Avondale's Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney Announced as Dennard Replacement on Cincinnati City Council

Cincinnati Herald Publisher Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney will likely be sworn in at next week's regular Cincinnati City Council meeting.

click to enlarge Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney

Cincinnati City Council will be back up to nine members shortly after it gets its second new member in a week.

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld today announced Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney as his pick to replace Tamaya Dennard, who resigned March 2 after she was arraigned on federal bribery and extortion charges.

At a news conference this afternoon in Avondale, Sittenfeld announced he had selected the Cincinnati Herald publisher for the temporary role, which runs until Dec. 31 2021. Kearney will likely be sworn in at council's March 18 meeting.

Kearney owns the 65-year-old newspaper focused on the black community with her husband, former state senator and African American Chamber of Commerce President Eric Kearney.  

Council appointee Kearney grew up in Avondale, attended Walnut Hills High School, Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. She got a job at local law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister after returning to Cincinnati. She, her husband and other partners started a publishing company called Sesh Media, which purchased the Cincinnati Herald in 1996. 

"I learned the values that I have from Avondale," Kearney said today at the announcement. "The three that are most important to me are hard work, service and tenacity."

Kearney said that tenacity served her well during a fight with breast cancer, that hard work has been a lesson passed down from her father, physician Dr. Luther Lemon and that public service is something those around her have encouraged her to pursue. 

During the event, Kearney directly addressed some turbulence the Herald experienced when the paper fell short of payment of payroll taxes to the IRS.

"The Herald went through two recessions," she said. "We had cashflow problems. We talked to the IRS. We made a plan."

The tax debt was paid off in 2015, she said.

Kearney has said she will step aside as publisher of the Herald if she is appointed to council.

The new appointment comes after almost unprecedented turbulence at City Hall — much of it not completely settled yet.

Dennard is charged with accepting $15,000 from an attorney representing a developer — Tom Gabelman, who represents Hamilton County on The Banks riverfront development project — in exchange for votes in favor of the county. An FBI affidavit alleges Dennard discussed that exchange in text messages and recorded conversations. Dennard has maintained her innocence and says she will fight the charges, but stepped down as she does so.

Cincinnati's charter requires council members to pick one of their colleagues to appoint their replacement, and Dennard, a former Sittenfeld aid and campaign staffer, chose him.

Kearney won't be the only new council member at City Hall.

Last week, council approved the appointment of Betsy Sundermann, a Hamilton County Probate Court magistrate replacing fellow Republican Amy Murray.  Murray left council to take a job in the Department of Defense for the Trump administration.

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