November 1, 2014
The Finney Law Firm was retained to represent Councilmember Christopher Smitherman in the matter of an ethics complaint that was filed against him by a Cincinnati attorney arising from the Mahogany’s loan default. This week, that ethics complaint was dismissed as being entirely without merit.
The background to the matter is that in early 2012 the City made significant loans and grants to Mahogany’s Restaurant in order to bring an African-American-owned and -themed restaurant to the Banks. Smitherman realized from the initiation of the project that the operator (Liz Rogers) was not qualified for an extension of City credit. Unbeknownst to Smitherman, before his vote on Council, Rogers had approached his brother (Albert Smitherman) for some advice about how to complete the construction project, which Albert provided without charge.
After Rogers’ default on the loans, her attorney pointed the finger at Smitherman, claiming (falsely) that Smitherman’s votes and public pronouncements against the project were because Rogers has been approached by and later spurned Albert Smitherman’s company. The allegations were completely and demonstrably false.
This year, after Rogers’ loan default, Rogers’ attorney filed a Complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission containing the false allegations, presumably to achieve some benefit in getting City Council to forgive her loans.
The Ohio Ethics Commission has a multi-step process to consider Complaints brought before it: staff review, initial Commission review, investigation and final disposition. The Smitherman Complaint was so completely lacking in merit, it was dismissed at the very first stage — staff review.
The Finney Law Firm was proud to represent both Christopher Smitherman in the ethics matter, and Albert Smitherman in the allegations made against his company.