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Smitherman Asks For 'Forensic Audit' To Check For Impropriety Of Council Votes

christopher smitherman
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman wants to find out if any other council development votes were improper after three former and current council members were accused of bribery.

Following corruption charges against three former and current Cincinnati City Council members, Vice Mayor Christoper Smitherman is proposing a "forensic audit" in which the city would look back at how all council members voted on development deals over a specific period of time.

Smitherman says he will ask the city manager and the city solicitor for the audit, which will examine the last three years.

The request for the audit comes after Tamaya Dennard, Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld have all been indicted on federal corruption charges related to separate development deals. Dennard has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on wire fraud. Pastor and Sittenfeld are awaiting trial. 

Prosecutors say Dennard approached riverfront developers to shake them down, offering to take cash for her vote. According to the plea agreement, Dennard obtained approximately $15,000 in connection with the commission of the offense charged in Count 1 of the indictment and agrees to pay back the money. She has resigned her council seat.

Pastor voluntarily agreed to step aside after the state moved to suspend him. He is accused of taking $55,000 in bribes over a year in exchange for "official action" related to projects in the city, according to federal officials. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Dave DeVillers says, "This indictment is indicative of a culture of corruption, a culture of extortion and a culture of pay-to-play."

Sittenfeld was arrested at his home in November after allegedly accepting $40,000 in bribes. He is fighting the charges and has temporarily stepped down from his council seat.

Sittenfeld is accused of promising favorable action in council related to a potential sports betting venue at 435 Elm Street downtown in exchange for money, as WVXU reported.

As far as the forensic audit goes, Vice Mayor Smitherman says he looks forward to it and wants the results communicated to city residents as "the first step in restoring their trust and confidence in the workings of the City Council."

Smitherman says council will take additional steps "toward restoring public confidence after the depth of the corruption has been revealed."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.