Louisville Metro Ethics Commission

6:56 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Democrats Halt Resolution Requesting Ethics Commission Be Given Subpoena Powers

After a 30-minute debate, the Louisville Metro Council’s government accountability committee put off a vote asking state lawmakers to give the city’s ethics commission subpoena power.

The non-binding measure had bipartisan support initially with leaders on both sides of the aisle saying it made common sense. But during discussion, Democrats raised concerns that state lawmakers could give the commission too much power and that the council should deliver a more specific proposal.

Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, is chairman of the committee and filed the resolution. He says he was surprised by the decision to table to measure because no council members objected to the matter beforehand, adding Democrats have sent a troubling message.

"The non-partisan metro council of Lexington is supporting passage of a resolution, which urges passage of this. Our partisan council in Louisville seem to have issues and it’s troubling, but we are where we are," he says.

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5:29 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Sues Mayor Greg Fischer Over Upholstery Program Records

Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin has filed suit against Mayor Greg Fischer's office.

Shanklin, D-2, is seeking public records regarding an upholstery program for ex-offenders that her office funded, which is part of a recent ethics investigation against her.

In September 2012, Shanklin requested records related to Fischer's "involvement in the investigation," and what authority the mayor's office had to close the program.

The councilwoman alleges the mayor is violating the state's open records law and depriving her of evidence needed for her defense in the ethics case.

"Basically we asked for what authority or rule or policy the mayor relied on to terminate the upholstery program," says attorney Aubrey Williams, who is representing Shanklin.

Williams is requesting the ethics commission delay its ruling until this matter is settled.

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3:00 pm
Sat November 10, 2012

Two Days of Walkouts in Shanklin Ethics Hearing

The ethics hearing of Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin lasted two days — both days featuring dramatic exits by Shanklin. On the first day, Shanklin invoke her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, then depart at her attorney's request.

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2:44 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Walks Out on Ethics Hearing

Shanklin attorney Aubrey Williams addresses the Ethics Commission.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, left in the middle of her own ethics hearing at the request of her attorney.

Shanklin has been accused of violating five provisions of the city’s ethics code, including using her position to benefit relatives.

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4:31 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Ethics Commission Names Judge, Prosecutor in Shanklin Case

Louisville Metro Council

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission has tapped two local attorneys to serve as the judge and prosecutor in the hearing against Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2.

Former Assistant Kentucky Attorney General Ann Sheadel will serve as the hearing officer and preside over the proceedings as a judge.

In a surprise move, the commission has re-hired Louisville attorney James Earhart as the investigative officer who will prosecute the case. Last year, Earhart led the proceedings against former Councilwoman Judy Green that ultimately resulted in her removal from office.

Deborah Kent is legal counsel for the ethics commission. She says the board chose Earhart due in part to his experience in the Green case.

"My understanding is the commission was very pleased with his work last year. But secondly, that his experience in understanding the issues and the mechanics of Metro Government will be invaluable. He won’t have the learning curve this time around," she says.

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8:01 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

Ethics Commission Votes to Hold Hearing in Shanklin Case

Embattled Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, will face an ethics hearing.

The city Ethics Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to hold a trial-like proceeding on October 25 in response to a complaint filed by a state watchdog group.

It took the panel over an hour in private session to rule that it will hold a hearing to determine if the city lawmaker violated six separate provisions of the city’s code of ethics. Common Cause of Kentucky filed charges last month claiming that Shanklin used her office to benefit herself and her relatives.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin in the case and objected to the commission deliberating in secret. He says the ethics panel has failed to properly explain its procedures, and is denying his client due process.

"In a court of justice—unless this is something other than that—when one party makes allegations, the court of justice allows the parties to debate and argue those questions," he says. "Why it is that the commission cannot allow argument and make rulings openly on those motions without going into executive session makes no sense."

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12:01 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Appropriations Chairman Seeks Ethics Opinion on Council Distributing Gifts

Councilman Robin Engel, R-22

The chairman of the Louisville Metro Council’s Appropriations Committee is asking the Ethics Commission to weigh-in on whether city lawmakers can pass out gifts to constituents.

Earlier this week, the appropriations committee discussed a pair of Neighborhood Development Fund requests made by council members Rick Blackwell, D-12, and Vicki Welch, D-13. The two were seeking to give Metro Parks $3,000 in return for 400 tickets to performances at the Iroquois Amphitheater, which Blackwell and Welch would give out to residents.

The county attorney warned that tickets can have a "monetary value and political value" and lawmakers should discuss the matter further. After a fierce debate, the committee voted down the proposal by a 3-to-3 vote.

Councilman Robin Engel, R-22, who chairs the appropriations panel, sent a letter to the commission Friday asking if it is a violation of the city's code of ethics for council members to control the distribution of tickets. He says there has been a fierce debate on passing out tickets, but lawmakers need non-partisan guidance.

"The question is the temptation and the possibility of impropriety of being able to distribute tickets as a council member. That is in play here and that’ the question of the day,” he says.

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9:15 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Ethics Commission Remains Without Subpoena Power

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission still cannot compel witnesses to testify, which could impact a possible hearing involving Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin.

Over the past year the commission has addressed a number of procedural and policy weaknesses it discovered during the course of two hearings against former Councilwoman Judy Green. The panel has since hired a full-time legal counsel and requested the council tinker with parts of the city code of ethics.

But in its 2011 annual report the commission said the lack of subpoena powers remains a serious challenge to its ability to enforce the law and is ultimately a question of state law that the General Assembly must address.

"At this point in time without that power people come voluntarily and provide testimony on their own," says Ethics Commission Chairman Jonathan Ricketts. "And without being able to compel their attendance we’re limited in what we can bring and evaluate."

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3:10 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Ethics Watchdog Files Complaint Against Shanklin

The chairman of Common Cause of Kentucky has filed a complaint with the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission against Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, citing a series of media reports over the past two months.

It alleges Shanklin violated the Metro Government code of ethics by using her office to benefit herself and her relatives. Earlier this week, the county attorney advised council members to not launch their own investigation into Shaklin's handling of an upholstery program until the city auditor and the Metro Police Public Integrity Unit complete their review.

Common Cause Chairman Richard Beliles says news reports have raised serious questions about Shanklin's decision-making and use of taxpayer dollars that need to be answered, but he isn't seeking her removal from office.

"She has a right to defend herself and to see what proof comes out of the hearings. I hope she's got real good reasons to prove she's done nothing wrong. We're not out to get her, but we are interested in protecting the public interest," he says. "I'm a lawyer and we can't jump to conclude that somebody is guilty, but I believe that my complaint shows these are issues that should be raised to protect the public."

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