Politics
10:05 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Councilwoman Shanklin's Defense Attorney Grills City Officials Over Upholstery Program Details

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Government

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin’s defense attorney forced city officials to concede key points about an upholstery program at the center  her removal trial.

Shanklin is accused of misusing taxpayer dollars to benefit herself and her relatives through classes promoted towards ex-offenders, which records show she attended over a dozen times.

Attorney David Tachau is prosecuting the case and has called the upholstery courses a "phony" that Shanklin and her family members used for their own benefit rather than district residents.

Corrections Director Mark Bolton, who had described the program as "goofy," told juror halting it in November 2011 was a "no-brainer" given the lack of former inmates involved. But during cross-examination Shanklin's defense attorney Aubrey Williams rattled Bolton, who admitted the department's agreement with the course instructor didn't limit participation to ex-offenders.

Williams says the contract was vague and Bolton’s department was sloppy in that it established few rules, which shows the issues with the program were the city's fault and not Shanklin.

He also got Bolton to admit that the corrections director continued to sign-off on the program's pay invoices for three years despite knowing ex-offenders weren’t involved.

"Please explain why if you had determined that these funds were not being used for their intended purpose would you approve their payments," Williams asked.

Bolton responded that the program wasn’t at the top of his mind at the time, adding he oversees a $50 million budget and fixing serious problems with the city’s jail system.

The corrections director said the department was in disarray when he took over in 2008, but he didn’t want to halt the program until he had a chance to examine it further.

"I signed the documents because the program started long before my arrival," says Bolton. "I did not want to discontinue the program without knowing more about it, and the population that was being served, the scope of services that were being provided and how it was being monitored."

Council members peppered the prosecution's witnesses with questions that appeared to lend themselves to siding with Shanklin, and Tachau objected to being "tag-teamed" by lawmakers at certain points.

Council Court Chairman Jim King advised jurors to refrain from "making speeches" during the line of questioning.

The proceedings have moved at a glacial for most of the week, but there have been heated exchanges between the two attorneys at times over witnesses and evidence.

Williams also grilled City Auditor Ingram Quick, who admitted during questioning that the contract for the upholstery program was ambiguous.

But Tachau reiterated the poor bookkeeping and lack of disclosures by Shanklin, which the auditor said presented a conflict of interest.

A review of the upholstery program by Quick's office showed that over half of the sign-in sheets contained signatures that were either Shanklin or her relatives. In many cases the councilwoman and her family members were the only ones signed in.

"If Barbara Shanklin and her family are virtually the only beneficiaries, isn’t that a problem," asked Tachau.

"Yes," said Quick.

Shanklin's removal trial will resume Monday.

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