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Sittenfeld 'Temporarily' Steps Down From Council, Agreeing To AG's Suspension

pg sittenfeld
Courtesy of WCPO

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Monday announced he is "temporarily" stepping down as he fights federal charges of bribery. Last month, Sittenfeld became the third City Council member arrested on bribery charges in less than a year. 

"I genuinely love serving you and I love serving the city of Cincinnati," Sittenfeld said in a video posted to Twitter. "I also recognize that the way I can best get back to serving you is to deal with this situation head on. Which is why today, I am voluntarily agreeing to temporarily step aside from my seat on council so that I can aggressively pursue clearing my name." 

Sittenfeld's news comes after Attorney General Dave Yost initiated the suspension process. His decision to "step aside" is, in effect, him agreeing to Yost's suspension. It is now up to Republican Hamilton County Probate Court Judge Ralph Winkler to name a temporarily replacement for the Democrat, something that Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Gwen McFarlin was not pleased about. 

"While P.G. Sittenfeld deserves the chance to respond to the charges brought against him, we are extremely disappointed he accepted a suspension rather than resigning," McFarlin wrote in a statement. "As a result of his unfortunate decision, his fellow Democrats on Cincinnati City Council cannot name his replacement who will serve many months of his remaining term."

At the beginning of each new council term, elected members must complete a "successor designation certificate," which designates the council members he or she wants to make a selection should their seat become vacant.

On his certificate, Sittenfeld had named fellow Democrats Chris Seelbach, Wendell Young, David Mann and Greg Landsman, as well as Tamaya Dennard, who is no longer on council due to pleading guilty to her own corruption charges. 

Judge Winkler is not bound to name another Democrat to the seat. 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost last month had filed paperwork to suspend Sittenfeld, as he had with Council Member Jeff Pastor, who is accused of accepting $55,000 in bribes

"While allegations of public corruption are resolved in the courtroom, a suspension is the right course of action as even the appearance of corruption has no place in government," Yost wrote.

Sittenfeld says he is innocent

The FBI says Sittenfeld was arrested at his home in November after accepting $40,000 in bribes from undercover agents from 2018 to 2019. Sittenfeld is the third City Council member to be accused of creating a pay-to-play scheme this year. In addition to FBI charges against Pastor, former Council Member Tamaya Dennard was arrested in February and pled guilty to honest services wire fraud this summer.

This headline and story has been updated to clarify that Sittenfeld "stepping aside" was in fact him agreeing to a suspension initiated by Attorney General Dave Yost. 

Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.