Jeff Pastor to take voluntary suspension from council amid bribery charges, source says

Jeff Pastor to take voluntary suspension from council amid bribery charges, source says
Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor is expected to agree to a voluntary suspension from his elected office, a source tells FOX19 NOW. (Source: FOX19 NOW)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - City Councilman Jeff Pastor, facing 10 federal charges and a voter-backed lawsuit that could force him from public office by month’s end, is expected to agree to a voluntary suspension, a source tells FOX19 NOW.

Pastor’s lawyer finalized the details Friday with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and they should be official soon, according to the source.

Earlier this week, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court to begin suspension proceedings on Pastor.

He is facing felony charges of bribery, extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes.

The Republican, 36, has pleaded not guilty and remains free on his own recognizance.

Pastor’s attorney, Ben Dusing, told FOX19 NOW Friday morning he could not confirm nor deny the voluntary suspension: “We are just going to let the process wind its course.”

The arrangement would allow Pastor to keep collecting his $65,000 annual council salary and healthcare benefits for not only him but his family, including his pregnant wife and four children, according to the source.

Such a situation is not unheard of for elected officials criminally charged in connection with their office.

Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader agreed to a voluntary suspension last summer following his multi-count indictment related to allegations of misusing funds for gambling purposes. He has since pleaded guilty to five counts of his 18-count indictment and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4.

Even if Pastor takes the suspension, he could still be permanently removed from office through a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a group of Cincinnati voters including an Ohio state representative and four other residents, including Hamilton County Recorder Norbert Nadel, who also is a former common pleas court judge.

A status hearing scheduled in the case for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 24 in Hamilton County Probate Court.

A trial also has been set for 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 30.

It would be up to the Cincinnati city solicitor’s office to decide whether to prosecute the case or not or leave Pastor on suspension with pay pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Pastor was accused in an indictment last week of bribery, extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes related to his role on council.

Federal authorities say he was only six months into his first term before he sought his first bribe.

He’s accused of soliciting and received $55,000 in bribes between August 2018 and February 2019 in exchange for favorable action on development projects City Council was considering.

If Pastor is convicted on all charges, he faces up to 90 years in prison

Pastor’s business partner Tyran Marshall, 35, acted as a middleman in receiving bribes payments.

Marshall is charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and money laundering.

Dusing has said Pastor will fight the charges and suggested Pastor may have evidence of his own showing entrapment.

Mayor John Cranley and several of Pastor’s colleagues on council and other local and state leaders have called for Pastor to step down.

He was the second council member to be arrested this year when he was taken into custody Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Tamaya Dennard was arrested on similar bribery charges in February related to soliciting money for another development deal.

The Democrat, 40, resigned in March and has since entered a guilty plea to wire fraud.

Dennard faces up to 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years, and a fine not to exceed $250,000, court documents state.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 24.

On Thursday P.G. Sittenfeld joined Pastor and Dennard to become the third councilmember arrested on federal bribery charges connected to his elected office.

The 36-year-old Democrat who is running for mayor faces two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery and two counts of attempted extortion by a government official.

He has pleaded not guilty and is free on his own recognizance.

Sittenfeld did not respond to FOX19 NOW Thursday when we sought comment from him as he left the federal courthouse Downtown after his initial hearing.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday former Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Chinedum Ndukwe, who is now a developer, agreed to help federal authorities with their investigation as a witness and an FBI informant in both Pastor and Sittenfeld’s cases, federal officials have said.

We asked Pastor’s lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, about Sittenfeld’s arrest.

“Was I surprised? My answer would be not really. In my experience on both sides of these things, when the government makes a substantial investment in the prosecution of a certain type of crime, they typically make sure it has a return on its investment.”

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