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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.

Sundermann Seeks To Suspend Young From Cincinnati Council

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati Council Member Betsy Sundermann is seeking a suspension for fellow member Wendell Young. The process is possible under a charter amendment voters approved Tuesday, which Sundermann had proposed be put on the ballot.

The measure gives council the authority to suspend a member indicted on felony charges related to their job on council.

Last month, a special prosecutor charged Young, a Democrat, with tampering with records related to the "Gang of Five" text messaging case from 2018. Sundermann says it's exactly the kind of situation her charter amendment is for.

"How could we not do this right after people voted for it yesterday?" Sundermann said. "If we don't do it, I think we would have to explain to 77% of the voters why we're not following through with what they wanted."

Sundermann introduced the amendment in response to three council members indicted on federal bribery charges last year.

Young's indictment is unrelated to those cases; he has pled not guilty. WVXU reached out to Young for comment Wednesday morning and is awaiting a response.

Sundermann, a Republican, says her motivations are not political.

"It's not up to me to analyze the facts, the underlying facts, or compare two people to each other. I will stay consistent on this," she said. "I said the same thing with the Republican who got indicted as I have with the Democrats who got indicted."

Once the election results are certified in the next two weeks, a suspension hearing will be held before the full nine-member council.

"And then Mr. Young will be able to present his case on why he shouldn't be suspended, or he might send a lawyer, I have no idea," Sundermann said. "But he'll have due process — that's an important part of the legal process — and then we'll vote on it."

Suspension would require a supermajority of seven votes, with Young unable to participate.               

If Young is suspended, he would officially remain on council and continue to receive paychecks. His successor designee would choose a temporary replacement; Young's successor designee is Chris Seelbach.

The amendment, along with a similar one proposed by Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman that also passed with majority voter support, also prevents Young from changing his successor designee because of the indictment.

If he were convicted of the charge, the charter amendment says Young would be automatically removed from office. If the charge were dismissed or Young was found not guilty, the suspension would automatically end.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.