PG Sittenfeld (left), Gov. John Kasich (right)
Hide Caption

Gov. Kasich's visit sparks car wars at Cincinnati's City Hall

Police dispute councilman's tale of towing threat

a a a a
Share this story

CINCINNATI -- City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said his car had to be abruptly moved from its parking spot in front of City Hall Wednesday to make space for a vehicle carrying the visiting Gov. John Kasich.

If the car wasn’t moved quickly enough, it would’ve been towed, according to Sittenfeld’s version of events.

But both the Cincinnati police officer who handled the parking arrangements and a Kasich spokesman said that’s simply not the case.

Kasich visited City Hall about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for a private meeting with Mayor John Cranley. Kasich was in town for a manufacturing forum earlier in the day at a facility in Norwood.

About the same time, an aide interrupted Sittenfeld’s lunch at Via Vite, a restaurant on Fountain Square.

The staffer, who ran seven blocks to reach the eatery, told Sittenfeld that he needed the councilman’s car keys to move the vehicle from a parking space in front of City Hall.

If the car wasn’t moved, the aide told Sittenfeld, it would be towed.

“I couldn’t help but think that this is the same governor who has blown a $20 million hole in the city budget by raiding our local government fund; the same governor who tried to take away the collective bargaining rights of our brave cops and firefighters; the same governor who unilaterally yanked $52 million of transportation dollars from the city; the same governor who tried to chase Pure Romance jobs out of Cincinnati – and now he’s going to tow me from my own parking spot,” Sittenfeld told another media outlet, in relating the incident.

“He’s certainly got an unorthodox approach to intergovernmental relationship-building,” Sittenfeld added.

Police Sgt. Richard Antwine, the officer assigned to handle council matters and oversees City Hall’s security guards, said he asked that vehicles parked in front be moved for Kasich. Antwine never ordered their removal, he said, and never threatened to have any vehicles towed.

“We requested people move their cars. There were no orders,” Antwine said. “None of my people ever told anyone they were going to tow their cars.”

The request is standard when dignitaries visit City Hall and has been made before, he added.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Antwine said. “But we never said we were going to tow any vehicles. That’s not what we do.”

Asked whether council members complied with the request, he said, “Some of them moved their cars, some didn’t. I really don’t want to get involved in this.”

Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, said he was unaware of any request to move vehicles. City officials suggested the governor and his entourage park in front, he added.

“Absolutely not,” Nichols replied, when asked if the governor or anyone on his staff requested vehicle be moved.

“If there’s a car where we want to park, we park somewhere else,” Nichols said.

"We don't get too worked up over half-baked hissy fits over parking spots," Nichols added. "We have a state to run."

When asked about the incident later, after his initial remarks to the media, Sittenfeld downplayed the matter.

“By the time my aide got back, the governor's black SUV had already arrived and parked outside City Hall and it was decided that my car could stay put,” Sittenfeld said.

“Everything I said is 100 percent accurate,” the councilman said. “It seems to me there is some face-saving going on. Whether this was silliness or bullying, I don’t know. I think (Kasich) probably wanted the closest spot to the door.”

Sittenfeld disputed a statement Nichols gave to a local newspaper, in which he said there were no vehicles present when Kasich’s SUV pulled into its spot.

“There are a number of Cincinnati police officers whom I know could confirm that as false,” the councilman said. “As for what Mr. Nichols motivation to lie is -- especially a lie where he's so easily proven wrong -- that's for him to explain.”

Nichols said he merely meant there was a space open for the governor’s vehicle.

“There were spots for us, we just drove right in,” Nichols said. “It’s not like we checked everywhere for cars. I just know there were none where we wanted to be.”

Nichols called Sittenfeld’s statements “absurd” and “silly.”

Sittenfeld is a Democrat, while Kasich is a Republican. The difference is probably what prompted Sittenfeld’s remarks, said City Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican.

Most council members moved their vehicles without incident, he added. “I was asked to move my Ford Focus and I moved my Ford Focus,” Winburn said.

“We should be good ambassadors to dignitaries when they come to our city,” he added.

Noting that some council members make snide remarks about Kasich while they also ask him to restore cuts he made to the Local Government Fund, Winburn said, “That's asinine, that's crazy.”

For more stories by Kevin Osborne, visit www.wcpo.com/osborne. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinwcpo

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Gov't & Politics
Educators gather to plot Cincy school success
Educators gather to plot Cincy school success

Advocates for Cincinnati Public Schools have been telling all who will listen that their development of Community Learning Centers are an…

RNC team to visit Cincinnati late April
RNC team to visit Cincinnati late April

The two Ohio cities still in contention to host the 2016 Republican National Convention will be visited in late April by party staff or…

Mahogany's makes payment to cure default
Mahogany's makes payment to cure default

Mahogany's on the Banks met its Friday deadline for curing its default with its landlord and avoided eviction.

Boehner buys TV ad time in his Ohio district
Boehner buys TV ad time in his Ohio district

House Speaker John Boehner is spending $125,000 on television ads in his Ohio district to fend off three fellow Republicans in the primary.

RNC picks Cincinnati to move forward with bid
RNC picks Cincinnati to move forward with bid

Cincinnati is one of six cities picked to move forward with its bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Mahogany's faces eviction unless it pays Apr. 11
Mahogany's faces eviction unless it pays Apr. 11

Mahogany's on the Banks made another required minimum payment Tuesday, but the troubled restaurant has to pay about $25,000 more in 10…

Reading mayor's roots are 3 generations deep
Reading mayor's roots are 3 generations deep

Bo Bemmes is proud of Reading's claim to fame as home of John Boehner--not to mention the world's largest bridal district.

Pause in streetcar construction cost city $1M
Pause in streetcar construction cost city $1M

A nearly three-week pause in streetcar construction in December cost Cincinnati almost $1 million, city officials said Tuesday.

Cranley, Blackwell attending DOJ policing forum
Cranley, Blackwell attending DOJ policing forum

Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and Mayor John Cranley will attend a Department of Justice Forum next week, touting the city’s progress…

North Bend mayor leads village with big history
North Bend mayor leads village with big history

Douglas Sammons presides over the historic village named for its location where the Ohio River meanders to the north.