The prosecuting attorney in Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin’s removal trial says the Democratic lawmaker ran a “phony” ex-offenders program that served no public purpose other than to intentionally and persistently deceive the city.
But Shanklin’s defense lawyer argues the councilwoman did nothing wrong and the prosecution’s key witness is the one under criminal suspicion of taking public funds.
Shanklin faces two charges that she deliberately violated the city’s code of ethics.
The councilwoman is accused misusing public funds for an upholstery program meant for former inmates that mostly she and her relatives attended, and improperly controlling grants awarded to the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association.
At the heart of both opening statements were allegations made by upholstery instructor Linda Haywood, who told investigators Shanklin would often pay her in advance using the group’s account. However, Haywood said she would reimburse the councilwoman in cash.
Attorney David Tachau is representing the charging committee. He says financial records show Haywood was paid by both Metro Corrections and the neighborhood group for teaching the same classes, but that the taxpayers were never reimbursed
“We know that Linda Haywood was paid twice $2,300 in a program Barbara Shanklin said was her program and that Haywood said she paid her back,” he says. “Either Linda Haywood is not telling the truth, and she kept the money, which means that Barbara Shanklin allowed a government vendor to double dip from taxpayer funds in the program she was overseeing. Or Linda Haywood is telling the truth, and Barbara Shanklin pocketed more than $2,300.”
Tachau will seek to prove the latter, but told jurors either situation should be grounds for removal given the stated misconduct.
Since the first ethics charges were filed, Shanklin’s attorney has maintained his client did not financially benefit from the program and that her relatives had a right to participate.
In his opening statement, however, defense attorney Aubrey Williams questioned Haywood fleeing the court’s jurisdiction after revealing that information to police.
According to Williams, the instructor has an incentive to lie because she is the one under suspicion of taking those funds without reimbursing the Petersburg-Newburg group.
“One of the things that a prosecutor will use in a trial and as a police officer very well knows, if an individual runs from the scene of a crime guilt is imputed,” he says. “Linda Haywood is not going to be here. Why isn’t she here? Why didn’t Mr. Tachau or (Jefferson County Attorney Mike) O’Connell exercise the subpoena power that it has to bring Ms. Haywood back here so she could stand before you and tell you the story that she told the police?”
Williams told jurors it is unfair for the court to allow Haywood’s interview with police to be entered into the record because without allowing him to cross-examine her, adding it robs Shanklin’s right to face her accuser.
Williams also ripped Louisville media outlets for running “obscene” stories that led to the proceedings, specifically taking aim at the Courier-Journal for running what he called inaccurate stories on the councilwoman’s office and expenditures.
In several exhibits, Williams showed jurors a series of stories and editorial cartoons the newspaper ran on Shanklin depciting her stuffing tax dollars into furniture. He claims the media found Shanklin guilty long before charges were filed despite years of public service.
“This ragtag organization—Petersburg-Newburg association—not the Rotary Club, but grassroots people. They may not keep perfect records. They may not be very efficient. They may be sloppy. They may make mistakes, but they’re trying to uplift,” says Williams How she and others stood on the corners and shut down six crack house. The Courier-Journal isn’t interested in that!”
Both attorneys are expected to call a number of witnesses to testify, including Shanklin. Those testifying before the council will be questioned about the city’s grant rules, financial records and the upholstery program’s effectiveness.
A jury of 20 council members will decide Shanklin’s fate where it takes a two-thirds vote to remove a city lawmaker from office.
The trial is expected to last through the week.