Politics

A measure that would have forced Mayor Greg Fischer to release his secret guest list for taxpayer-funded entertaining at the Kentucky Derby failed to muster enough support to pass at Metro Council on Thursday night.

The proposed change to the Louisville Metro Code of Ordinances was sponsored by District 26 Councilman Brent Ackerson, who heads the government oversight committee. He said it was aimed at providing more information to the public and holding mayors accountable when they spend tens of thousands of dollars wining and dining guests.

Fischer’s administration provides some details on spending and attendees to the council, and in response to open records requests.

But Ackerson had proposed requiring the mayor to report to Metro Council details including itemized expenses and the names of everyone he had entertained to the tune of $10,000 or more about three years after the event in question.

“If you’re going to spend taxpayer dollars over $10,000 to party people…there has to be checks and balances,” Ackerson said. “This ordinance is really about transparency.”

That threshold was designed to make public more information on the Fischer administration’s spending around big-ticket events such as the Kentucky Derby. The administration has spent $390,000 since 2015 to entertain people around the Derby.

But the measure inspired fierce debate, which stretched past 3 a.m. on Friday morning due to a packed schedule at the final Metro Council meeting of the year, including celebrations of departing council members and other notable ordinances.

Opponents to the proposal said requiring the mayor to release the names of economic development prospects he and his team entertain would hurt Louisville’s competitiveness as it competes with cities such as Nashville and Charlotte for business.

“If you want to stop economic development in Louisville, you pass this ordinance,” said Marianne Butler of District 15. She is chair of the Council’s economic development committee.

Attempts to introduce amendments to water down the ordinance to exempt the administration from having to share its full guest list, or to increase the reporting time delay and spending threshold succeeded to varying degrees. But the final vote ended in a tie, which sank the ordinance.

“Confidentiality is so important that some companies insist on having a nondisclosure agreement executed prior to discussing any detail of a project. If they are not confident that their information will be treated as confidential, they go elsewhere, and Louisville will not even have the opportunity to compete for new jobs,” wrote Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, head of Louisville Forward, in a letter to the Metro Council last week.

 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.