Louisville Metro Councilman David James said he believes Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin “made many mistakes” in the events that led to her removal trial last month, but that she hadn’t acted to profit herself or her family.
James spoke to reporters Tuesday to expand on why he voted against removing Shanklin from the Metro Council.
James, a Democrat whose Sixth District stretches from Old Louisville to the California neighborhood, said he’s still found himself discussing the Aug. 1 decision, and he’s concerned that race has become an element of those conversations.
“In the very beginning, five people decided to be a part of the charging committee to charge Metro Councilwoman Shanklin. They were all Caucasian. That wasn’t a racial incident and it shouldn’t be, because it has nothing to do with it,” James said on Tuesday.
“But because some of the people that decided that she shouldn’t be removed were African-American, all of a sudden it’s a race issue. It’s not a race issue; it’s simply a matter of standing up for what you think is right and understanding the facts that are presented to you and making a decision.”
He said he’s been accused of being a racist. He also took issue with a Tweet sent from a council member just after the trial ended that James described as “offensive.”
On that “charging committee” business James referred to. For a removal trial to happen, five council members must form a charging committee. Shanklin, D-2, was accused of misconduct in a program for ex-offenders she helped set up and in the direction of public funds for neighborhood programs she was involved in. The council voted that she showed misconduct or willful neglect, but she was allowed to remain in office.
James voted that she did not show misconduct and against removing her from office.
“I believe the program didn’t go the way it was supposed to go,” James said on Tuesday. “I believe that Barbara Shanklin made many mistakes along the way in the program.
“Do I believe that Barbara Shanklin did anything to profit her family or profit herself personally from this? Absolutely not. Do I believe the program was a mistake and it started out with great intentions that actually didn’t end up the way people intended? Of course, government has many programs that turn out not to work out the way we planned on them working out, and that was just one of them.”
James argued that the trial has left misconceptions about what happened. He said there was no evidence that Shanklin stole money and that she began the program at the encouragement of the Abramson administration to help the city land a grant, not to benefit her family, for example.
James said the trial shows that more changes are needed in the city’s “checks and balances,” including a new look at who constitutes an officials relative and the process for removing council members from office.