The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission recommended on Thursday that Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin be removed from the Metro Council for alleged ethics violations.
Shanklin, a Democrat from District 2, faced violating five provisions of the city’s ethics code, including allegations that she misused taxpayer money in relation to an upholstery training program her office supported.
The ethics commission found that Shanklin violated some, but not all, of those provisions, including using her position to benefit a neighborhood association she was involved with. Further, the commission found she failed to properly disclose that she had the power to sign checks for that group.
Chairman Jonathan Ricketts says the commission did not find that the upholstery training program she oversaw benefited her personally, but they asked the Metro Council to investigate that issue further.
“It was difficult to discern some of the legislative decisions that had occurred given the testimony that was presented to us. We just didn’t have evidence there. We think the Metro Council that does have subpoena power can certainly fair it out what really happened with regard to that allegation,” he says.
In her ethics hearing, Shanklin twice walked out of the room at the request of her attorney Aubrey Williams. Both prosecutor James Earhart and Williams were meant to address that issue in additional documents filed with the commission.
When asked if that played a role in the commission’s decision, Ricketts says, “We were very careful in honoring her choices. I think you’ll find from the record that the hearing officer [Ann Sheadel] made some recommendations that we did not follow. Certainly we would have liked to have heard from councilwoman Shanklin herself but I don’t think we held her silence against her.”
Three members of the Metro Council addressed the media in the afternoon including Metro Council President Jim King, Government Accountability and Ethics Committee chair Jerry Miller and vice-chair Madonna Flood.
King says each council member will review the case individually before the full council takes any action.
“We can only assume the record is going to take time for us to individually review. So there is no time line se. It we’ll be based on the amount of time it takes to review the record and be prepared to address it,” King says.
King requested the public’s patience while the council determines how it will proceed with the Ethics Commission’s recommendations. When the commission requested late councilwoman Judy Green be removed from the council in 2011 it took three days for the five council members necessary to file a petition for removal.
Williams says he’s disappointed but not surprised by the commission’s decision. He says the ethics process has been disrespectful to Shanklin and he maintains she is innocent. Williams says Shanklin is well liked in the community but he couldn’t say what action the council may take.
“But if the council were to vote according to the evidence and in a manner that’s consistent with the law there should be no removal,” he says.
Williams says this is only the “first round” and he’ll appeal the commission’s decisions in circuit court as soon as possible, but he says he’s unclear what he can and cannot challenge.
Further, Williams says he spoke briefly with Shanklin after the recommendations were announced and he said she was disappointed and hurt by the decision.
A separate police investigation on Shanklin’s involvement with an ex-offender program that was part of the ethic’s hearing is still ongoing.