Despite being tied to a bribery scheme involving city business, Columbus City Council President Andy Ginther said he would not step down from council or resign from the Columbus mayoral race.
Despite being tied to a bribery scheme involving city business, Columbus City Council President Andy Ginther said he would not step down from council or resign from the Columbus mayoral race
Ginther defended himself during a press conference today (June 22) regarding links to a bribery case, refuting the notion that he was involved in pay-to-play politics with the city's red-light camera provider.
Ginther, the frontrunner in the Columbus mayoral race this fall, further sought to insulate himself against the allegations, in which an official with Redflex Traffic Systems, already has pleaded guilty for her role in bribery cases in Columbus and Cincinnati.
"I am not a target. I am not a person of interest. I am not a subject in the investigation," Ginther said during a meeting with media at City Hall.
Karen L. Finley, former CEO of Arizona-based Redflex, has pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in Columbus and Cincinnati and admitted to making campaign contributions from 2005 to 2013 in those cities.
Ginther criticized initial media reports of his being connected to the bribery as sloppy, inaccurate and misleading.
According to documents from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Ohio, "Consultant A," later identified as well-connected lobbyist John Raphael, received a $20,000 "success fee" in October 2011 from Redflex and gave it to the Ohio Democratic Party.
The party, less than a month later, gave Ginther's campaign a $21,000 contribution.
No elected public official was named in the document, which said the campaign contribution was made to the "elected official" who had contacted Finley. According to published reports, the contribution was traced to Ginther's coffers.
Ginther said he never talked to Finley and cast doubt on her testimony, branding her as a "felon." He said he never asked state party officials for the money and has no say on where it goes. He said he has raised $150,000 for the Ohio Democratic Party since being appointed council president in 2011.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney said the office would not comment specifically on anyone who isn't named in court documents.
Ginther, who received a subpoena two weeks ago, said he's fully cooperating with officials.
At issue is Ginther's apparent involvement in a case involving Redflex Traffic Systems, the company the city paid to provide and maintain the red-light cameras at intersections. The cameras take pictures of vehicles when they run a red light, resulting in a $95 fine. The city and company share a portion of the revenue.
The first cameras were installed in 2006 in Columbus. At last count, 44 cameras were at 38 intersections.
Since the installment of the state's first red-light cameras in various jurisdictions, there's been a tussle between motorists and elected officials. Cities have contended that installing cameras has resulted in fewer crashes, thus creating safer intersections.
Others have criticized the cameras' use as intrusive, violating due-process and a way for cities to pad their coffers.
The Ohio legislature, with the consent of Gov. John Kasich, effectively banned red-light cameras, which were deactivated in Columbus in March.
They are operational in other cities, as those jurisdictions and Columbus have filed lawsuits to keep the cameras in place.
Columbus chose not to seek an injunction to keep the cameras on while the lawsuit was pending.
Read more on this story in the June 25 edition of ThisWeek.