economic development for the Uptown Gateway. The news conference was held on the corner of Reading Road and Martin Luther King Drive in Avondale.
We asked Sittenfeld if he planned to personally apologize to the vice mayor, but he did not respond and walked off with his chief of staff.
Below is a transcription of the recording:
"Hi, I’m Pamela Smitherman. I am a strong African-American woman and I have breast Cancer. I did not choose breast cancer. Cancer chose me. I would not wish this upon anyone.
I have no idea why I am being talked about. I question the moral integrity of anyone who wants to take cancer and make a mockery of it.
Mr. Sittenfeld, you are just young and immature and I think your parents are probably ashamed of you and your behavior. Shame on your Mr. Sittenfeld for talking about me.
My husband Christopher Smitherman is a good man. I love him and I have for almost 30 years. We have five kids. He has always provided for us. He takes good care of me.
I am in hospice and thank you Cincinnati hospice for all you have done. Thank you (unknown) and UC for taking good care of me. To all the doctors and all the nurses.
I am praying for all the people who have cancer and their caregivers too."