Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman Introduces Five Reforms to Combat Corruption, Restore Public Trust

Landsman introduced five new reforms "aimed at restoring public trust not just in government but also the idea and potential of public service," he said.

click to enlarge Council member Greg Landsman - PHOTO: OFFICIAL HEADSHOT
Photo: Official headshot
Council member Greg Landsman

As Ohio politics has been under obvious public scrutiny for recent and repeated ethics violations, today during a press briefing Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman introduced five new reforms "aimed at restoring public trust not just in government but also the idea and potential of public service," he said.

“Larry Householder’s $60 million corruption scheme in Columbus will cost taxpayers a $1 billion if we don’t succeed in court. There is a United States Senator trying to keep her seat in Georgia despite indications of insider trader. Her husband owns the stock exchange and the couple sold and bought millions in stocks after a classified briefing. Plus, what has happened here," Landsman said, referring to the fact that two city council members have been arrested this year on separate and unrelated federal bribery charges.

Tamaya Dennard, a first-term council member, pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in June. And council member Jeff Pastor was recently arrested and charged with 10 federal counts of bribery, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

“To be clear, these reforms are not about any one issue but the larger need to restore public trust in our work here, and in public service itself,” Landsman said. “We need people to know that this is a highly effective government, one that is fair, and one that people can trust. We also need good people in public service to stay, and for good people considering public service to join what I believe to be incredibly important and noble work.” 

Here are his five proposed reforms:

1. Cincinnati Ethics Commission 

Landsman will be asking the Administration, through legislation, to work with the Ohio Ethics Commission to establish a similar, local commission to ensure local oversight and transparency. The Cincinnati Ethics Commission will be supported by a Chief Ethics and Good Government Officer, and developed and designed by the Administration and not elected officials, particularly the number and qualifications of the commissioners. 

The commission should be tasked with local reporting of financial disclosure forms and developing new training for public officials and relevant city staff. The local disclosure requirements and trainings should go beyond what is currently required by the state. 

The commission should also accept and investigate complaints and submit investigations along with recommendations to the Administration and the public. 

2. Chief Ethics and Good Government Officer 

With the legislation, the Administration will be authorized to immediately identify and/or hire a Chief Ethic and Good Government Officer, reporting directly to the City Manager, to lead local reforms and support the work of a new Cincinnati Ethics Commission. I will ask my colleagues to set aside the funding for such leadership and work. 

3. Local Campaign Finance Reform 

The new commission should pursue additional disclosure requirements of campaign contributions from individuals and entities that have or had business with the City, including reporting any contribution of an individual or entity that had or has business before the city within 48-hours of receipt of the contribution. 

These new reporting requirements will lead to greater transparency, which is critical to restoring public trust. It will be incumbent on elected officials to report these contributions within 48-hours and onto a new publicly facing website, and the commission should have the ability penalize individuals that fail to do so. 

4. Additional and Ongoing Training 

Local training for public officials and relevant city staff (e.g. individuals in departments such as Purchasing and Economic Development) will cover ethics and good government policies, including training around the appropriate use of public funds, publicly funded equipment, campaign finance rules, and public records and open meeting requirements. 

Initial training should be completed within the first 60 days of taking office and/or the beginning of employment status with the city with annual training to follow. Trainings and the completion or non-completion of trainings should be made public. 

5. Possible Charter Amendment 

Landsman explained that he and others may need to pursue a charter amendment to update local campaign finance rules, and to provide the most appropriate mechanisms for penalizing and possibly removing individuals from office. He will be working with Law on what might be required as it relates to a possible charter amendment. 

“To be clear, these reforms are not about any one issue but the larger need to restore public trust in our work here, and in public service itself,” Landsman said. “We need people to know that this is a highly effective government, one that is fair, and one that people can trust. We also need good people in public service to stay, and for good people considering public service to join what I believe to be incredibly important and noble work.” 

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