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CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County deputies spent part of Monday night attempting to serve grand jury subpoenas to five City Council Democrats accused of illegally discussing city business in a private group chat, according to sources close to the situation.
Only one was successfully served at City Hall; authorities planned to return to the other four members of the “Gang of Five” Tuesday.
The news arrived only 24 hours after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he would review the case against the five council members -- Tamaya Dennard, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach and Greg Landsman -- and would know how to proceed within 10 days.
At the heart of the tangled, malingering legal battle, which began in April, lie the Ohio Open Meetings Act and the firing of former city manager Harry Black. The former is a law requiring all City Council meetings to be conducted publicly. The latter was a contentious, weekslong process during which the five council members released a joint statement without ever meeting in public.
Conservative local government watchdog Mark Miller filed suit shortly afterward, demanding the release of all texts and emails exchanged among the five since the start of 2018. Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled in Miller's favor and set a Nov. 2 deadline for the messages’ release, which the group failed to meet.
According to Brian Shrive, the attorney representing Miller in his suit against the council members, Wendell Young deliberately deleted some of his own messages between the time the suit was filed and the unmet deadline.
"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,” Shrive claimed.
City representatives did not respond to a request for comment about this assertion.