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The drama isn’t over for five Cincinnati city council members accused of conducting public business in private last year.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told WLWT exclusively that the state auditor is expected to make a referral for criminal prosecution. That means the self-proclaimed “Gang of Five” and their controversial text messages will be investigated by a grand jury, led by a prosecutor with no ties to local government.

“(City Solicitor) Paula Muething and the mayor and I have all agreed that we should handle it through a special prosecutor, and we’re going to have that appointed tomorrow,” Deters said.

P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard, and Wendell Young admitted to texting each other about city business, which is a violation of Ohio’s Sunshine laws.

The city agreed to pay more than $100,000 to settle a lawsuit.

In a crowded courtroom this past March, Judge Robert Ruehlman said the five council members should resign.

The special prosecutor and the grand jury will decide if the “Gang of Five” should be charged with a crime.

Deters said it’s important people know how government works.

“It’s almost like election law 101 that you don’t do this kind of stuff,” Deters said.

He’s hoping the special prosecutor will get to the bottom of what happened.

“This is not a joke, it’s not a game, you need to have transparency in what’s going on,” Deters said.


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