CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard was charged Tuesday with three federal corruption charges: bribery, attempted extortion and honest services fraud and is accused of selling her votes on The Banks music venue project as it related to the Hilltop land swap deal in 2019.
FBI agents took Dennard into custody Tuesday morning at a Starbucks, according to her lawyer, Erik Laursen. The 15-page complaint outlines conversations Dennard had with a person identified in the federal complaint as a "Confidential Human Source." According to the complaint, Dennard contacted the person, whom she barely knew, and said she was having personal financial problems and needed money. The CHS said it was inappropriate to have the conversations and later contacted federal law enforcement.
According to the complaint, the CHS wore a wire and recorded conversations with Dennard. On Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, Dennard and the CHS met.
CHS: Do you think, you know, can we count on your support with what we’re talking about here?
Dennard: Sure, mmm-hmm. Yeah.
CHS: Yeah, we’re good on that?
The two spoke the following day on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, and the complaint states the following exchange took place:
CHS: So I’ll give you $10,000 now --
Dennard: Mmm-hmmm. Yes.
CHS: -- and you’re...good with...supporting Hilltop’s proposal to do the land swap --
Dennard: Mmm-hmm. Yes.
CHS: -- when it comes before council? We’re...cool. Awesome.
CHS: And then, and then I think as [the] thing goes through -- I mean, if -- probably the most...important vote will be...the first vote, and then there's probably going to be a second vote, and if you can hold on, you know, I can give you the $5,000 after that second vote, if that's good with you.
Dennard: Um, yeah. That's, that's fine.
The complaint states Dennard discussed drafting a promissory note and paying the money back over six years. However, that never happened.
The CHS transferred the $15,000 in two transactions: one $5,000 and one $10,000 transaction.
The complaint states Dennard booked two tickets to Florida and spent more than $4,000 on the trip and spent time at the Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater, Florida. The complaint states Dennard continued to ask for money through December 2019, stating the CHS made this “transactional” and she offered her “help.”
Judge Karen Litkovitz released Dennard on her own recognizance and ordered that she turn over her passport and notify the court if she plans to spend more than $1,000.
Laursen said after the bail hearing that his client “is innocent.” He said the arrest took him by surprise because he would have expected the FBI or U.S. Attorney’s Office to reach out to him to arrange for Dennard to turn herself in.