Former Cincinnati councilwoman Tamaya Dennard says her decision to accept $15,000 in exchange for votes was an attempt to gain financial stability and “a mistake” that will follow her “for the rest of my life.”
In a letter to the federal judge who is scheduled to sentence Dennard next month, Dennard said she had to take out loans during her 2017 campaign to help with housing expenses. She also was paying $900 a month for student loans, she said.
“I couldn’t sustain,” Dennard said in the letter, which was filed in advance of her sentencing in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, now set for Nov. 24.
“I accept full responsibility for my actions. But the story of a politician looking to turn her seat into a cash cow isn’t mine. It’s not even remotely close,” she said. “I was trying to gain stability so that I could focus more on my job. I made a terrible mistake that I will pay for, for the rest of my life.”
Dennard, who was elected after a low budget campaign that promised a shake-up of City Hall, said she tried and failed to find a second job to help support her council position. No one was willing to hire her, she said, because “the demands of City Hall would leave no time for me to assist their organization.”
Dennard also said she failed to obtain loans from several banks and accredited lenders because of bad credit and a debt-to-income ratio that “was way out of sorts.”
She said she intended to repay the money, and only asked for an amount she “could pay back without adding more stress to my life.”
Dennard was paid $65,000 a year as a council member, but by July 2019 she was having financial problems. That’s when she received the first of two $500 loans from a fellow councilmember.
Those loans were not considered unethical. But it was the $15,000 she received in the fall of 2019 in exchange for her support of a deal related to construction of a music venue at The Banks that led to the charges. Court documents detail how in September 2019 Dennard requested and received a $10,000 cashier’s check, then $5,000 in cash from an attorney involved in development efforts. That person then went to the FBI.
In her letter to Judge Susan Dlott, Dennard also explained her decision – days after receiving part of the $15,000 – to spend $4,000 to go on a vacation with a friend to Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Dennard said she was raised in a family that sometimes didn’t have enough money to for utilities and couldn’t afford family vacations. The trip to a Florida resort, she said, was a necessary break after years of hard work as well as fending off personal attacks about her appearance, sexual orientation and background.
“For the first time in my life, I took an actual vacation,” she said. “The scrutiny, the fatigue I felt, and the mental depletion was starting to take its toll.”
Dennard’s letter does not mention things that have been made public in recent years.
Dennard was living in the Baldwin building in Walnut Hills, which describes itself as having luxury apartments. She moved there last year, but eviction proceedings were later filed on that unit after Dennard failed to pay rent.
She also at one point drove a 2015 Lexus ES 350, which she reported stolen from the parking garage of her building. In March, the car turned up crashed into a house. The driver, who was not Dennard, is facing receiving stolen property charges.
Additionally, Dennard missed several council meetings in the months leading up to her indictment. Facebook posts show she traveled to the Dead Sea in 2018 and the Grand Canyon in February of 2019.
Dennard, 41, pleaded guilty in June to honest services wire fraud, meaning she schemed to defraud citizens and the city council of their right to honest services. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but Dennard’s attorneys are asking Dlott to sentence her to a term of home incarceration.
In a sentencing memorandum, attorney Stephanie Kessler said substantial community service “can serve as a punishment but one that still assists those who she hurt.”
“(Dennard) can learn how to overcome her mistakes and then teach others to do the same,” Kessler said.
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‘There is no new normal’: Worcester small business owner pivoted during COVID-19 and expects only more change after pandemic
It took about eight minutes for the bank to reject Natalie Rodriguez’s application for a loan through the Small Business Administration.
Rodriguez opened Nuestra, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant in Worcester, in January of 2020. When COVID-19 arrived months later she discovered Nuestra wasn’t eligible for the federal or state funding that thousands of other establishments received.
To qualify, restaurants were required to show payroll and salary for years before 2020. Those figures didn’t exist for a restaurant that weren’t open in 2019.
“[I was] determined and knew that ‘no’ is not an OK answer,” Rodriguez said. “A door may close but you may need to kick down another door.”
Rodriguez then applied for conventional loans only to be led to more closed doors. Less than 10 minutes after applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, she received notice that her poor credit score resulted in her application being denied.
Rodriguez used the dead end with the SBA to create a new path for herself and Nuestra.
