April 21, 2018
We call it “Making a Difference” for the taxpayers and voters of the City of Cincinnati.
A bare majority of Cincinnati City Council, led by P.G. Sittenfeld, staged a sort of coup d’état a few weeks back, effectively seizing power from Mayor John Cranley over the administration by saving the City Manager from an announced firing by the Mayor. Thereafter, the Manager’s job would hang on a thread or those five Council members, and this he would “report” to them and not the Mayor.
That’s, well, the way politics is played, we suppose, so long as it’s done in accordance with Ohio’s Sunshine Laws — Open Meetings and Public Records Laws. But it was not. The coup was plotted and implemented with a series of group and round-robin text messages, individual phone calls and conference calls, all of which the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled are subject to those Sunshine Laws. Thus, the communications and actions of a majority of Council — P.G. Sittenfeld, Temaya Dennard, Greg Landsman, Chris Seelbach, and Wendell Young — were all illegal.
That’s where the Public Interest litigators of the Finney Law Firm step in. Our client, Mark Miller, who is active in civic affairs, asked that we expose the actions of the self-declared “gang of five” at City Hall and enjoin future such conduct.
Lawsuit to Enjoin Secret Meetings
Capable and experienced public interest Finney Law Firm litigator Brian Shrive took the lead and filed suit to stop the illegal secret meetings, which resulted in disclosure of the group text messages among the five Council members, and then filed a second suit to force the individual round-robin text messages into the open.
Those cases are still pending, but the release of the group text messages shortly after the first suit was filed (original text messages are linked here and the Enquirer article on there release is here) exposed illegal, petty and childish behavior of the Council majority and ultimately broke the City Hall logjam, resulting in today’s resignation by the City Manager.
And today’s Enquirer contained an article highlighting our work, and an editorial praising the work of citizen activist Mark Miller for forcing these smoke-filled room deliberations into the open. You can read Jason Williams’ column here. You can read the editorial here.
From Jason Williams’ piece:
Council’s Progressive 5 majority planned part of their coup to keep Black on the job longer in a secret text-message string in mid-March. Well, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman thought it was secret. Oops. The group text constituted a public meeting, and those messages are public records.
From the Editorial:
Text messages among five members of Cincinnati City Council – P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman – that were released this week are disturbing on many levels. First, the texts demonstrate that a quorum of council conducted a prearranged meeting to discuss council business – a violation of the Ohio Open Meetings Act. They came to light only when Mark Miller, treasurer of the anti-tax group COAST, sued.