A special commission appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court opted not to suspend Cincinnati City Council member Wendell Young, whose April indictment on a years-old tampering charge prompted some other members to seek his suspension from office.
“The Special Commission finds that the felony charge against Mr. Young involves alleged conduct that occurred approximately three years ago and that has been public knowledge for most of that time, seemingly without adverse effect on the functioning of the office or the rights and interests of the public,” the three-judge panel wrote in its decision, which was released Tuesday.
Barring unexpected developments, Wendell will remain on council while the case against him continues.
The tampering charge against Young, who has served on council since 2010, is connected to the “Gang of Five” texting scandal of 2018. At that time, Young and four fellow council Democrats — P.G. Sittenfeld, Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard and Chris Seelbach — admitted they had privately texted and emailed one another about city business, particularly to coordinate their responses to a public feud between Mayor John Cranley and then-City Manager Harry Black.
This behavior was a violation of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, which requires that all meetings of public bodies be accessible to the public in some form.
The charge against Young isn’t about the content of those messages, however — the city settled with the government watchdog who brought suit against it, and none of the people involved lost their jobs over the texts.
Instead, it’s about the allegation that Young deleted some of his own messages when he learned the group was under investigation.
Young could spend three years in prison if convicted of tampering.
In the meantime, he’ll remain on City Council.