The ethics hearing for Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, is underway and prosecutors have laid out the road map for the next few days.
A few stumbles in the first few hours of the hearing–including delays by both prosecuting and defending representatives–could push the hearing into Friday.
Shanklin has been accused of allocating discretionary spending (Neighborhood Development Funds) council members receive to programs that benefited her relatives.
There are five provisions in the city’s ethics code that prosecutor James Earhart will try to prove Shanklin violated. These include allocating $50,000 over two years to an the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association, which Shanklin is a board member and allegedly oversaw certain finances.
Earhart will argue over the next few days that Shanklin knowingly requested the allocation from Metro Government without fully disclosing her role in the association.
“The funds request forms did not disclose to the Metro Council any relationship between Shanklin and the organization in the relationship with her ability to sign and issue checks or use funds from that particular grant,” said Earnhart.
In his opening statement, Earhart told the Ethics Commission Shanklin’s intentions may have been good, but she still violated the city’s ethics code.
Shanklin’s attorney, Aubrey Williams, argued in his opening statements that the media has created a bias against Shanklin the past several months.
“Some cases are so poor they stink and I’m going to say this to you. Irrespective of all that perception that has been built up over this woman over the past five or six months, it stinks,” he told the seven-member Ethics Commission.
Williams further says no money went directly to Shanklin, however, the city’s ethics code says family members cannot benefit from decision’s made by council members.
The first witness called was Ingram Quick, Louisville Metro’s internal auditor.
He was questioned by prosecutors regarding the allocation process for NDF funds and what records show regarding record keeping by the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association.
In Williams’ cross examination of Quick, he challenged language in the city’s agreement with the association overseeing the ex-offender program that reportedly served few – if any – ex-offenders.
Williams asked Quick if the agreement specifically states its for ex-offenders.
“It says students, doesn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes it does,” Quick said.
Williams further argues that prior to it was Metro Corrections responsibility to oversee that the money was being spent correctly and it went to delivering necessary services under the agreement.
Williams criticized Metro Government’s process approving NDF funds and tried to have Quick explain the process—which passes through different government bodies and officials—of approving NDF funds.
Because Quick was restricted to discussing documentation relevant to the case, but Williams was persistent to questions which would show the process behind approving and monitoring NDF funds is inadequate.
Although the hearing could last until the end of Friday, an Ethics Commission decision likely won’t be made for weeks.
Early in the hearing both sides seemed unorganized and under-prepared for the process. The time frame for the hearing depends on the number of witnesses called, which is being kept private, and how quickly each side examines those witnesses.
Here are the five allegations as described by Earhart:
- Gary Bowler was employed by Shanklin and her council office signed his time sheet when he wasn’t present and paid him while he was incarcerated
- Shanklin’s family and others benefited from Metro Corrections Program for ex-offenders from a grant Shanklin approved for the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association and those members were not ex offenders
- Relatives benefit through employment or other opportunities through grants made to the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association.
- Shanklin controlled to disbursement of the funds from the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association and was the main signator on the checks of the organization
- She did not disclose her role with the association to the Appropriates Committee (although she did disclose that she was a board members)
Wednesday’s hearing will last from 10 am to 4:30 pm.