Council Approves Cranley's Picks For Development Ethics Panel

Feb 1, 2021

Updated: Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.

The Cincinnati City Council voted 8-1 Wednesday to approve the members of a new development review panel. Council Member Chris Seelbach was the lone council member to vote no on Mayor John Cranley's appointees.

"Some of the members of this group are directly and very, very closely tied to one elected member of our body," Seelbach said during a committee meeting Monday. "And I don’t think that will lend to the confidence that this is truly an independent review."

Seelbach, who announced plans to run for mayor, says he was referring to Cranley's former Chief of Staff Bobbi Dillon and former Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, who Seelbach describes as a "close friend and ally" to Cranley.

The anti-corruption panel will submit recommendations by Aug. 1. In a statement, Cranley points out that's just four months before his term ends.

"While reforms are unlikely to coincide with my time as mayor, I surely wish they would have to have possibly avoided so many council violations," Cranley said. "But I'm glad my successor and my city will benefit from their work."

The panel will analyze the city's process for development deals, including looking at how much council and the mayor should be involved in negotiation, if at all. City Council passed an ordinance in December creating the panel in response to the arrests of three council members on federal corruption charges.

Council's initial plan stipulated no one involved in development should be part of the new panel. Council Member Mann later amended the plan after consulting with the Mayor's Office.

The Cincinnati Business Courier reports one of the developers appointed to the panel, Uptown Rental Properties President Dan Schimberg, recently donated to a fund for Cranley's likely campaign for governor.

"The reform panel called for and approved by council can't truly take a comprehensive view of development without hearing from at least one developer who has experience dealing with the city at various levels," Cranley said in a statement. "In particular, Mr. Schimberg has invested hundreds of millions into Cincinnati, creating jobs and homes, lives here and he loves this city."

The ordinance requires the panel to begin their work within 30 days of final approval.

The story was originally published Monday and has been updated.