Louisville Metro Council revises ethics rules after high-profile - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville Metro Council revises ethics rules after high-profile cases

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville's Metro Council is trying to clean up its act after two high-profile ethics cases.

Metro Council members hope the changes to its ethics code will help restore its damaged reputation. Two council members have faced removal for alleged ethics violations over the last two years.

The late Judy Green was accused of mishandling funds and resigned -- and though Barbara Shanklin was found guilty of ethics violations, a divided council voted not to remove her.
The process left the metro council fractured and embarrassed.
"We were fractured as a council, but I think we've come through it stronger," said David Yates a Democrat who represents Dist. 25.

"We want the public to understand that we should be held accountable," added David James, a Democrat who represents District 6. "And that we should hold ourselves accountable."

The council has now passed a series of changes to its ethics ordinances, including a $25,000 dollar cap on attorney fees in ethics cases. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were spent on prosecution and defense fees in the Green and Shanklin cases.

"We want to make sure that anytime we allow for representation and payment of tax dollars, we have some checks and balances," Yates said.

But some reforms will require changes in state law. The council wants the General Assembly to give the Ethics Commission subpoena power to force witnesses to testify; to more clearly define official misconduct; and streamline the process of removing those found guilty.

"Make it more precise and be able to hold people accountable," said Jerry Miller, a Republican who represents District 19. "If they are found guilty, it will be easier to remove them."

One thing the council has not done is make major changes to the thousands of dollars in discretionary funds each council member receives.

"We've not finished that discussion," Miller said. "There are other changes that some of us would like to make."

"I think the neighborhood developments funds are working well," James said. "I think they have plenty of oversight.

Though reformers did not get everything they wanted, they say it's a good start -- and insist they're not done yet.

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