She not only learned how to improve her credit but wanted to ensure others didn’t have to follow her journey as an entrepreneur.
Rodriguez extended the “Nuestra” brand to include financial advising. She started Nuestra Financial in April of 2020.
“Now I’m helping others. I’ve been able to restore my credit,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been able to help others restore their credit and be able to help them make a business themselves if they so choose. I’ve been able to survive.”
Without grants and other funding, Rodriguez managed to keep her restaurant open through funds generated from Nuestra Financial.
“I was very quiet about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh look at this girl, she just opened a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,’ and talk smack,” Rodriguez said. “About a month or two later, a light bulb hit and I was like, nobody pays my bills but me. I needed to mind my own business and not worry about what other people thought.”
In creating Nuestra Financial, Rodriguez said she’s helped Worcester residents restore their credit and purchase new vehicles and homes.
Rodriguez said financial literacy is rarely taught to children in school and wasn’t something she learned. When a situation arises like a rejection notice for an economic disaster loan, many don’t know how to respond or where to find answers.
Rodriguez said she’s helped young and old people, along with those who have bad credit or no credit.
“We lack the confidence, including myself, because we weren’t taught,” Rodriguez said. “So if you don’t know something, you weren’t taught, you’re not going to be confident about it.”
Coming out of the pandemic, Rodriguez remains confident about both her businesses. Nuestra, the restaurant, while closed for daily service continues to provide catering services. Rodriguez is still preparing what the future holds for the restaurant but plans to announce an update soon.
As masks start to become less a part of daily routines, Rodriguez, as a small business owner, doesn’t envision many differences from this year to last.
So many aspects of life remain uncertain from rising food costs to a potential third booster for vaccines and whether the country will ever reach herd immunity for COVID-19.
The pandemic arrived with Rodriguez immediately pivoting. As it approaches its potential end, Rodriguez will continue to do what helped her to navigate it.
“I feel like there is no new normal just yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re all just trying to adjust and pivot at the same time and getting creative. I think it’s where we all are.”
Columbus Mattress Wholesale moves to newer, larger Gahanna store
More than four years back, Cathryn Clark’s boyfriend, Christopher Robbins, was on the hunt for a new mattress. He just couldn’t find one at an affordable price.
Clark, 29, and Robbins, 34, who are now engaged, were living in Franklinton, where they still live today.
They had no experience owning or operating a small business; Robbins worked as a retail assistant for SAS Retail Services while Clark worked as the communications director for two Methodist churches.
But in 2017, Robbins, with Clark at his side, took the leap and opened Columbus Mattress Wholesale on the West Side, with the goal of helping low-income consumers secure mattresses and other bedtime products.
“We really wanted to bring a store to people that, you know, they weren’t paying an arm and leg, but they still could get a good night’s sleep,” Clark said.
Customers at Columbus Mattress Wholesale can pay cash or credit, for example, but the business also works with financing companies that serve people without credit scores, with bad credit or who are lower income.
Last month, the business made a big move. It expanded from its original location on Harrisburg Pike to a store double the size at 435 Agler Road in Gahanna.
Clark said she and Robbins saw a need in the broader area, with many of their customers coming from outside the Hilltop, such as Linden.
Nestled between Dollar Tree and the Ohio BMV in Gahanna, the new storefront opened Memorial Day weekend and sells mattresses, bed bases, bed frames and pillows. Mattress prices range from under $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the size and brand, which includes some well-known names such as Serta, Beautyrest and Casper.
Clark said while she and Robbins originally sold solely Ohio-based brands, they’ve branched out to national brands as business has grown.
Columbus Mattress Wholesale also offers free same-day delivery on most orders from customers living in Columbus.
Clark does a little bit of everything for the business, from running communications, to working on the sales floor, to managing the sales team, to ordering what they sell.
She said a big mission for herself and Robbins, beyond doing business, is aiding the community.
“We’ve seen a lot of people struggle,” Clark said.
Clark said she and Robbins work to mentor other people who are hoping to open or currently own a small business. She added that the store starts employees at $17 per hour.
She and Robbins haven’t decided yet what they will do with the original location — which is currently closed — but said they might shift it into an accessory store.
