Three Cincinnati City Council members have been accused of taking bribes from developers this year. City Council Member David Mann says an independent commission could help put a stopper in local corruption when it comes to development.
"This is unlike any time in the history of Cincinnati government, as far as I know ... and it's just not acceptable that we have people leaving council because of crimes, because of bribery, because of linking votes to campaign contributions, and all the rest," he said. "I don't think we can expect the council to clean up it's own mess."
Earlier this month, Council Members Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld were accused of soliciting and accepting bribes. Both have denied the allegations against them. Last week, former council member Tamaya Dennard was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to honest services wire fraud in July.
Mann made a motion Monday morning to create a nine-person council comprised of diverse leaders without any connections to development. Those people, he says, can then determine what changes can be made to council and the city charter to prevent fraud.
"Well, obviously, if somebody is bad and committed - determined - to personally benefit in exchange for a vote, that person will find ways to do it," he said. "But the point is to take a look at and change our practices and procedures to make it less likely, less doable."
Mann is running for mayor of the city and his biggest opponent, Sittenfeld, has not publicly withdrawn his candidacy after being arrested. But Mann says the commission is not about political aspirations.
"We need change whether or not I'm running for mayor — whether or not I end up being the next mayor," he said.
If the City Council approves the creation of the commission, members would be charged with nine areas of review, such as determining if developers make good on promises to the city; reviewing links between campaign contributions and development contracts; possible restrictions on developers who contribute to political candidates; and changes to the city charter.
Recommendations would be collected by May 2021.