OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Four members of the Toledo City Council, all Democrats, have been arrested and charged with allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for their votes.
The four council members — Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper, Gary Johnson, and Tyrone Riley — were among the five people charged in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation into a bribery scheme with the city council, local ABC News affiliate reported.
All four were charged with bribery in connection to programs receiving federal funds and extortion under the Hobbs Act.
Eric Smith, the special agent in charge of the Cleveland field office, said the investigation began back in 2018 when the FBI was notified that several council members had been soliciting and accepting cash bribes from business owners in exchange for council votes.
Over the course of two years, Smith said the federal investigation yielded recordings, surveillance, and financial records that implicated the four members in the bribery scheme.
“Citizens must be able to trust their elected officials and know that voting decisions are based on what is right for the community and not who paid the most,” Smith said. “This is a fundamental breach of the oaths of office these officials took when assuming office and a breach of trust with those citizens who elected them.”
The bribery charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison while the extortion charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
Court documents show that the council members accepted thousands of dollars in bribes.
Councilwoman Harper was additionally charged for having a local attorney, Keith Mitchell, solicit bribes on her behalf. Mitchell was also charged on Tuesday.
— Justin Billau (@photogbillau) June 30, 2020
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said he was “shocked and heartbroken” by the arrests and called it a “terrible day for Toledo — and for everyone who believes in the good that can be accomplished through public service.”
“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,” he said. “These members of the 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.”
Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department have been very busy lately.
As protests across the country have continued for nearly a month, several historical monuments across the U.S. have been vandalized and, in some cases, destroyed.
President Donald Trump and many Republicans have called on Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray apprehend and prosecute those involved in these property crimes.
Last week, the president signed an executive order specifically intended to protect historically significant monuments.