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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Louisville's Metro Council began the process to remove Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin from office.
A five-member group, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, formed a charging committee Wednesday afternoon. The group said it based its decision to move forward with Shanklin's removal after reviewing the findings of the ethics commission.
Earlier this month, the commission found Shanklin, D - Council District 2, violated the city's ethics codes and recommended she be removed from office.
"Removing someone from office that the voters put into office is a very serious endeavor. We don't take that lightly," said Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D - Council District 9, a member of the charging committee.
Shanklin is accused of using her position to benefit her family. She faces three counts from the charging committee, which include: 1) hiring her grandson Gary Bohler as her legislative aide while he had outstanding warrants, 2) using a tax-funded upholstery program meant for ex-convicts that records show benefited her family, according to a WDRB News review 3) acquiring at least $75,000 in discretionary funds for the Petersburg-Newburg Improvement Association (a neighborhood group which she chaired).
The charging committee will now review the evidence presented to the ethics commission and determine what course to take over the next 30 days, said David Tachau, the attorney hired as an outside counsel for the charging committee. He'll be paid $150 an hour, which he said is significantly lower than what he charges clients.
The council court that's being formed has subpoena power. The group said it plans to subpoena Councilwoman Shanklin and possibly members of her family to try to uncover more information.
On March 14, the Metro Ethics Commission recommended that Shanklin be removed from office.
Shanklin has denied all of the allegations against her. The commission held hearings in November in which Shanklin walked out twice at the direction of her attorney to avoid possibly incriminating herself in testimony.
This marks the second time in as many years that the Metro Council's has started the process to remove an elected member. The first in 2011 involved the late Dr. Judy Green. Green was accused of mishandling city grant money and filtering money through various non-profits.
In both cases involving Green and Shanklin, there have been accusations of nepotism and misuse of discretionary funds. So we asked the charging committee, if this pointed to a larger problem of abuse with discretionary funds?
"Each case would stand on its own merits, and I think it's inappropriate for us to comment on that at this time," said Jerry Miller, R - Council District 19.
But when asked a similar question about the same issue last July, Councilman Jerry Miller told us this then:
"I think there is a belief in some quarters that 'that's my money and I'm going to do with it what I want.' I think that's the wrong view," Miller said at the time.
When reached for comment Wednesday, Shanklin's attorney Aubrey Williams said: "If my client did something wrong, then the council, this administration and the previous administration were collaborators. Everything she did was open and transparent. They were aware. They participated."
He refused to answer follow-up questions of a WDRB News reporter.