CINCINNATI -- Attorneys representing a conservative watchdog in his lawsuit against five City Council Democrats accused one of them -- Councilman Wendell Young -- of deliberately deleting text messages to prevent their discovery by the public.
Young and other city representatives did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
"These were malicious acts," said attorney Brian Shrive. "This wasn't, ‘Oh, we accidentally deleted files early according to our schedule.' … This was Wendell Young deliberately deleting emails and text messages for the purpose of avoiding disclosure."
The lawsuit filed by Finney Law Firm on behalf of watchdog Mark Miller in April demanded the city release all texts and emails exchanged in 2018 among the "Gang of Five," a group consisting of P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard, Greg Landsman and Young.
According to Miller, the Democrats' group-chat discussions of city issues -- prominently the process of firing former city manager Harry Black, about which they issued a joint statement -- were illegal secret meetings.
Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled in Miller's favor and set a Nov. 2 deadline for the release of all their emails and texts; city solicitor Paula Boggs Muething appealed his order Oct. 31, claiming her office had a duty to "defend the interests of the city" and protect certain confidential communications between elected officials and their lawyers.
Shrive responded by filing a motion to hold all five council members in contempt of court.
About 80 pages of text messages had been released by the deadline. You can read them here.