A Guide to Getting Mobile Deals with Bad Credit History
You’re interested in a new mobile deal but there’s only one thing that’s stopping; you’ve got a bad credit history. Does that mean that your hopes of getting a new phone contract are crushed? Well, not exactly. In this article, you will learn how to get a mobile phone with no credit check required and how you can navigate the issue to get a great deal even with bad credit history.
Why is a bad credit history a big deal?
When taking a new phone contract, it means you’re entering into a financial agreement that requires you to make payments in monthly installments. As such, many providers of the service will want to ensure that they’re entering into an agreement with someone who will pay the agreed amount without violating the terms.
The best way for them to have that assurance is by looking into the credit history of the client. But does it necessarily mean that if you’ve got a bad credit history you can’t honor your side of the bargain in a phone contract? Of course not; which is why this article gives you the options you can pursue to end up landing a pretty impressive deal.
Although you might not find a deal that includes the latest devices in the market, you’ll not lack a relatively cheaper but functional option. For instance, if you’re a great fan of the iPhone, you might end up landing the iPhone XR instead of the latest release of iPhone 12. When the deal is cheaper, you stand higher chances of success as opposed to one that just dropped in the market and so it’s in high demand.
Another alternative is to find a contract that comes with a used handset as such tend to be less strict in terms of credit history requirements. That means you’re likely to pass the test of a contract with an already used gadget as opposed to that of a brand new phone.
Another alternative could be to go for SIM only deals especially if you already have an alternative source for a handset. Most of the providers won’t require you to sign any contract and so they’ll not look into your previous credit history. SIM only deals tend to be intensive on minutes, texts and data offers.
Networks that favor people with bad credit
There are networks that are more lenient to people with bad credit history than others. Major networks including Vodafone, O2 and EE usually come with strict requirements that might only frustrate you. The following are the alternatives you could consider looking into:
Smarty:The company offers SIM only plans that don’t require you to sign any contract. If you have an alternative handset, this could be a great alternative to consider as they won’t do a credit check on you. Their services and offers run on a monthly rolling basis which means you can walk away at any time in case you’re dissatisfied with the quality of service you’re getting. Their deals start at 2GB of data and unlimited texts and calls at a cost of £5 to unlimited calls, texts and data for £16.
Giffgaff:You won’t be subjected to a credit test here as well during sign up for one of the packages that the network offers. You’ll be required to sign up for a monthly bundle of your choice that’s inclusive of calls, data and texts. You can proceed with the same plan or switch to a new one after the month is gone. Most of their deals start at £8 a month.
VOXI:The network has numerous offers that operate on a 30-day rolling basis. They also won’t bother performing a credit check on you as it has no use in the first place. A bonus with this network is that they won’t include the social sites you frequent in their data charges.
Mobile phone to go with a SIM only deal
The SIM only deals we’ve highlighted above means that you’ll need to have a separate handset. In case you don’t have one already, you can take a separate mobile phone contract to go with your preferred SIM only deal. The other alternative is to buy one outright. But in case you don’t have money to make the purchase, you can always save up and buy when you’ve accumulated enough.
Some great smartphones that are classic and yet won’t put a huge wall in your pocket. Coveted brands such as iPhone and Samsung have great devices such as the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G that goes for £349 and the iPhone SE valued at £399. As you can see, with some savings, you should be able to get your hands on these gadgets and many others out there. And if you feel that these cost on the higher side, you can opt for refurbished phones. Refurbished phones refer to those handsets that have been used but have undergone intensive testing to ensure they still have got higher functionality.
When do credit checks apply?
Credit history is required by providers that have a mobile phone that requires a payment plan spanning several months or years. In most cases, the major network providers including EE, O2 and Vodafone will do a background check on your credit check before allowing you to sign up for their deals. Some factors that might make you have a poor credit rating is when you’ve missed several months’ payments, made late payments or placed too many credit applications concurrently.
Want to improve your credit rating?
The following are several steps you could consider to help you improve your credit rating. Most of these revolve around efficient management of your money, bills and other forms of payments.
- Have a proper and functional bank account
- Pay all your outgoing bills on or before the due dates
- Ensure you’re registered on the electoral roll
- Don’t share your account with a person with poor credit rating
That’s how you can work out things to get mobile deals even if your credit history isn’t a good one. But going forward, the best action plan would be to work towards improving your credit rating so that you can take advantage of the opportunities that come up in future.
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