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Letter Asks Smitherman To Apologize To Landsman For Threatening Comment

Christopher Smitherman at City Council's swearing-in ceremony in 2018.
Tana Weingartner
Councilman Christopher Smitherman.

Updated: 9:40 a.m.

More than 20 Cincinnati residents and community leaders are asking Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman to immediately apologize for what they call a threatening comment delivered to Council Member Greg Landsman Monday.

The group released an open letter on the issue Friday morning.

On Monday during city council's budget and finance committee meeting, Smitherman called some council members "evil" for trying to drag him into a lawsuit about the "Gang of Five" text messages.  

"I pray to God none of my colleagues have said anything about me," Smitherman said during that meeting.  After he had turned off his microphone, Landsman and the group said the vice mayor threatened Landsman by saying "you don't even want to know what I'm capable of."

"Here in our own city hall, this is the kind of unacceptable rhetoric that poisons the discourse," the group members said in their letter. "Our leaders need to know - and, yes, to be reminded - that their words matter. People are watching. Our children are watching." You can read the letter in full below. 

The group is also upset about an email sent to all council members Wednesday from Tracy Gragston, who the group said has close ties to the Vice Mayor.

Gragston's email was about the "Gang of Five" text messages, and included the following line: "Council Member Landsman shouldn't hide behind [the] Star of David and synagogue shootings as a cover for evil."

Over the weekend, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people

The group is calling on Smitherman to denounce the anti-Semitic words in that email.

The letter said in the past week "the nation saw true evil perpetrated across America."

It cited the mass shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue; two African-Americans shot to death at a supermarket near Louisville; and the homemade pipe bombs sent to current and former public officials and members of the media.

The letter is signed by Jane Anderson; Jennie Rosenthal Berliant; Allan Berliant; Janaya Trotter Bratton; Timothy Burke; Tamaya Dennard; Rick Fischer; Bill Froehle; Cam Hardy; Bishop Bobby Hilton; Micah Kamrass; Joe Mallory; Ryan Messer; Troy Miller; Don Mooney; Barbara Myers; Robert Oestreicher; Mark Painter; Connie Pillich; Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp; Cecil Thomas; and Wendell Young.

The "Gang of Five" lawsuit alleges P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard and Wendell Young violated the state's open meeting law with a group text this spring when Major John Cranley was trying to fire now former city manager Harry Black.

Mark Miller and his attorney, Brian Shrive, filed the case shortly after the text messages were revealed.

Former city council candidate Derek Bauman had asked to intervene in that case to include Smitherman.

Bauman alleged Smitherman violated the open meeting law for his replies to a text message sent by former manager Black when he notified city council about the plan to dismiss one of the city's assistant police chiefs.  A judge denied that intervention last week.

WVXU has reached out to Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman for his response and will update this story. However, Thursday morning we received an email from Smitherman titled, "Important Announcement." In it, he said: 

(Wife) Pamela is currently receiving in-home hospice care. This has been an incredibly difficult time for our family. Our faith in God remains steadfast and we remain hopeful. We would like to thank Cincinnati Hospice, The Karen Wellington Foundation, The UC Health Barrett Cancer Center and their wonderful staff as well as Dr. Curry, Dr. Cox, Dr. Medlin, Drs. Cynthia and Wayne Farber, Drs. Herbert and Lynn Smitherman, Dr. Lisak and Dr. Lower for their care. We greatly appreciate those who have offered their prayers and well wishes. We continue to pray for those afflicted by cancer as well as their families and caregivers. At this time, we ask for your prayers and respect as we continue through this trying time.


An Open Letter by WVXU News on Scribd

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.