CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - Longtime Banks riverfront developer Tom Gabelman, an attorney who works for the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners, is the unnamed informant in court documents outlining how Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard sold her vote on a development deal for cash, his law firm, Frost Brown Todd, confirmed.
"Frost Brown Todd fully agrees with Department of Justice's statement ... that "it takes courage for citizens to come forward and assist law enforcement," the firm wrote in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer report that the firm was aware Gabelman was cooperating with authorities, though it remains unclear whether the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners, whom Gabelman works on behalf of, knew.
"As legally and ethically required, Frost Brown Todd and Mr. Gabelman immediately reported Council member Dennard's conduct to federal authorities," the statement said.
Gabelman could not be reached for comment.
From the moment Dennard was arrested Tuesday on charges of wire fraud, bribery and attempted extortion political insiders speculated the informant – who is not named in the court affidavit – was Gabelman. All details point toward him.
There are even details in the affidavit that come straight from Gabelman's firm biography.
The affidavit describes the informant as a lawyer who “specializes in negotiating large-scale development projects in the Cincinnati region.” In that job, the informant, “became involved in a proposed large scale development project for the downtown Cincinnati river bank.”
It then goes on to describe The Banks development. There has been one attorney at the helm of the project since the beginning – Gabelman – and he spent all of 2019 working to get a music venue built on the riverfront, along with deal to move Hilltop Basic Concrete to the Westside.
The conversations outlined in the affidavit between the informant and Dennard relate to Hilltop and the vote mentioned as the trade for compensation related to whether Hilltop should be moved to the Westside.
Gabelman long argued Queensgate was the best place to move Hilltop to, but the neighborhood opposed a concrete company as a neighbor. Council on Oct. 10 put forward a motion to block the move and Dennard voted no, city records show. Which, according to the affidavit, is what she told the informant she would do.
Even though Gabelman represents Hamilton County on The Banks, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Denise Driehaus said she was unaware Gabelman was the informant and didn't know Dennard asked for money.
She said she hasn’t spoken to Gabelman and declined further comment on Thursday.