In Unusual Case, City Must Decide Whether To Prosecute Dennard
In an unusual set of circumstances, the Cincinnati Solicitor's Office - normally faced with defending council members - must now decide whether to proceed with a lawsuit filed against a council member. The suit from COAST - or Citizens Opposed To Additional Spending and Taxes - represents five taxpayers and wants Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard removed from office for allegedly taking compensation and engaging in malfeasance.
As city attorneys make their decision they told the judge they don't want to compromise the federal prosecution.
In the federal case, Dennard was arrested Tuesday outside a Downtown Starbucks. The Justice Department says between August and December of 2019 she engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, offering to exchange her votes for money. Dennard denies the allegations.
In Friday's hearing in Hamilton County Probate Court, Judge Ralph Winkler said this impeachment case may be moot if Dennard resigns. Through her attorney, she has said she will make a decision regarding council next week. Winkler compared this case to President Trump's impeachment, saying he is in the role of Chief Justice Roberts; Attorney Curt Hartman is the House of Representatives; the city attorneys are the House of Representatives' lawyers; and the jury is the Senate.
Winkler said the city has four options to consider pursuing: procescute impeachment; ask to withdrawl from the case due to conflict of interest; appoint a special prosecutor; decline to prosecute.
Dennard attorney Erik Laursen says he wants to make sure Dennard's rights are respected.
In the hall after the hearing he told reporters, "I think we have an issue of due process here on all fronts. Mr. (Mark) Miller (one of the taxpayers and COAST member who has filed the lawsuit) has a reason to bring this forward. Ms. Dennard, I think very importantly, has every constitutional right for full due process and full defense whether it's here, in federal court or in any other matter."
The next court date for this case is scheduled for March 9.
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