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Council To Vote On Ordinance That Puts $100K Price Tag On Rebuilding Public Trust

UPDATE 12/12/20: Cincinnati City Council voted in favor of the ordinance Wednesday. Council Member Betsy Sundermann voted against the measure saying she didn't agree with the transparency or price tag of the ordinance. 

An ordinance aimed at putting a stopper on local corruption may be up for a vote by Cincinnati City Council Wednesday. It calls for an independent Economic Development Reform Panel to analyze how the city handles development deals and has up to a $100,000 price tag attached to it. But not everyone agrees on how much money should be spent on the task.

Council Member David Mann, who is also running for mayor, introduced the ordinance after three other members this year were accused of accepting bribes in exchange for votes on development.

During Monday's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, Councilman Greg Landsman said it's unprecedented for there to not be any development items up for a vote during the last committee meeting of the year.

"So if anyone worries or has questions about whether or not there is a price tag in terms of public trust, the fact that there aren't any development deals on our calendar today should assure everyone that this matters," he said. "So if we have to spend some money, I think that's OK. Obviously, I hope that we're able to do it spending as little as possible but… you get what you pay for and we have to get this right."

Council Member Betsy Sundermann agrees corruption needs to be addressed but says $100,000 for a volunteer panel is not something she feels comfortable voting on.

"I believe this is a problem that needs to be solved, but I think this is a slow and expensive way of solving it. I would be more open to it if it costs zero," she said.

The money called for in the ordinance would go toward paying city staff - who currently have a plate full of duties - money for overtime or other expenses needed to support panel members.

Council Member and possible mayoral candidate Chris Seelbach said, "First of all, what's happening in City Hall is insane. It is surreal. It is not OK. And both the reality and the perception of how development deals are done has to be clean."

City Council is meeting Wednesday and has the ordinance on the agenda for possible discussion and a possible vote. 

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