Metro Council members say they must regain credibility following - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Council members say they must regain credibility following Shanklin vote

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Embarrassing and disgraceful. Those are some of the words Metro Council members were using, after the vote to keep Barbara Shanklin.

The council court fell one vote short of removing Shanklin following a week-long ethics trial. Now some members of a fractured Metro Council say they must work to regain credibility.

"Councilwoman Shanklin is retained." Those were the words from Metro Council President Jim King early Thursday morning.

They were followed by angry words from some of his fellow Council members.

"I have never in my life been so embarrassed," said Republican Dist. 16 Councilman Kelly Downard.

"It's just very disheartening," added Democratic Dist. 24 Councilwoman Madonna Flood.

Shanklin was accused of steering council funds to neighborhood groups she controlled.

A majority of the council jury did find Shanklin guilty of misconduct, but there were not enough votes to remove her from office.

"It was so abundantly clear that the wrongdoing was there. It met the criteria for removal," said Jerry Miller, a Republican who represents Dist. 19.  

"It was about whether or not her family unfairly profited and whether she misappropriated any funding. The answer is no," said Councilman David James, a Democrat from Dist. 6.

It's clear: the council is severely fractured.

"I think we've destroyed a lot of the faith people have in this council," said Downard.

But council President Jim King believes the damage can be repaired.

"We will have to respect the decision of the court. We will have to try to come back together and do what's right for this community," said King.

The vote was split not so much along party lines, though every Republican did vote against Shanklin. It was more along racial lines. Every African American council member voting to retain Shanklin.

"Frankly I don't believe they were willing to take that risk from a political standpoint," said Miller.

Shanklin supporter David James denies any political pressure, but says race did play a role.

"It was about race in that she was trying to help a large majority of African Americans who were experiencing turmoil in their neighborhood," said James.

But some council members say they'll now work to further tighten the use of discretionary neighborhood funds.

"If my colleagues will not tighten the rules sufficiently to prevent abuses like this, then the mayor would be wise to eliminate them," said Miller.

"They can say that. But I'm going to look my constituents in the eye and say I believe in those funds because they benefit a whole lot of people," said James.

Mayor Fischer is out of town but released a statement calling on the council to make the necessary reforms with what he called "a sense of urgency."

Shanklin has scheduled a news conference for Friday morning.

Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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