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WVXU has been covering the stories of politics and corruption at Cincinnati's City Hall since early 2020. We have now launched an initiative to more closely examine Cincinnati politics and the individuals who have shaped it, along with the current allegations of corruption. We'll also explore proposals for change, and seek feedback from local leaders and community members on what can be done to restore trust in City Hall.Trust in Local Government, WVXU's Public Integrity Project will analyze our council-manager form of government and the charter amendments designed to reinforce ethical standards at City Hall; take a historical look at corruption in Cincinnati government; talk with the candidates for Cincinnati mayor and continue with an ongoing series of features, interviews and candidate profiles.

More 'Gang of Five' Text Messages Could Be Released

gang of five
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From top left: P.G. Sittenfeld, Greg Landsman, Wendell Young, Tamaya Dennard and Chris Seelbach.

More text messages from the so-called "Gang of Five" Cincinnati City Council members could be released publicly. A council committee Tuesday passed a motion from Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman asking the city solicitor to release any additional messages related to city business.

Deputy Solicitor Emily Woerner says they want a federal court to appoint a special master to help review the remaining messages to make sure they don't release anything personal.

"As somebody who is bound by additional confidences that is not part of the city in any way, shape or form," Woerner said.

The solicitor's office is also asking council members for topics they want to search for in the text messages.

The issue began in 2018 when five council members admitted their group texts violated Ohio's Open Meetings Act.

Three of the five remain on council: Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, and Wendell Young. Tamaya Dennard resigned from City Council in March 2019 after being arrested on federal charges of extortion, bribery and wire fraud for allegedly offering to exchange her votes on council for money. P.G. Sittenfeld "temporarily stepped down" in December as he fights federal charges of bribery.

Council Member Steve Goodin says this issue is important even though people may be weary of talking about it.

"Given the extraordinary events of the past year, I think it's incumbent upon us to be as transparent as we can be about all the city business that occured during that period," Goodin said. "I think if we're ever to totally move on as a city, I think we need to do this. I think this is the end of it as far as I can tell." 

Read the city solicitor's full report below:

City Manager Report RE: Tex... by WVXU News

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.