Toledo: Accused council members should resign, Dems say

Larry Limpf

Four members of Toledo City Council accused of accepting bribes are being asked to resign their seats by the leadership of the Lucas County Democratic Party.
In a criminal complaint filed June 30 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes and Gary Johnson accepted bribe payments for official acts. A local attorney, Keith Mitchell, is also being charged for soliciting bribes and funneling payments on behalf of Harper.
Michael Ashford, who chairs the Lucas County Democratic Party, said in a prepared statement the executive committee is urging the four to resign.
“This is not what I had anticipated upon taking office, nor is it acceptable. While these individuals are innocent until proven guilty, we are urging them to resign from their elected positions so the focus of progress is not derailed by this distraction,” he said. “We will be working with city council to appoint outstanding new members to that body that will reflect Democratic core values and philosophy.
“To be clear, there is no room for corruption in our party or in our government. To clarify earlier statements, Ms. Harper is no longer serving as executive director of the Lucas County Democratic Party. Her seat was vacated when I became chair, and we have not had an executive committee meeting yet to fill that position.”
Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said he was “shocked and heartbroken” by the news but said they deserve a fair hearing.
“This is a terrible day for Toledo — and for everyone who believes in the good that can be accomplished through public service,” the mayor said in a prepared statement.
“I was inspired to run for public office by a Catholic priest, Fr. Timothy O’Brien, who impressed upon me the benefits of a life dedicated to serving the public good. Because of his mentorship, I have no tolerance for public officials who abuse the trust of the citizens. One of the reasons Toledo has seen relatively little political corruption, historically, is because the public doesn’t tolerate it either.
“These members of council are entitled to their day in court, and they should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. I encourage all Toledoans to say a prayer for our city and for the hope that justice will be done in this case.”
Mark Wagoner, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said the four council members should resign and elections should be held for the open seats.
“A culture of corruption exists within Toledo City Government. Four Democrat city council members … have been arrested by the FBI in connection with a bribery scheme in Toledo city government. Democrat domination of Toledo city politics has consequences, and today we see them. Today, the importance of watchdogs on Toledo City Council is never more clear.”
The investigation began in early 2018 with an interview by the FBI of a person who owned gas stations and convenience stores in the city and claimed he/she had previously provided “things of value” to Riley for his vote on pending matters before council.
The source claimed he enlisted Riley’s help to stop approval of a special use permit for a gas station/convenience store that would be located close to the source’s gas station. The source said he/she, at Riley’s request, donated $300 to a Riley fundraiser scheduled for that day and agreed to Riley’s request to have alcohol for the fundraiser be delivered to his business, enabling Riley to avoid having to pay taxes on it because it would be delivered to a liquor license holder. Riley also didn’t pay the delivery fee of about $300 but asked the source to do so.
The FBI reviewed Riley’s bank accounts and found a deposit in June 2013 of the $300 check from the source in his “Riley for City Council” account.
“After providing this historical information, Source 1 agreed to cooperate with the investigation,” the complaint says.
Under FBI direction, the source filed a request for a curb cut at a gas station he/she owned on Dorr Street, which would also require a special use permit approved by council. More cash was given to Riley, according to the complaint.
Source 1 also claimed Harper was involved in extorting money from him/her to stave off additional demonstrations and social media attention about a racial incident at a gas station/convenience store near downtown Toledo in Harper’s council district. The source owned the building and initially paid $500 to a third party to stop the protests, but on Jan. 31, 2020 paid an additional $2,500 by check to the party.
Another source allegedly paid bribes to the other members of council for their votes on special use permits for internet cafes in the city, the complaint says.
In a footnote to the complaint, the FBI writes that Source 1 was convicted for credit card fraud in California in the mid-1990s but has no known criminal history since then. The source was arrested in February 2018 for being in the U.S. illegally and investigators believe the source got married in December 2000 to a U.S. citizen with the sole intent of obtaining immigration benefits, which were denied.
“Subsequent to this denial Source 1 has remained in the U.S. without lawful immigration status. Such conduct, if proven would subject Source 1 to possible criminal and immigration consequences. No federal law enforcement officer, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, made any promises to him/her about the ultimate disposition of the marriage fraud allegation, nor has the federal government paid Source 1 any financial benefit,” the footnote says.


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