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Panel of retired judges to consider suspension of Toledo City Council members charged in federal probe

Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal

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From left: Toledo City Council members Tyrone Riley, Gary Johnson, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes

The Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice will bring in three retired judges to oversee the case of four Toledo elected officials charged in a federal bribery probe.

The case involves Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes and Gary Johnson, all of whom are Toledo City Council members. They were arrested after allegedly being paid for votes.

According to the indictment, the four council members took bribes and threatened “use of their political and social influence to injure the property and reputation” of a source who went to federal investigators with the information.

A fifth individual, Keith Mitchell, is charged in the case, and, as an attorney in Toledo, is accused in the indictment of acting “on behalf” of Harper. Court documents alleged he funnelled cash and money orders “not due to Harper” from an unnamed source.

They are all accused of conspiring, from March 2018 to April 2020, to “obstruct, delay, and affect commerce” by extortion in the form of case, money orders, checks, meals, and locations for campaign signs, the indictment stated.

All of the city council members have agreed to suspend their seats in light of the charges.

In early July, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz asked for the resignation of the four, and warned if that did not happen, he would go to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to force them to resign. When that didn’t happen, he wrote to Yost.

On July 15, the state requested that Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor establish “a special commission” of three judges “to consider the suspension from public office of four members of the Toledo City Council.”

The retired judges appointed to the commission are David C. Faulkner, L. Alan Goldsberry, and Jennifer L. Sargus.

The proceedings of the special commission will be closed to the public, and records will be sealed from public view until the judges conclude their work, according to the order by the state’s highest court.

All five named in the federal case have pleaded not guilty.

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