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P.G. Sittenfeld ‘temporarily stepping aside’ from seat on city council

Updated: Dec. 7, 2020 at 10:01 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said he has voluntarily agreed to temporarily step aside from his seat on city council.

Sittenfeld was recently indicted on two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery, and two counts of attempted extortion by a government official.

In the video statement posted to Twitter, he said he is temporarily stepping aside to “aggressively pursue clearing my name and after achieving justice then immediately resume my seat on city council and my service to our city.”

Sittenfeld is the third member of the nine-person council arrested by the FBI this year for allegedly taking bribes for favorable votes on development deals.

RELATED | Time to clean house’: Cincinnati’s mayor calls for P.G. Sittenfeld to resign | Vice Mayor calls for ‘forensic audit’ of council votes on development deals | Jeff Pastor to take voluntary suspension from council amid federal charges | Former Cincinnati city councilwoman Tamaya Dennard apologizes in letter to judge

Sittenfeld is accused of taking $40,000 in bribes that went into a political action committee (PAC) that he secretly controlled, prosecutors wrote in his indictment. A charge his attorney vehemently denies.

“This has also been a very difficult time. False allegations, inaccurate stories and to have some folks be not willing to wait to get the complete and accurate facts has been painful for me and for those around me,” he said.

In the video, Sittenfeld thanked supporters for standing by his side.

“And I can promise you no one is more eager than I am for all of the facts to come to light and for the truth to be revealed because I know it will show my innocence. In a legal context, that process takes time. And while that happens thank you again for standing with me and believing in me. I am grateful for your continued support and remain in your service”

If convicted on all charges, the East Walnut Hills married father faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.

Sittenfeld has pleaded not guilty and is free on his recognizance.

He will continue to receive his $65,000 salary while the federal court case against him moves forward.

In a statement, Hamilton County Party Democratic Chairwoman Gwen McFarlin said the party is “disappointed” with Sittenfeld’s decision.

“While P.G. Sittenfeld deserves the chance to respond to the charges brought against him, we are extremely disappointed he accepted a suspension rather than resigning. As a result of his unfortunate decision, his fellow Democrats on Cincinnati City Council cannot name his replacement who will serve many months of his remaining term,” McFarlin said in the statement.

Councilmember Greg Landsman said Sittenfeld’s move to step aside is what’s best for the city and the accused.

“Stepping aside is what’s best for both the city and for Jeff and PG, Landsman said in a statement. “It’s not a matter of guilt or innocence. Now we can focus on reforms, many of which I’ve proposed and will fight for, and improve the culture and effectiveness at City Hall. People need to believe in their local government again, and I’m all in to be sure we get this right.”

Sharing similar thoughts on Sittenfeld’s decision was Councilmember Betsy Sundermann.

In a tweet, she said: “PG did the right thing today when he agreed to a suspension from his job as a councilmember. Council will look very different when we reconvene on December 16th and I’ve never been more excited to get back to work!”

Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler will decide Sittenfeld’s temporary replacement on council. Judge Winkler tells FOX19 NOW that he will consider any and all candidates, Republican or Democrat.

He started with a list of nine names on Monday morning and he tells FOX19 NOW the list has grown as many people have shown interest.

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