Louisville Metro Council

Politics
8:59 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Republicans Propose 'Sweeping Changes' to Discretionary Funds

Louisville Metro Council Republicans unveil discretionary spending changes.
Credit Phillip M. Bailey

Calling past efforts to reform discretionary spending practices watered down, Louisville Metro Council Republicans unveiled a series of "sweeping changes" to neighborhood development funds.

The proposals come in the wake of Democratic Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's expulsion trial. Shanklin avoided removal over charges of alleged misconduct and unethical use of taxpayer money by just one vote.

Among the changes being touted by GOP members are for the majority of discretionary funds to be used on capital projects rather than towards non-profit groups.

Each council members receives $75,000 in Neighborhood Development Funds, $100,000 in Capital Infrastructure Funds and $30,000 for office expenses.

Republicans hold a nine-member minority on the council, but are seeking to cap the neighborhood accounts at $15,000 while allocating the rest for infrastructure needs.

Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, says past efforts to amend spending rules have been ineffective and too slow, adding that GOP lawmakers believe it’s important to act now in order to restore the public's trust.

"We decided after what happened over these past two weeks to go ahead and make this more permanent, more accountable and more transparent," he says. "We want to have the strongest confidence that the public has in us as well as making sure that we elevate and solidify the trust has in using taxpayer’s money."

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Local News
7:29 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Louisville Metro Police: VIPER Unit Has Helped Reduce Violent Crime in First Year

Credit Shutterstock.com

  Louisville Metro Police's VIPER Unit has helped reduce violent crime in nine out of 10 areas they've targeted, and they've also helped with the confiscation of 270 illegal guns—half of which were in the hands of convicted felons, officials said.

Police officials updated the Louisville Metro Council's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday as the VIPER UNIT approaches the one-year-anniversary of its creation.

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Local News
3:27 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Barbara Shanklin to Stay on Louisville Metro Council, Opposition Calls Decision ‘Embarrassing'

Council members that supported Shanklin's removal address the media following deliberations.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, will keep her job despite a majority of her peers saying that she showed misconduct while performing her public duties. Those council members who supported her removal now say the integrity of the local government has been compromised.

Shanklin’s removal trial challenged whether she showed misconduct or willful neglect by her involvement in an ex-offender program she helped set up and by directing public funds to a neighborhood group she was involved with. 

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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.

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Politics
3:56 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Ran 'Phony' Program, Says Prosecutor

Democratic Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

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."

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Politics
7:55 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Attorney Outlines Defense Strategy

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2,.
Credit Louisville Metro Council

A year after an ethics complaint was filed, the Louisville Metro Council Court will hear the case to remove Democrat Barbara Shanklin from office this week.

Shanklin faces charges that she deliberately violated the the city's code of ethics, which were brought by a 5-member Charging Committee in March.

The councilwoman's ethics troubles began when news reports pertaining to a $30,000 taxpayer-funded upholstery program for ex-offenders began to surface last year.

City records revealed few former inmates attended the program, which was run through the Metro Corrections department. But sign-up sheets did show Shanklin and many of her relatives did participate.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin. He says Shanklin and her family had a right to participate in the program because they were residents, but points out no one received any undue advantage or public dollars as a result.

"Barbara Shanklin has not received one dime personally nor has any member of her family received any money that they should not have received, if any, in those programs," he says.

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Politics
6:47 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Barbara Shanklin's Attorney Lashes Out at City Officials Over Removal Trial Proceedings

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

A Louisville Metro Council Court hearing turned into a shouting match between city officials and the lawyer representing embattled Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, in her upcoming removal trial.

Shanklin faces ouster from office after a Charging Committee of five council members filed a petition saying she violated three sections of the city's code of ethics.

The chief allegation is that Shanklin used taxpayers funds to benefit her friends and family through an upholstery program for ex-offenders.

The program was set up to help former inmates learn a trade, but city records showed few ex-offenders attending the class while Shanklin and family members did.

Mayor Greg Fischer's office shut down the program in late 2011, but The Courier-Journal discovered the councilwoman's office continued to fund the program with discretionary  through the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association, which Shanklin and her niece were listed as board members.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin. He strongly objected to the council's handling of the proceedings, exhibits and who will be subpoenaed to testify.

At different points Williams lashed out at Council President Jim King, D-10, Charging Committee attorney David Tachau and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell.

Williams says O'Connell especially has been engaging in unprofessional "shenanigans" leading up to the removal trial.

"Now you be quiet and let me explain," Williams yelled. "You may think you can push district court judges around, but you won't push me around sir. Your behavior is appalling. How you are practicing this case is appalling."

"How dare you," O'Connell barked. "I'm not going to play your games. You accuse me of unprofessional conduct you better put it on the record."

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Politics
2:39 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Called to Testify in Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Removal Trial

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit File photo

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is among a number of city officials being called to testify in the removal trial of Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, which is scheduled to begin next week.

Earlier this year, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled unanimously that Shanklin violated various ethics rules, including funding an ex-offenders upholstery program benefiting her friends and family.

The panel recommended the councilwoman’s ouster from office, and a Charging Committee of five council members filed a petition to begin removal proceedings.

Before the ethics complaints were filed the Fischer administration shut down that upholstery program in Shanklin's district, citing concerns about the lack  former inmates participating

Shanklin is being represented by attorney Aubrey Williams, who refused to comment for this story on why Fischer is being asked to testify before the Metro Council Court.

But in court documents provided to the council clerk, Williams says the mayor is expected to testify about "various matters relating to any laws, policies and procedures" that caused Fischer to halt the program.

Attorney David Tachau is the prosecutor in the removal trial. He says it’s unclear why Shanklin wants the mayor to be called as a witness other than an attempt to throw irrelevant issues into the case.

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Politics
12:14 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Louisville Public Works 'Budget Glitch' for Junk Pickup, Street Sweeping Dismissed

A plan by the Louisville Metro Council to bring back a pair of junk pickup and street sweepings in the Urban Services District will go forward despite reports that a "budget glitch" made restoration impossible.

The city used to offer those urban services four times a year within the old city limits, but the cleaning days were cut to two in 2009 as a result of the recession.

Several council members voiced frustration with Mayor Greg Fischer's administration for not using the budget surplus this year to put those services back. This June, the council allocated $400,000 to restore the pickup and sweeping, but the Public Works Department said last week it could not move the money necessary to follow the council's vote.

Public Works spokeswoman Lindsay English tells WFPL the department may have spoken too soon.

"It appeared that there was a technicality, however, that information was incorrect and the money is there," she says. "So now what Public Works is planning to do is review how we can best spend that money to help restore some of those services and investigating what the best way to spend that money will be. And we will be reporting back to Metro Council on a proposal by the end of September."

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Politics
11:00 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Following Cuts in Mayor's Budget Plan, Non-Profits Ask Louisville Metro Council for More Funding

The Louisville Metro Council heard from over three-dozen organizations that were cut in Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed budget.

Speakers representing ministerial foundations, arts groups and other non-profit agencies implored city lawmakers to add needed funding for their programs, which provide various charitable services.

Among those who presented their case before the council was Charles King, who is president and CEO of Project One President, which a summer jobs program for Louisville youth.

Joined by dozens of teenage participants, King says despite passing accredited reviews and receiving $80,000 from the city last year, Fischer’s proposal allocated nothing for the group in his new spending plan.

"The zero funding could not come at a worse time," he says. "Violence is rampant in our communities, and summer jobs represent violence reduction and public safety. Teen unemployment is at 24 percent and in impoverished communities it’s nearing 50 percent."

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