CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is claiming his innocence roughly 24 hours after his arrest on federal corruption-related charges.
Sittenfeld, 36, was indicted on two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery, and two counts of attempted extortion by a government official.
On Friday, Sittenfeld said the allegations against are “simply not true.”
Sittenfeld wrote the following statement on his Facebook page:
“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your incredible outpouring of love and support. It has lifted and comforted our family enormously.
“I am innocent. The allegations against me are simply not true.
“The attempt to portray proper assistance to a project bringing jobs and growth to our city that benefits the public is a gross overreach and an injustice.
“I stand strongly on my record of public service, including providing help that’s in the public interest to anyone, whether they have ever made a political contribution to me or not.
“My public service has always been guided by doing what’s best for Cincinnati.
“Please know this: I do not give up and will not give up.
“I intend to keep fighting -- fighting these false allegations, fighting as your elected Council Member, and fighting for our city and its future.”
Sittenfeld allegedly accepted eight checks, which totaled $40,000, in exchange for specific action in his role as a city official.
Federal officials outlined their case against him at a news conference in which they alleged he was funneling campaign contributions from developers into a political action committed (PAC) he controlled and used as “a political slush fund.”
The developers were actually federal agents, they say.
Representing Sittenfeld is attorney Charles M. Rittgers, who issued a statement Friday calling into question the allegations.
Rittgers specifically went into detail about the PAC.
“The government falsely claimed that PG’s PAC was secretly controlled by PG and falsely claimed that PG hid the donations he received from the undercover agents, a central component of their wrongful allegations. PG’s PAC was publicly created in 2018 before PG was approached by the agents who claimed to be interested in developing a blighted downtown building which is 435 Elm. The PAC is public. All donations, including the money from the government agents, are reported to the FEC as required by law.”
In the wake of the indictment, a number of city officials have called for Sittenfeld to resign, but Councilman Chris Seelbach is not one of them.
On Friday, Seelbach said he is standing with Sittenfeld as he questions the legality of the charges.
Seelbach said, “The charges, brought by a President Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, are incredibly weak.”
Unlike Seelbach, Mayor John Cranley and other council members called for Sittenfeld to step down from his role.
Mayor Cranley said while Sittenfeld is entitled to due process, he should resign.
Councilman David Mann told FOX19 NOW with the seriousness of the allegations, Sittenfeld owes to the people to leave his role on the council.
“Obviously anyone who is facing such serious allegations owes it to the community to resign,” Mann said.
Cincinnati Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman initially declined to comment on Sittenfeld’s arrest. He changed his mind by Thursday night and called for Sittenfeld’s resignation.
“After careful review of the federal; indictment, and carefully reading the allegations of the complaint there is no question that they are strong and credible. With regret I now formally call on Councilman Sittenfeld to resign,” Smitherman said in a tweet.
Smitherman also said there should be an audit of the city’s development deals for the past three years.
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