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LOUISVILLE Ky. (WDRB) - Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell says Metro Councilman David James is "holding two incompatible offices" under state law and shouldn't be allowed to vote in the Metro Council until he gives up his job as a police officer at the University of Louisville.
O'Connell sent a letter to Attorney General Jack Conway on Wednesday and copied Metro Council members.
"A choice needs to be made," O'Connell said of James' two jobs in an interview.
In the letter to Conway, O'Connell says his office has been informed by an attorney for James that the councilman "will take immediate steps" to rectify the situation. However, O'Connell noted that as of today, his office has not received any formal notification that James has vacated his U of L position.
James, who is a Democrat representing the 6th district, which includes the Old Louisville, California and Russell neighborhoods, did not immediately return a call on Wednesday. He is a major in the U of L police department earning $55,223 annually, U of L spokesman Mark Hebert said. James also earns $44,189.60 as a Metro Council member, according to Metro government's salary database.
William Warner, an attorney representing James, said in an interview Wednesday that James is looking to "alter" his position at U of L so he can continue to serve on the Metro Council. Hebert had no immediate information on that possibility.
"David has an option to fight this but he's said he thinks there's a way he can work it out to his satisfaction and the public's satisfaction," Warner said in an interview. "He believes there are ways to make it go away without having a big fight."
In an interview, O'Connell said the issue came up last month after two Louisville Metro police officers living in Oldham County asked if they could run for an elective office while still serving on the department.
O'Connell said his office found that under state law, a person cannot fill two municipal offices at the same time.
After that finding, James' name came up inside the office, O'Connell said, and James was notified.
The county attorney's office does not believe any arrests James has made since his 2010 election would be jeopardized.
Included with O'Connell's opinion is a Jan. 31 letter from Warner accusing O'Connell of threatening to "take some action" against James if he did not give up either his elected office or employment with U of L within the next 30 to 40 days.
"That most assuredly was not your duty," Warner wrote. "In fact, it was a very obvious violation of numerous provisions having to do with a lawyer's duties to a client."
Warner said in the letter that James wants the matter resolved but not as "some churlish political vendetta which, unfortunately, it now smacks of."
Warner's letter says O'Connell gave James an "ultimatum" -- "an unfortunate wrong on your (O'Connell's) part"-- and calls for the matter to resolved professionally and "not like a back alley knife fight."
He insisted this be done by Feb. 3 or a complaint against O'Connell and his senior staff would be filed with the Kentucky Bar Association.
O'Connell said Warner also threatened to file a civil lawsuit against the office, which, in part, prompted the county attorney to hire an outside attorney, Charles Middleton of the Louisville firm Middleton Reutlinger. Middleton responded to Warner's requests for "factual and legal authority," according to O'Connell's letter.
Warner e-mailed Middleton on Feb. 19 saying that James would not fight the issue, O'Connell told the attorney general's office.
In the interview, O'Connell said he has been a supporter of James - and was one of the first contributors to his campaign - and has "no idea" why he and Warner seemed to take the issue personally.
In the phone interview, Warner said the office did not retract the ultimatum but that no bar complaint has been filed, yet.