City Councilman Jeff Pastors was arrested on charges of bribery and fraud
By Mo Juenger, World News Editor
Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor was arrested on Tuesday morning after a years-long FBI sting operation. Charges against the Republican councilman include bribery, money laundering, extortion and wire fraud.
The investigation into Pastor’s alleged activities began in February of last year, only eight months after Pastor joined city council. FBI agent Chris Hoffman stated that Pastor took his first bribe two months prior.
The majority of publicly-available evidence points towards Pastor’s involvement in the ongoing development of the former Convention Place Mall downtown. Assisted by former Cincinnati Bengal and owner of the location’s current development company Chinedum Ndukwe, undercover FBI agents reportedly witnessed Pastor ask for bribes and a “retainer fee” for his continuing support of the project.
Tyran Marshall, Pastor’s associate, was also arrested Tuesday. He is thought to have acted as a middle man, who helped Pastor to launder money through a nonprofit organization.
Throughout his tenure as a councilman, agents suspect that Pastor took approximately $55,000 in bribes. Prosecutor Dave DeVillers noted that at one point during the investigation, Pastor directly asked undercover agents for $200,000 in bribes.
DeVillers also commented on the seeming ineptitude of the illegal schemes, noting that in some cases of the alleged bribery, Pastor was handed literal bags of cash in return for political favors.
Pastor has not resigned from his post, a move which has already been encouraged by politicians on both ends of the political spectrum.
“If the charges against Pastor are true, then it is undoubtedly one of the most egregious and disgusting acts of corruption and betrayal ever perpetrated on our City,” Mayor John Cranley said in a press release calling for Pastor to resign.
“There’s certainly been a lot of pressure applied by prominent Republican figures and Democratic figures… telling him ‘You need to resign; it’s the right thing to do,” professor of Philosophy, Politics and the Public Sean Comer said.
“While Mr. Pastor is afforded the presumption of innocence and due process, he is not entitled to continue working for the citizens of Cincinnati as he sorts through whatever charges may be coming,” Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou said.
“It is clear that in his current situation, he will be unable to fulfill his duties as a member of council,” Councilwoman Betsy Sundermann, the only other Republican on City Council, tweeted. “His continued presence will only create potential roadblocks and liabilities for the city of Cincinnati as we work to find solutions to the problems facing our community.”
It is still unclear whether Pastor will resign, though many have speculated on the subject given divergent outcomes in two recent Ohio indictments. Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard resigned quickly last February after an unrelated bribery charge, though State Rep. Larry Householder is still in office after a racketeering scandal.
If Pastor resigns, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman would be responsible for appointing a replacement for Pastor within 60 days.
Comer hinted that the recent resignation of Republican Cincinnati City Councilwoman Amy Murray, who was replaced by current Councilwoman Betsy Sundermann, may provide a shortlist for Pastor’s replacement.
After Murray’s resignation, her successor designee would have likely compiled and interviewed a list of possible candidates to fill her role. Comer suggested that those candidates will be options for Pastor’s replacement.
“There’s (sic) a lot of people who expressed interest in fulfilling Councilwoman Murray’s term… So they have a list already. They just got through the interview process for the seat of another Republican,” Comer said.
He also noted that the upcoming 2021 City Council election might provide blueprints for Smitherman’s appointment process.
“Now that we’re a little bit closer to this next election, you’ve seen a lot of people step out and say, ‘I’m going to run for City Council in 2021’ or ‘I’m running for mayor in 2021.’”
“(An appointee wouldn’t) have the advantage of incumbency in terms of having run before but it still means that if you want to run again for next year, you’re still on City Council. Your name will be in the paper… you’ll be involved in issues that you would like to run on,” Comer added.
Though Pastor and Marshall have not yet been indicted, many local politicians have spoken out about the alleged corruption.
“When the federal courthouse is involved in bringing down an indictment, I think people pretty quickly think that they must have some evidence,” Comer said.
In a statement calling for Pastor’s immediate resignation, Councilman David Mann called it a “sad day for our city.”