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Cincinnati City Councilmembers approve $150,000 to defend themselves, city against lawsuit

Cincinnati City Councilmembers approve $150,000 to defend themselves, city against lawsuit
Posted at 8:21 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 22:39:36-04

CINCINNATI - Taxpayers will pay $150,000 for outside counsel for the city and five councilmembers in what's become known as "Textgate."

Cincinnati City Council approved Wednesday paying $75,000 for lawyers to represent the city in the case of Miller vs. Sittenfeld, et al., and another $75,000 to represent the self-proclaimed “Gang of Five.”

Taxpayer Mark Miller sued the five councilmembers -- P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman -- claiming they held illegal secret meetings.

Mayor John Cranley said Wednesday the city had no choice but to take steps protect itself against the lawsuit. The city solicitor can’t represent the city in this case, Cranley said.

“It is basic law school 101 that you don't go into court without a lawyer and it is very dangerous for the taxpayer for a case to be settled and the city not be able to defend itself -- and I mean by defending itself, I mean specifically trying to protect taxpayer dollars,” Cranley said.

Cranley said the five councilmembers were acting on public business and so they are entitled to representation.

Miller's suit accuses the five councilmembers of violating Ohio open meetings law by texting each other to form a joint position on Mayor John Cranley’s request that City Manager Harry Black resign. The councilmembers created two news releases that were sent to the media on March 16 and March 18.

Miller, treasurer of the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), demanded that the messages be made public. 

Landsman called the whole situation "profoundly absurd."

"I pray that it is resolved very quickly," Landsman said.