Conway rules for Abramson on Cordish
Mayor Jerry Abramson's development decisions have not violated state law -- that is the legal opinion Attorney General Jack Conway delivered on Tuesday. But Conway would not object to more controls on city spending.
If you read the opinion, you learn the mayor has a lot of decision-making power under merged government. But talk to the Attorney General, and you find he believes the problem may be the Metro Council's failure to flex its muscle. "We did not find anything, in looking at this," Conway says, "that would void the contracts, where the mayor did something that was against Kentucky law."
According to the attorney general, the mayor's office had the right to give Slugger Field rent to the Downtown Development Corporation. When Cordish development put a Starks Building restaurant on hold, the mayor had the authority to allow Cordish to move city funds to remodel a struggling club down the street.
Mayor Abramson says the attorney general's ruling agrees that his office has the power to make decisions as it works to attract business and create jobs. "And no businessman or woman is going to take the position," the mayor says, "of negotiating with twenty-six councilmen and the mayor to ultimately make the decision if they are going to invest in this community."
But Metro Councilman Kelly Downard responds, "Well, I'm a little disappointed, because it was all, seemed one-sided, but what I think it gives us now is a framework."
Downard, one of three council members who sought the opinion on the Mayor's powers, believes the decision encourages the council to put more controls on how expenditures it approves are spent: :While the Mayor has some authority, the council has a lot of authority as well."
Metro Council is working on a new ordinance to add some controls. One of them says that if you have approval to do a project at that location, you must spend it at that location. You can't take it down the street without council approval. Another proposal: if you get half a million dollars or more from the city, you must account for how every penny is spent -- something Cordish has resisted.
Downard says, "The community without any question is uniformly behind the idea, 'Don't give my money away and not tell me where it went.'"