Ohio Attorney General Seeks to Suspend Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld

While "every defendant is presumed innocent in court," AG Dave Yost said it would be "foolish to ignore the risk of allowing him to wield public power under indictment."

Nov 23, 2020 at 10:33 am
click to enlarge Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost - Photo: Official headshot
Photo: Official headshot
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced his intentions to seek the suspension of Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld.

Sittenfeld was arrested by the FBI last week on a six-count federal indictment for bribery and extortion.

Yost says he will be going to the Ohio Supreme Court today to seek the suspension, and that while "every defendant is presumed innocent in court," Yost said it would be "foolish to ignore the risk of allowing him to wield public power under indictment."

Sittenfeld's indictment follows the recent arrest of council member Jeff Pastor, who was federally charged on Nov. 10 for an assortment of similar charges. Both charges relate to the same development project at the former Convention Place Mall.

Sittenfeld and his attorney have claimed the council member's innocence.

Sittenfeld posted a statement on Twitter saying the allegations against him are not true and thanking people for their support:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your incredible outpouring of love and support. It has lifted and comforted our family enormously.

I am innocent. The allegations against me are simply not true.

The attempt to portray proper assistance to a project bringing job and growth to our city that benefits the public is a gross overreach and injustice.

I stand strongly on my record of public service, including providing help that's in the public interest to anyone, whether they have ever made a political contribution to me or not.

My public service has always been guided by doing what's best for Cincinnati.

Please know this: I do not give up and will not give up.

I intend to keep fighting — fighting these false allegations, fighting as your elected Council Member, and fighting for our city and its future.

Sittenfeld's attorney, Charles M. Rittgers, also released a statement last week saying, in part:

Included in the government’s statements yesterday were a number of misleading statements of fact and law.  The government falsely claimed that PG’s PAC was secretly controlled by PG and falsely claimed that PG hid the donations he received from the undercover agents, a central component of their wrongful allegations.  PG’s PAC was publicly created in 2018 before PG was approached by the agents who claimed to be interested in developing a blighted downtown building which is 435 Elm. The PAC is public. All donations, including the money from the government agents, are reported to the FEC as required by law.

The independent non-profit Center for Responsible Politics explains to the public how Federal law allows an elected official to set up not only his campaign fund to pay for his campaign expenses but also to set up his own leadership PAC.  The Mayor of Cincinnati, another Cincinnati Councilmember, and a significant portion of members of Congress have leadership PACs which they control.  Federal law authorizes a leadership PAC to receive donations and in turn to make donations to other candidates...

The government has, contrary to Federal law and publicly available records, falsely said PG’s federally approved leadership PAC was “secretly controlled” by him and that the fund received $40,000 in donations that were “hidden” and unlawfully received “face-to-face.” 

It is unjust for the government to use falsehoods to undercut PG’s presumption of innocence.  It unlawfully tarnishes his reputation by misleading the public about how a lawful leadership PAC operates under the law and how the public record shows he followed the law regarding his PAC.