Winburn: FBI taking boxes from office as part of 'political witch hunt'

Posted at 12:47 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 18:55:33-05

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Councilman Charlie Winburn said Thursday that files from his office were brought to the FBI as part of "a political witch hunt."

"Unfortunately the media was very liberal and reckless with the facts," Winburn said.

When asked if he planned to file a grievance, Winburn said "we are contemplating a few other matters but we'd just like to leave it like that right now."

Winburn was considering a run for mayor, but would not confirm any updates on his decision during Thursday's news conference.

Winburn's staff brought all five boxes to the news conference.

On Wednesday, WCPO obtained a letter written by City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething to John J. Williams, an attorney representing Winburn. The letter explained why the boxes ended up in the FBI's possession.

The letter claims the boxes in question were discovered under basement stairs by janitorial staff. Their contents were examined by City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething, Chief of General Counsel Roshani Hardin and two assistant police chiefs, Paul Neudigate and David Bailey.

"After a quick assessment of the contents, four boxes contained several notebooks containing handwritten notes and significant numbers of manila file folders containing documents that appeared to be original public records, as well as some newspapers," Boggs Muething wrote in the letter. "One box contained only old newspapers."

To avoid involving Cincinnati police in a possibly political issue, the group decided to have an outside agency determine if there was any wrongdoing, according to the letter. The FBI had the boxes and transferred them to the Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the letter said.

"This was particularly important, given the pending state audit and FBI investigation into past MSD procurement practices," Boggs Muething wrote.

You can read the full letter here.

"(The FBI) reviewed these boxes approximately two weeks ago and found no wrongdoing," Winburn said in Thursday's news conference.

Earlier this month, Winburn said he didn't know why the FBI had boxes from his office. Rosalind Fultz, his aide, said the boxes contained old newspaper articles and desk clutter she was going to take home to sort out.

"It was really just an attempt to organize some materials," Fultz said then.

When the boxes were first removed, Winburn called it a "red herring."

"This is nothing but a distraction and a waste of taxpayer dollars," he said.

Winburn renewed his call for an inspector general in Cincinnati.


Web Editors James Leggate and Marais Jacon-Duffy contributed to this report.