Wendell Young running for Cincinnati mayor, campaign rep says

Wendell Young running for Cincinnati mayor, campaign rep says
Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young (FOX19 NOW/file)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young is running for mayor in 2021, his campaign representative tells FOX19 NOW.

“Yes, he is running for mayor,” Gloria Davis-Kelow said.

We contacted her after she sent a news release out Tuesday morning saying: “Councilman Wendell Young is set to pull petitions for the Mayor’s race happening in the City of Cincinnati in 2021. He will be at Hamilton County Board of Elections today at 2:00 pm to officially pull petitions with strong intentions of entering the Mayor’s race.

“Councilman Young will make a formal announcement regarding his candidacy for Mayor within the next few days.”

Young joins what is getting to be a crowded race for Cincinnati’s next mayor. John Cranley is term-limited out.

Councilman David Mann, State Sen. and former Councilman Cecil Thomas, retired Cincinnati firefighter Raffel Prophett and Cincinnati activist Kelli Prather all have announced they are running.

Thomas told FOX19 NOW on Monday the arrest of Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld -previously regarded by many as the front-runner in the mayor’s race - helped him decide to run.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman also cited Sittenfeld’s arrest when he told FOX19 NOW in November that he is reconsidering running for mayor.

Smitherman dropped out of the mayor’s race in January 2020, saying he needed to focus on his family and their five children following the loss of his wife to breast cancer.

In addition to Sittenfeld, Councilman Jeff Pastor also is facing several similar charges and now-former Councilwoman Tamaya resigned in March and recently received a sentence of 18 months in prison for a wire fraud charge.

Young is a familiar face at City Hall and was a longtime city employee.

He was appointed to Cincinnati City Council in June of 2010, filling the vacancy left by Councilmember Laketa Cole.

A life-long resident of Cincinnati, Young grew up in Avondale, where he attended Cincinnati Public Schools, graduating from Hughes High School in 1963, according to his biography on the city’s website.

After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving until honorably discharged in January 1967. After returning home, he became a member of the Cincinnati Police Department. He has previously told FOX19 NOW he retired as a sergeant nearly 20 years ago.

More recently, Young was one of the five council members known as the “Gang of Five” after they were named in a 2018 lawsuit by an anti-tax activist.

The suit sought their private text messages and emails to prove they were privately conducting publicly city business.

The suit was settled the following year with Young and fellow council members Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, Sittenfeld and Dennard admitted they violated Ohio Open Meetings Act.

At that time, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman, who approved the settlement, told them they should resign.

The text messages also were released as part of the settlement.

MORE | Council texts: Harry Black needs counseling, mayor ‘flat out lied’ | ‘Amen! We’re the new Gang of Five: Secret council text messages released ahead of hearing | Council texts: Former mayor strategized with ‘Gang of Five’ | Five Cincinnati City Council members may face criminal prosecution over text messages

Ruehlman considered and then decided against a contempt of court charge for Young after Young deleted text messages off his cell phone that were evidence in the lawsuit.

Investigators with the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office looked into the matter starting in late 2018 and could not determine when the messages were deleted - before or after a judge’s order to retain them.

There’s “not enough evidence to find him in contempt. I think it’s important to just bring this all out. Important to explain to the public and press all of what happened,” Ruehlman said last year.

“I’m not looking to throw him in jail...you work for the public, you don’t work for yourself and you have a duty to serve the public. The people of the city can make their own decisions.”

Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young (left) and his lawyer, Scott Croswell (right) face Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman in court on May 2, 2019.
Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young (left) and his lawyer, Scott Croswell (right) face Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman in court on May 2, 2019. (Source: FOX19 NOW/file)

The Gang of Five situation cost the city $176,000 in legal costs, city records show. The money went to outside lawyers and the settlement.

Last year, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber made a referral to the city of Cincinnati against the “Gang of Five” for a misdemeanor charge of dereliction of duty,

A special prosecutor in the case, Patrick Hanley, however, ultimately concluded such a charge “is not warranted” and he declined prosecution, according to a letter he wrote Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters that we received under a public records request.

Hanley then wrote: “The investigation is ongoing.”

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