Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld in his office on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Sittenfeld has made several proposed changes to CPD policy in response to the protests of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Photo by WCPO 9
By Pat LaFleur
WCPO 9 on Your Side
A day after pleading not guilty to federal corruption charges — the third City Council member to face such charges this year — P.G. Sittenfeld issued a statement Friday expressing his intent to fight the accusations against him, calling the charges “a gross overreach and an injustice.”
“I am innocent. The allegations against me are simply not true,” he wrote. “The attempt to portray proper assistance to a project bringing jobs and growth to our city that benefits the public is a gross overreach and an injustice.”
Federal agents arrested Sittenfeld, 36, Thursday, November. 19 after a grand jury indicted the council member on charges of honest services wire fraud, bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and attempted extortion from developer and former Bengal and Kingsley & Co. owner Chinedum Ndukwe, who plans a hotel and gaming facility at Convention Place Mall at 435 Elm St., across from the Duke Energy Convention Center. The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority owns the site. In 2017, Ndukwe proposed the city agree to redevelop the site with his company, which was acquiring a leasehold mortgage on the site. The city ended up selling the property to the Port, which has not yet decided what to do with it.
Ndukwe, reported the requests from Sittenfeld to the FBI, with undercover FBI agents handing Sittenfeld handed a total of $40,000 in checks on three different occasions, according to the indictment.
Sittenfeld is running against Councilman David Mann to be Cincinnati’s mayor and considered by some as the front runner with more than $700,000 raised for the race, according to his latest campaign finance report on file.
Federal authorities recently revealed in court records they were investigating corruption and bribery related to votes and development projects and said more prosecutions were coming.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said at a news conference last week that accepting campaign donations in exchange for favors violates federal law.
Nine days prior to Sittenfeld’s arrest, federal agents arrested his colleague on Council, Jeff Pastor, on similar charges. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said it was not clear if the cases had any direct connection. The two cases do have one thing in common, though: former Cincinnati Bengal and aspiring real estate developer, Chinedum Ndukwe served as a confidential witness in both cases.
In February, former City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard faced similar charges, as well. She pleaded guilty in June and currently awaits sentencing, scheduled for November 24.
Reposted with permission from WCPO 9.