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Feds charge 3rd Cincinnati councilman with corruption

November 19, 2020 GMT
In this July 12, 2020, photo, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announces he is running as a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Cincinnati. Sittenfeld has been indicted on federal corruption charges. An indictment Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, shows that Sittenfeld faces six federal counts related to bribery and extortion. He pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate and was released with restrictions. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
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In this July 12, 2020, photo, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announces he is running as a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Cincinnati. Sittenfeld has been indicted on federal corruption charges. An indictment Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, shows that Sittenfeld faces six federal counts related to bribery and extortion. He pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate and was released with restrictions. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
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In this July 12, 2020, photo, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announces he is running as a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Cincinnati. Sittenfeld has been indicted on federal corruption charges. An indictment Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, shows that Sittenfeld faces six federal counts related to bribery and extortion. He pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate and was released with restrictions. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

CINCINNATI (AP) — A Cincinnati city councilman who has been planning to run for mayor has been indicted on federal corruption charges.

An indictment Thursday shows that Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld faces six federal counts related to bribery and extortion. It states that Sittenfeld solicited $40,000 in payments to his political action committee to “deliver the votes” in the city council for a proposed downtown real estate development.

U.S. Attorney David DeVillers discussed the case at a news conference late Thursday morning. He said FBI agents had arrested Sittenfeld earlier.

Sittenfeld pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate and was released without bond but with restrictions including on travel. He surrendered his passport.

“Mr. Sittenfeld was no longer working for the citizens of Cincinnati, but working for Project 1,” DeVillers said, referencing the proposed real estate project. FBI agents disguised as developers gave Sittenfeld the $40,000 bribe, which DeVillers said remained in the PAC fund.

Democratic Mayor John Cranley said Sittenfeld should resign from council, saying “it’s bad.” Cranley said Sittenfeld is entitled to “due process,” but that he should step down and focus on that.

“We need to clean house,” Cranley told reporters outside the city hall, saying that city government reforms are clearly needed after the third corruption case this year.

Earlier this year, Democrat Tamaya Dennard resigned from city council after her arrest. She is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a wire fraud-related charge. Republican Jeff Pastor was arrested Nov. 10 on bribery, extortion and money laundering charges. His attorney has said the councilman will fight the charges.

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Sittenfeld, often active on Twitter, said on social media after Pastor’s arrest that “This is a sad day for our city,” and spoke previously in a video about his mayoral hopes about the importance of principled action.

Cincinnati will have elections in 2021, including for mayor. Cranley is term-limited. Sittenfeld had been considered a top contender to succeed Cranley. In the 2016 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Sittenfeld finished far behind Gov. Ted Strickland, who ultimately lost in the general election to Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

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Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Columbus contributed to this report. Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues

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Follow Dan Sewell at https://twitter.com/dansewell