The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission has tapped two local attorneys to serve as the judge and prosecutor in the hearing against Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2.
Former Assistant Kentucky Attorney General Ann Sheadel will serve as the hearing officer and preside over the proceedings as a judge.
In a surprise move, the commission has re-hired Louisville attorney James Earhart as the investigative officer who will prosecute the case. Last year, Earhart led the proceedings against former Councilwoman Judy Green that ultimately resulted in her removal from office.
Deborah Kent is legal counsel for the ethics commission. She says the board chose Earhart due in part to his experience in the Green case.
“My understanding is the commission was very pleased with his work last year. But secondly, that his experience in understanding the issues and the mechanics of Metro Government will be invaluable. He won’t have the learning curve this time around,” she says.
Last week, the commission ruled there would be a trial-like hearing over whether Shanklin violated six sections in the city’s code of ethics law. A state watchdog group filed the complaint based on reports in The Courier-Journal that over $14,000 in taxpayer funds went to Shanklin’s relatives through checks she personally signed.
Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin, and says the commission has failed to properly explain its procedures and is denying his client due process. He has also argued the media reports being used as evidence against his client are not legal documents.
The hearing officer will now begin to work with Williams and Earhart to establish schedules, hear motions and making rulings leading up to the hearing.
Shanklin is currently the subject of an internal audit and Metro Police investigation to determine if any civil or criminal violations were committed surrounding an upholstery program for ex-offenders in her district.
The ethics hearing against Shanklin is scheduled for October 25.