A Jefferson Circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit against Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office filed by embattled Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, that sought to halt an ethics case against her.
The suit alleged Fischer violated Kentucky’s open records law because his office refused to provide documents explaining what authority the mayor had to close an upholstery program Shanklin sponsored.
Shanklin’s attorney Aubrey Williams asked for a temporary injunction in the ethics case until the records were produced. But Judge Audra Eckerle ruled the councilwoman would not be harmed if the ethics proceedings continued.
Williams also said Shanklin had a right to face her accuser—namely Fischer—adding the commission refused to make the mayor testify at the hearing.
Assistant County Attorney Scott Lilly represented the city in the case. He says the mayor’s office fulfilled its obligation in terms of the records request, and the mayor had nothing to do with filing the ethics charges.
“I never understood (Councilwoman Shanklin) making the statement that the mayor was her accuser. The mayor didn’t accuse her of anything,” he says. “That was Richard Bellies who filed the complaint. Again, I just don’t understand that connection.”
Both sides agreed that the opinion provided by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office was conflicting. It was issued in response to Shanklin’s appeal to the records request.
Williams said the attorney general’s office told him they were divided on how to respond, and made a “political” decision, while Lilly said the attorney general’s opinion was “insufficient.”
Shanklin faces five counts that she violated the city’s code of ethics, including that the councilwoman and her family members benefited from participating in an upholstery job training for ex-offenders that cost taxpayers $30,000.
“The information about under what authority was the program was canceled, I’ve not seen nor has Mr. Williams shown how that decision would impact the commission’s deliberations,” says Deborah Kent, legal counsel for the ethics commission, adding any interference to the investigation by the courts would have fed into cynicism about the ethics process.
The commission received the findings and recommendations from the hearing officer in the case Wednesday, and the panel is expected to deliver a verdict by March 15.
Shanklin could be hit with a fine, public censure or recommendation for removal from office.