The city of Cincinnati will pay a contractor $150,000 for an audit of recent economic development deals. Council unanimously appropriated the funds Wednesday. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman requested a forensic audit earlier this year in response to three council members being indicted for corruption.
"The request was to see how all council members voted, if there are any independence issues; those sorts of things," said Assistant City Manager Christopher Bigham.
Tamaya Dennard, Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld were all accused of accepting money in exchange for favorable votes on development deals. Dennard pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. (Note: Wendell Young's recent indictment on a tampering with records charge is not related to the first three indictments, or to development deals at all.)
The audit will include about 200 ordinances passed between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2020, looking at measures in at least one of four categories:
- Granted a tax exemption to support a specific development project
- Appropriated funds for a grant or loan to support a specific development project
- Appropriated funds for a grant or loan to or for services from a specific organization
- Authorized the sale of city-owned real estate to support a specific development project
The city administration put out a request for proposals in March, and chose one of three bids for the project. The audit will take about four months.