Ohio Democrat tried to trade votes for cash, could get 50 years in prison, authorities say
A Cincinnati city councilwoman could face up to 50 years in prison after being arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges, authorities say, according to reports.
Shortly after being taken into custody, Tamaya Dennard appeared in court in handcuffs and leg irons to face charges of honest services fraud, bribery and attempted extortion, FOX 19 of Cincinnati reported.
In one instance, a source linked to a downtown development project, who was cooperating with the FBI, handed Dennard a cashier’s check for $10,000.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” Dennard, 40, is heard saying on a recording, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Thank you. … I’m going right to the bank on this.”
Another time Dennard allegedly requested $15,000.
“It would be awesome if this were initiated today,” she said, according to an affidavit.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Dennard was released on her own recognizance, pending further court action, but was ordered to surrender her passport, FOX 19 reported.
Federal authorities allege Dennard had requested sums of $10,000 to $15,000 for personal expenses from the source, a representative of a law firm linked to the development project along the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati.
That person then worked with the FBI to provide text messages and recorded conversations involving Dennard between August and December 2019, leading to her arrest, FOX 19 reported.
“Dennard engaged in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Cincinnati of her honest services as a council member,” FBI agent Nathan Holbrook wrote in a statement. “She engaged in acts and attempted acts of bribery and extortion, attempting to exchange her votes for money.”
Video posted online by the station showed Dennard walking to a waiting vehicle after her court hearing.
Her attorney, Erik Laursen, claimed his client was innocent of the charges.
“I don’t believe that she’s done anything unethical, or illegal, and we’ll be looking to fight that,” Laursen told FOX 19.
Authorities allege that Dennard persisted in seeking cash from the source even after the source told her in a recorded conversation that the requests were “totally inappropriate” and advised her, “Please don’t suggest it again.”
Dennard used some of the cash to pay for a trip with a friend to a resort in Clearwater Beach, Fla., the Enquirer reported. Other payments went toward her rent, a car and other expenses, authorities said.
The councilwoman was arrested while on her way to a Starbucks store in the morning and appeared in court a few hours later, the Enquirer reported.
U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers praised the source for participating in the investigation.
“It takes courage for citizens to come forward and assist law enforcement as this individual did,” DeVillers.said.
According to the Enquirer, what happens next is uncertain because the city charter does not address whether a councilmember can continue to serve after being accused of a crime. If convicted, however, Ohio state law would force her removal.
Dennard also faces other problems, according to the newspaper, such as investigations over allegedly illegally texting with other council members, allegedly failing to list debts on her financial disclosure form and reportedly facing eviction from the apartment building where she currently lives.