Five members of the Louisville Metro Council are seeking to remove Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, from office over ethics violations.
Earlier this month, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled that Shanklin violated five provisions of the city’s ethics code and recommended her ouster.
The Charging Committee is made up of Democrats Tina Ward-Pugh, Vicki Aubrey Welch and Madonna Flood; and Republicans Jerry Miller and James Peden.
Attorney David Tachau will represent the committee and prosecute the case.
He says because the Council Court will have subpoena powers the removal trial will reveal a number of facts and testimonies the ethics hearings could not uncover.
“I do know that Councilwoman Shanklin essentially did not testify and obviously this committee is interested in letting her have her say and address the issues that have been raised by the Ethics Commission and that are in the charging complaint. There are other family members this committee may choose to request a subpoena for,” he says.
Twice during the ethics hearing, Shanklin walked out of the proceedings at the request of her attorney Aubrey Williams. Because the commission cannot compel witnesses to testify it could not dig deep into allegations that the councilwoman used an upholstery jobs training program to benefit her relatives.
Shanklin’s attorney in the ethics hearing declined our request to comment for this story.
Councilman Miller says after reviewing the ethics commission’s findings, the bipartisan group felt the Louisville taxpayers deserved better answers.
“We each read the document, looked from our own hearts what we felt was right and then felt we should come forward, each individually and decide this needed to be aired in court and we’ve chose to lead in that respect ,” he says.
The charges against Shanklin will be read into the record at this week’s council meeting, where likely the embattled councilwoman will have a chance to respond.
Next month, the charging committee will hold its first organizational meeting where it will elect its chair and vice-chair. The remaining council will later be sworn-in as jurors who will decide Shanklin’s fate.
Unlike the ethics hearings, however, Shanklin’s attorney will not be paid for by the taxpayers and she will have to pay for her own legal fees for the removal trial. However, Tachua will be paid with public funds at approximately $150 per hour.
“In the next 30 days this committee will decided whether they’re ready to go forward or we need additional time to investigate,” says Tachau. “The goal is to try to have the trial within 90 days and at most 120 days.”
Shanklin also is awaiting a decision by a special prosecutor who has received the case load from a criminal investigation conducted by Metro Police. Law enforcement completed its probe surrounding Shanklin’s initiatives such as Weed n’ Seed, upholstery and health training programs.
This case comes nearly two years after the council removed the late Judy Green from office over ethics violations.
Councilwoman Ward-Pugh signed the petition in both the Green and Shanklin cases. It is too soon to tell if Shanklin’s violations are worse, she says, but removing a lawmaker is a serious endeavor.
“Clearly the five of us are convinced of what we know already and from the transcripts the Ethics Commission has made a serious recommendation to the council,” she says. “We don’t take that lightly. We agree with the findings and have an attorney who will present our case, and our working will be ongoing until that process gets here.”
A decision to remove a council member from office requires a two-thirds vote of the Council Court.