An internal probe on whether to remove a Louisville Metro Council Democrat from the majority caucus involves the District 1 primary race.
Earlier this month, Democratic Caucus Chair Vicki Aubrey Welch alleged that a legislative aide for one of the members had been working to defeat an incumbent, which Welch said was in violation of their rules.
Those guidelines forbid the 17 Democrats and their two caucus staffers from working on council elections, but do not prohibit the legislative assistants of individual council members from doing so.
Councilman David James, who is the former caucus chair, told WFPL News it was his understanding the probe was specifically about his aide, Wanda Mitchell-Smith. In separate interviews, James and Mitchell-Smith denied her involvement in any council race.
In a Feb. 13 email obtained by WFPL News, James confronted Welch about the accusation, saying Caucus Vice Chair Dan Johnson told him the probe was looking at the District 1 primary race between challenger Jessica Green over incumbent Attica Scott specifically.
Scott says she did approach Welch about launching the investigation after a number of supporters and labor union members told her Mitchell-Smith was backing Green publicly.
“I had an individual who approached me who is a member of a labor union saying to other labor leaders that she was not supporting me and that they should not as well,” she says. “I don’t know if she’s working on behalf of my opponent, but I know it’s in opposition to me. This is from multiple sources.”
Mitchell-Smith is a well-known political activist who worked as a political action representative for AFSCME Council 62 in Kentucky for over a decade. She has also worked on federal and state elections, including President Obama’s re-election campaign in Ohio.
Asked if James’s aide is working on her behalf, Green denied any connection to Mitchell-Smith.
“I have met her before and have seen her out at other events, but I’ve never had one conversation with her. She’s not working on my campaign in any regard,” says Green.
“All I can do is focus on winning this race. I know I have the ability to work with anybody on the council who may have different personalities or maybe people don’t like each other. That’s not really an issue for me. I’m just trying to get to work for the people of district 1.”
The investigation centers on whether an aide was working on an election and if the council member was aware of their activity.
Under caucus rules, a council member could be removed for various reasons including “working to defeat an incumbent” in a primary or general election. The Democrats can choose to either suspend or expel a member by a two-thirds vote.
Scott says the goal of this particular probe shouldn’t be to remove a caucus member, but it should lead to changes in their party guidelines.
“First of all we need to address the caucus rules and include legislative assistants. The second issue is that’s his legislative assistant and he needs to address his aide if indeed these allegations end up being true,” she says