Vice mayor proposes “Gang of Five” reimburse taxpayers

Vice mayor proposes “Gang of Five” reimburse taxpayers

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman introduced a motion Tuesday that would hold the “Gang of Five” responsible for paying their $176,000 legal bill and penalties.

According to the motion, Councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Wendell Young, Tamaya Dennard, and Greg Landsman appeared before Judge Robert Ruehlman on March 7 and admitted to violating the Ohio Open Meeting Law.

The Gang of Five discussed city business through secret text messages and emails.

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The settlement and cost of outside attorneys requires the taxpayers of Cincinnati to pay legal expenses and penalties that resulted from the Gang of Five open meeting law violations.

Smitherman’s motion states, “The taxpayers of Cincinnati should not be responsible for paying this bill.”

No one else has signed off on the motion as of yet.

The city had approved spending up to $150,000 for outside attorneys.

The city’s staff lawyers spent an estimated 450 hours on the case, according to Emily Smart Woerner, chief counsel of litigation in the City Solicitor’s Office.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party released the following statement regarding Smitherman’s motion:

“It’s disappointing that Mr. Smitherman launched another political stunt to bolster his 2021 mayoral campaign rather than focus on the work of the people. Let’s remember that the recipient of these funds is Mr. Smitherman’s friend and COAST attorney, Chris Finney. Rather than acting divisively, we encourage Mr. Smitherman to work with his fellow Councilmembers to move our city forward.”

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