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Four of 'Gang of Five' council members agree to pay share of city's $1,000 fine in lawsuit settlement

Five Democrats admitted breaking the law
Cincinnati city officials disagree on spending
Posted at 2:32 PM, Mar 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 15:10:59-05

CINCINNATI — Four of the Cincinnati City Council “Gang of Five” say they have or will pay their share of the $1,000 fine the city incurred after they admitted conducting public business in private.

Greg Landsman told WCPO he has repaid $200 and P.J. Sittenfeld said he would as well. Tamaya Dennard's chief of staff texted WCPO that Dennard intends to pay $200 and Chris Seelbach tweeted that he would do the same.

WCPO has reached out to Wendell Young’s office without a response.

The fine is part of the city’s $177,000 cost to settle a lawsuit that accused the five Democrats of breaking the Ohio Open Records Act by conducting public business through private texts and emails among themselves. The city is paying $101,000 to plantiff Mark Miller, treasurer of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), plus $75,000 in lawyer fees.

PODCAST: Why are the Gang of Five's texts a big deal?

Judge Robert Ruehlman approved the settlement Thursday and called on the five council members to resign for breaking the law. Dennard, Landsman, Seelbach and Sittenfeld have said publicly they will not give up their council posts. Young has not commented.

Ruehlman's call for resignations set off an angry, day-long exchange of criticism and condemnation between Democrats, who accused Republican Ruehlman of playing politics, and Republicans and attorney Brian Shrive, who filed the lawsuit against the city.

RELATED: Judge says Gang of Five council members should resign

As part of the settlement, the city released 626 pages of Gang of Five text messages which reveal gossip, name-calling, rumors of extramarital affairs and high-school level backstabbing as well as the secret side to City Hall business.

RELATED: Messages reveal high-school gossip, backstabbing, City Hall scandals.

Young could face charges for deleting texts from his phone. Ruehlman has scheduled a hearing on April 1.