That didn’t take long.
Less than 48 hours after it was revealed that the Ohio Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion last year stating Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz shouldn’t take part in decisions about a proposed streetcar project, a formal complaint has been filed with the commission.
Justin Jeffre, a local progressive activist and ex-performer with the Pop band 98 Degrees, filed the complaint today.
“Councilman Bortz has ignored the Ethics Commission’s advice and voted on funding matters connected to the $128 million project during the past year,” Jeffre wrote. “According to media reports, aside from the properties his family’s business owns and manages along the proposed route, Councilman Bortz also holds a 4 percent stake in Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse — which is also on the proposed route.
“Given these facts, and as stated above, I hereby offer this letter as a formal complaint, and I hereby request formally an ethics investigation into this matter."
The Ethics Commission’s advisory opinions — like the one issued to Bortz in June 2009 based upon his request — aren’t binding. The commission will start an investigation and issue a formal ruling only if someone files a complaint.
Citing advice given to him by the city solicitor and private attorneys, Bortz has continued to be involved in streetcar decision-making that comes before City Council.
Bortz works for his father’s firm, Towne Properties, which develops and manages several residential and commercial real estate projects citywide, including apartments and condominiums within a few blocks of the tentative streetcar route.
Streetcar supporters, including Bortz, have touted the project’s economic spinoff effect, alleging it can spark redevelopment and increase property values within a three-block radius.
Bortz’ involvement with streetcar decisions has been criticized by project opponents including local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman and ex-Congressman Tom Luken.
Jeffre is a member of the local NAACP chapter.