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Resignation: Councilwoman steps down amid questions about lobbyist link

Resignation: Councilwoman steps down amid questions about lobbyist link

614now Staff

Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle Mills (D) has resigned her seat effective September 4th. Council will appoint someone to serve out the rest of Mills’ term through December. Mills has also pulled out of this November’s general election. (Elizabeth Brown, daughter of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, will take Mills’ place on the November ballot.)

In a statement released Monday morning:

“I want to thank my Council colleagues for all of their support and encouragement during my tenure on Council. I remain committed to Columbus and will continue work to strengthen families and neighborhoods through my service at St. Stephen’s Community House.  I love this city, its people and how we work together to improve our community.”

– Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle Mills

No reason was officially given for the councilwoman’s resignation. Council President Andrew Ginther responded to the news.

“Council President Pro Tem Mills has been a tireless advocate for Columbus residents. Whether working at City Hall or in the community, she has always put our families, especially children, first. While a difficult decision, I understand that professionally and personally this is what is best for Michelle, and I respect her decision. I thank her for her work on Council and for her ongoing service to the community.”

– Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther

Mills has found herself recently linked to a lobbyist involved in a bribery scandal. Earlier this year, the former CEO of the red light camera company Redflex pleaded guilty to bribery charges. In court documents, Karen Finley says that she was involved in dealings where elected officials in Columbus and Cincinnati were bribed in order for the company to obtain and extend contracts with the cities. A lobbyist named John Raphael was reportedly used to funnel money from Redflex to the officials in question. (Ginther supposedly received a donation to his campaign from Redflex via Raphael. The mayoral candidate denies any wrongdoing.)

This takes us to Mills. Mills has been on Council since 2011 and serves as president pro-tem, second in charge behind Ginther. She was widely considered to be the favorite to replace Andrew Ginther as the next president of Columbus City Council. Was.

In December of last year, lobbyist Raphael took Mills, Ginther and fellow Council members Shannon Hardin and Eileen Paley to Indianapolis to see Ohio State vs Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship football game. The group traveled in a chartered bus and watched the game in a suite. The suite was owned by Centerplate, a food-and-beverage service that had just been awarded the contract for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Raphael served both as a lobbyist for Centerplate and as a member of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority. The Authority made the decision on awarding the Convention Center contract to Centerplate, though Raphael abstained from the final vote.

Ginther paid $250 for his trip in December out of campaign funds. Hardin and Paley disclosed the trip to the Ohio Ethics Commission and paid two months ago. Mills did not disclose the trip and paid in July, only after Raphael was linked to the Redflex bribery case. Mills says that she did not disclose the trip because, since she planned to pay for it, she wasn’t required to do so. And the only reason that she didn’t pay sooner is that she was waiting to receive an invoice.

Despite earning the second-highest number of votes in May’s Council primary, she has now withdrawn from the November general election and resigned from Council. Stay tuned.  (jj)

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