Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, is refusing, for now, to share the contents of a legal opinion on whether Jefferson County Judge-Executive Bryan Mathews can also serve as Johnson’s legislative aide.
This comes as many constituents in Johnson’s district are demanding more answers from the councilman on the hire, and raising concerns about Mathews’ firing by a former employer for allegedly using racial slurs.
In a May 23 letter, Mathews’s private attorney argued he could serve in both positions because the county judge-executive positions is powerless.
Johnson’s office forwarded that argument to the county attorney for review.
A spokesman for the county attorney’s office confirmed they have sent a response, but denied WFPL a copy. The spokesman said the document was protected by attorney-client privilege, and Johnson would have to choose to share it.
In a brief telephone interview Johnson said he will not release the response nor will he discuss its conclusion.
“I will not comment and honestly I don’t like commenting to you at all because you seem to misconstrue everything I say. So have a good day, sir,” he said, hanging up the phone.
Johnson indicated that the county attorney’s response will be sent to Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine’s office for further review, but he would not elaborate further.
The councilman’s office has been under fire since Mathews’ hiring, with some constituents voicing frustration over the Democratic lawmaker’s lack of transparency.
In online postings, Johnson claimed to constituents he hired Mathews in part because the county judge-executive was attorney. Mathews told WFPL he is not an attorney and has never attended law school.
Kevin Steller lives in Johnson’s district and serves as a board member of the Beechmont Neighborhood Association. He says residents are seeking answers about Mathews’ hiring with little feedback.
“I did hear Councilman Johnson thought he was getting Mathews at a bargain for $50,000,” he said. “But even during the election when Bryan Mathews gave his background he never stated that he went to law school at all. So I’m not sure where Councilman Johnson got the fact that he was a lawyer, because he’s not.
“He is usually giving very short answers and they’re kind of like talking down to a child. Almost like this is how it’s going to be and you’ve got to live with, that’s kind of what we’ve been getting.”
Mathews is also being criticized after it was reported that he was fired as the Kling Center’s executive director for allegedly using a racial slur. In an interview with WFPL, Mathews denied ever using such language during his time at the Old Louisville senior community center, calling the accusations by former colleagues “malicious lies.”
Over the weekend, Mathews repeated those denials via Twitter.
“At this point the bigger issue that a lot of people are having with Mathews is how and why he was let go from his prior job, especially in District 21, where it’s probably one of the most diverse districts in the city,” Steller said.
Regarding the allegations, Steller said: “And to have somebody that even would consider using language like that, I think a lot of people are having more trouble with that than whether or not Mathews lied on his resume.”
Johnson and Mathews are expected to attend the Beechmont Neighborhood Association’s meeting at the Iroquois Library on Monday evening.