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Toledo party chairs each call for City Council members to resign after bribery charges

 Michael Ashford (left) and Mark Wagoner, Jr. (right) each called for the resignation of four Toledo City Council members after they were charged with bribery and extortion in federal court.
Michael Ashford (left) and Mark Wagoner, Jr. (right) each called for the resignation of four Toledo City Council members after they were charged with bribery and extortion in federal court. (WTVG)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 2:40 PM EDT
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Local leadership from both sides of the political aisle are calling for four City Council members to resign after they were charged with bribery and extortion in federal court on Tuesday.

In a statement sent to the media, Toledo Democratic Party Chairman Michael Ashford said: "Having recently been elected Chair of the Lucas County Democratic Party, I entered a Party that prides itself on accountability and transparency. As such, I was shocked and upset by today's arrests.

"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. 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.

"We have an opportunity to move this Party forward in a way that will represent the values of our community and the Democratic Party, and I look forward to working with you to do just that."

His counterpart, Toledo Republican Chairman Mark Wagoner, Jr., echoed those sentiments, though he took things a step further, claiming there exists a "culture of corruption" in city government. He went on to say, in a statement: "Four Democrat city council members – including the Executive Director of the Lucas County Democratic Party – 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. Lucas County Republicans have long pointed to the culture of corruption within the City of Toledo and have put forward quality candidates to end Democrat domination. Today, the importance of watchdogs on Toledo City Council is never more clear. The Lucas County Republicans call for the following immediately: (1) all four city council candidates should resign; (2) open elections should be held for each of these open seats; and (3) Yvonne Harper should be removed as Executive Director of the Lucas County Democratic Party."

Council members Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper, Gary Johnson, and Tyrone Riley all made appearances in U.S. District Court on Tuesday for allegations they accepted or solicited bribes in exchange for official actions. They were released later in the evening and while their future on the council remains unclear they have not been barred by the court from serving in their positions for the time being.

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