A Louisville Metro Council Court hearing turned into a shouting match between city officials and the lawyer representing embattled Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, in her upcoming removal trial.
Shanklin faces ouster from office after a Charging Committee of five council members filed a petition saying she violated three sections of the city’s code of ethics.
The chief allegation is that Shanklin used taxpayers funds to benefit her friends and family through an upholstery program for ex-offenders.
The program was set up to help former inmates learn a trade, but city records showed few ex-offenders attending the class while Shanklin and family members did.
Mayor Greg Fischer’s office shut down the program in late 2011, but The Courier-Journal discovered the councilwoman’s office continued to fund the program with discretionary through the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association, which Shanklin and her niece were listed as board members.
Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin. He strongly objected to the council’s handling of the proceedings, exhibits and who will be subpoenaed to testify.
At different points Williams lashed out at Council President Jim King, D-10, Charging Committee attorney David Tachau and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell.
Williams says O’Connell especially has been engaging in unprofessional “shenanigans” leading up to the removal trial.
“Now you be quiet and let me explain,” Williams yelled. “You may think you can push district court judges around, but you won’t push me around sir. Your behavior is appalling. How you are practicing this case is appalling.”
“How dare you,” O’Connell barked. “I’m not going to play your games. You accuse me of unprofessional conduct you better put it on the record.”
At issue is the testimony of witness Linda Haywood, who was paid with city funds for teaching the upholstery courses.
In an interview with the Metro Police, Haywood claims Shanklin lent her up to $2,500 for instructing the classes when the grant checks would come late. Haywood told investigators she would reimburse the councilwoman in cash at Shanklin’s request, but records do not show any deposits in the neighborhood group’s accounts.
Haywood is a witness for the defense and prosecution but is out of town and claims she is unable to return in order to attend the trial. But King, who chairs the removal proceedings, ruled recently the prosecution is allowed to play her recorded comments to law enforcement before the court.
Williams says those accusations are untrue and Haywood ought to testify in person, adding she is opening the councilwoman up to a number of criminal charges outside of the removal trial, including money laundering.
“It is absurd to even think that (Tachau) should be allowed to play that tape denying my client the right to confrontation,” he says. “It is incumbent upon this council for the benefit of this community, and more importantly for my client that Linda Haywood appears and testifies unless somebody doesn’t want her to appear.”
According to Williams, he recorded a telephone conversation where Haywood doesn’t deny failing to pay the Shanklin back. But Williams says because Haywood contacted him asking if she should testify that could put him on the witness stand, and he’s seeking an opinion from the Kentucky Bar Association before moving forward.
Both sides have submitted lengthy witness lists to the council court which includes Shanklin, two of her relatives and members of the Newburg neighborhood group that received city funds.
Tachau also plans to call ex-FBI agent James Sniegocki, who specializes in white collar crime and will testify about the lack of financial records showing the neighborhood groups in Shanklin’s district were reimbursed.
On Williams’s witness list are a number of public officials including Fischer, who could be subpoenaed. But the mayor’s general counsel indicated he will object to any effort to compel Fischer to testify.
The removal trial is scheduled to begin July 23 and its expected to last at least three days.