CINCINNATI — The corruption scandal at Cincinnati City Hall is prompting one former council member to announce his campaign to return to City Council in hopes of restoring public trust.
Kevin Flynn said he will announce his candidacy ahead of the November 2021 election at a press conference on Tuesday at noon at the Cincinnati Firefighters Local Union 48 Hall at 1011 W. Eighth St., where council members Christopher Smitherman and David Mann, and Mayor John Cranley, are expected to attend.
“I am so happy that Kevin Flynn is a candidate to return to Council. This is good news in the midst of the saddest chapter our City Hall has experienced in a long time,” said Mann, a former mayor of Cincinnati. “Kevin has impeccable integrity and was a fearless advocate for strong auditing practices in his previous service on Council.”
While Flynn was on City Council from 2013 to 2017, he served as vice chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee, which Smitherman, who is now vice mayor, continues to chair.
“I endorse Kevin Flynn for City Council. He was a pleasure to work with when he served prior. His legal mind and high ethics are needed at City Hall,” said Smitherman.
Cranley said he also supports Flynn's campaign.
"Kevin Flynn is as honest as the day is long and will bring the right ethics of a public servant to council when it is desperately needed," he said.
Flynn said he made his decision to run for City Council after the FBI arrested Councilman PG Sittenfeld on corruption charges on Nov. 19. Sittenfeld is the third council member charged with corruption so far this year, following the arrest of Councilman Jeff Pastor on Nov. 10 and former Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard in February.
“It just seems that the trust has gone out of the city across the board,” Flynn said. “The voters are just exhausted by this.”
Pastor agreed to a voluntary suspension from his city council seat last week in an agreement with the Ohio Attorney General’s office while he awaits trial on charges that he took $44,000 in bribes for votes on development deals. On Monday afternoon, Pastor's interim replacement on council, Steve Goodin, was officially appointed.
A federal judge sentenced Dennard to 18 months in prison last week after she pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud for accepting $15,000 in bribes for her vote on a development deal.
Sittenfeld has publicly said he is innocent. He awaits trial on charges that he “corruptly solicited” $40,000 from a developer into a PAC (political action committee) in exchange for votes on a project.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said these arrests demonstrate a “culture of corruption” at City Hall.
“I just think that I can help restore the sense of integrity to council. The respect of the citizens toward council,” Flynn said.
While on Council Flynn was known as a spending watchdog who criticized earmarks and didn’t mind being the lone dissenter on votes taken, just to prove a point.
He was also known for his perfect attendance record and not missing a single council meeting in four years.
The Mount Airy resident was a stickler for following city rules while serving on council, criticizing political pet projects, questioning city spending, and pushing for more government transparency.
Flynn fought to reinstate audits to monitor how city money is being spent.
“Literally as soon as I left, I think the emphasis on internal audit went away,” Flynn said. “I want to reestablish that and reestablish it in such a way that when I’m not there that function continues. Because we can’t leave it up to journalists and we can’t leave it up to the federal government to watch out … we have to be able to do that ourselves as a city.”
Flynn did not run for a second council term in 2017 in part because he said he wanted to devote more time to helping people with disabilities and improving accessibility.
Now that Flynn is semi-retired from his real estate law practice, he said he feels compelled to return to City Hall.
“I really feel that I need to try to do this to restore faith in Cincinnati,” Flynn said.
Flynn plans to run for City Council in November 2021 as an Independent but hopes to draw support from all parties.
In 2013, he was elected to council as a Charterite, after two unsuccessful attempts.