OH-1 Democrat nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives, Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman, opposed anti-corruption legislation in 2021 and later touted Cincinnati’s Office of Ethics and Good Government, saying that “we needed to do everything in our power to restore public trust” after a scandal involving text messages.
In September 2021, Landsman declared his opposition to a ballot measure creating an amendment to the city charter that was characterized by him and in the press as allowing for individual city employees to be liable “for some violations of open meetings and public records law violations.”
The actual text of the ballot measure that Landsman opposed read that the amendment would “provide that the Mayor and members of Council are personally liable for violations of state law regarding open meetings or public records where the violation was to avoid or circumvent those laws or was purposeful, knowing, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner.”
That amendment would also allow for the recall of the mayor, and make the Cincinnati City Council members’ salaries “equal to the median household income for the city.”
That amendment was defeated at the polls because the public believed the mischaracterizations pushed by Landsman and local media, political experts say.
A two-year investigation later took place to investigate five Cincinnati City Council members, including Landsman, after they privately texted about city business. In total, the scandal cost the city $172,588.
In 2018, Landsman, along with four other Democrat city council members, exchanged text messages in which they discussed “how to keep the city manager and potentially regain power from the mayor.”
In February 2019, a $101,000 settlement was arranged “in which the city admits council members violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act twice.” In March 2019, the judge approved the settlement, and determined that the five council members, including Landsman, should step down.
“City taxpayers will shell out $101,000 to settle a lawsuit over secret text messages and emails exchanged by five council members in violation of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, according to city records released Monday,” reported Fox19Now, who did the most significant reporting on this matter.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman questioned why taxpayers were “on the hook” for the criminal behavior of Landsman and his colleagues. Fox19Now reported, “Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman called the entire episode ‘a waste of money.’ It’s not over yet, he warned. ‘They are north of $200,000. Because this is criminal, it’s unclear why the taxpayer needs to pay the bill. That’s the question. The question is why are we on the hook for their criminal behavior?’”
The judge determined that the five council members, including Landsman, should resign, as they “essentially lied to the people of the city” and “the trust is gone.” He additionally said that “no city voter should ever vote for them again.”
In December 2019, an Ohio auditor recommended “that the five council members face the misdemeanor criminal charge of dereliction of duty in connection with the texting scandal.”
As Vice Mayor, Christopher Smitherman criticized Landsman and his colleagues and determined that he hoped “the public will not reward them with a vote.”
In June 2022, former Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s public corruption trial began, as he was arrested in 2020 “on a six-count indictment-related scheme that allegedly traded cash for votes” relating to a development project.
Landsman and Sittenfeld were known on city council as the “Gang of Five,” as reported by Fox19Now.
As the Democrat nominee in the race for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, Landsman faces off with incumbent Republican Ohio U.S. Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH-1) in the November general election.
– – –
Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected] Follow Aaron on GETTR, Twitter, Truth Social, and Parler.
Photo “Greg Landsman” by Greg Landsman. Background Photo “United States Capitol” by David Maiolo. CC BY-SA 3.0.