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Tue July 31, 2012
Shanklin Seeks More Grant Funds for Neighborhood Group Despite Ethics Controversy
Embattled Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, is seeking additional funding for a neighborhood group at the center of her ethics controversies.
The Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association will come before the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday requesting $5,000 from Shanklin's discretionary fund. Grant expenditures over that amount require approval from the committee.
A complaint has been filed with the Ethics Commission against Shanklin and a Metro Police investigation has been launched into her office over allegations that funding to the group reportedly went to her relatives, who were members of the non-profit.
The city's finance department is also awaiting documentation on $20,000 in total grant funds given to the group in the two previous fiscal years. A spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer says if the group misses the August 13 deadline, it could be forced to repay the money or be barred from receiving future allocations.
Ruben Pulliam is president of the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association. He says the latest request is for grass cutting at vacant properties and other program expenses, adding that the community shouldn't be punished for the allegations against Shanklin.
"Barbara Shanklin is a member of the community, but she’s not the community. She’s an individual. Whatever she’s done or been accused of or could be liable for, we haven’t done anything. But we want our grass cut," he says.
The evidence at the center of the ethics complaint are a series of stories by The Courier-Journal that report $14,000 was given to Shanklin's relatives for similar expenses such as catering, renovations and grass cutting.
In an internal audit of the council's discretionary spending, Shanklin was mentioned specifically over a conflict of interest in funding the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association while being a board member. Though her relationship with the group was disclosed on previous grant applications and agreements, the audit found it was not revealed on requests attached to the ordinances appropriating the funds.
Shanklin has since stepped down from that post and Pulliam replaced the councilwoman's niece as president of the neighborhood organization earlier this month.
Councilman Robin Engel, R-22, who chairs the appropriations committee, says the panel will review the request but that questions for Shanklin may arise given the circumstances.
But Pulliam says the request should be granted given that no ethics violation has been made and that the Petersburg-Newburg group is working to remain in compliance with the city's new guidelines.
"Whatever you do to her, you sort of hurt us and our image too. We’re not doing anything that’s disgraceful or harmful to the community," he says. "The only thing we’ve ever been doing is trying to help this community."
Neither Shanklin nor her legislative assistant would comment for this story.