City Won’t Pay Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin’s Attorney for Ethics Appeal Work

The lawyer representing embattled Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, will not be paid with taxpayer money during the appeal of her Ethics Commission case.

The panel ruled last month that Shanklin violated five sections of the city’s code of ethics and recommended her removal from office.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is appealing that decision in circuit court, but in a letter the Jefferson County Attorney’s office advises it will not pay for continued representation of the councilwoman.

Williams did not return WFPL’s request for comment on Wednesday, but he told The Courier-Journal‘s Andrew Wolfson the city is trying to “squirm out of its obligations” and force him to drop Shanklin as a client.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell says the decision was based on the Metro Council amending the ethics ordinance to forbid tax dollars going toward any appeal process.

“The amendment provides that counsel will be provided to council members during an appearance before the ethics commission only. Any appeals of that or any removal hearings counsel is not provided to the council member,” he says.

Both city and state lawmakers have questioned whether local taxpayers should be responsible for legal counsel when Metro officials are accused of ethics violations. Metro Government spent over $110,000 in legal fees in the ethics case against the late Councilwoman Judy Green, who was ultimately removed from office.

Thus far, Williams has been paid approximately $80,000 to represent Shanklin, but other invoices are still pending, according to an O’Connell spokesperson.

The letter from O’Connell acknowledges his office initially informed Williams he would be paid for the appeals work, however. It goes on to explain that staff later informed O’Connell the council had changed the city law last summer before the ethics complaints against Shanklin were filed.

“The contract we signed with Mr. Williams to represent Ms. Shanklin in front of the ethics commission contains the exact language in the amended ordinance, which says he will only be paid through work before the Metro Ethics Commission,” says O’Connell. “So his contract specifies that and despite his opinion that’s what he signed.”

O’Connell says he has offered to pay Williams for his work on the appeal thus far as a compromise.

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