CINCINNATI — Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor could face state suspension proceedings as soon as next week if he does not step down amid corruption charges.
Mayor John Cranley said he spoke with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost this week about removing the 36-year-old Republican from office as he fights bribery charges.
The FBI arrested Pastor on Tuesday on a sweeping, 10-count indictment accusing him of taking $55,000 in bribes over development deals in 2018 and 2019.
“We’re glad Attorney General Yost can move quickly to remove Mr. Pastor if he doesn’t resign because we don’t have that power under the city charter,” Cranley said. “He has the power under state law to go to the Supreme Court and ask that Pastor be removed for having been arrested for a felony in the commission of his official capacity.”
Pastor’s attorney, Ben Dusing, told reporters at a press conference on Friday that Pastor had not yet decided if he will step down from the council seat he won in 2017. He said Pastor can still serve constituents, despite the corruption charges.
If Pastor doesn’t resign, Cranley said Yost will file paperwork with the Ohio Supreme Court to begin suspension proceedings.
“Jeff Pastor and his actions have brought shame on the city and City Council,” Cranley said. “We want nothing to do with him, and he should resign immediately. I don’t believe he can function and keep good faith with the public.”
Councilwoman Betsy Sundermann, who is a former prosecutor, said Pastor could be innocent of the corruption charges, but the shadow of impropriety will not allow him to remain at City Hall.
“It would taint every single vote that he makes … every time we have a vote that’s 5 to 4 and he’s the one vote that pushes it over the limit, we’re not going to be able to rely on that vote,” Sundermann said. “How can we rely on him proposing new legislation if we’re worried that he maybe took a bribe to put forth that legislation?”
Elected officials who are suspended are still paid until the resolution of a criminal case. But if they are convicted, the city can recoup the salary it paid to them.
This is the second time this year that the FBI has arrested a member of Cincinnati City Council on corruption charges. The FBI arrested former Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard in February on charges she took $15,000 in exchange for her vote on a development deal involving The Banks.
Dennard did not immediately resign from her council seat. She bowed to an ultimatum and the threat of more criminal charges from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters days later.
Dennard pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in June, admitting she took $15,000 in exchange for her vote on a development deal involving The Banks.
She faces more than two years in prison when U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott sentences her on Nov. 24.