LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A former Louisville Housing Director accused of giving her mother tax money to pay the mortgage in 2007 and more than $8,000 in other city funds has pleaded guilty to official misconduct and agreed to pay restitution.
But both Kimberly Bunton and her mother, Vickie Smallwood, maintained their innocence while pleading guilty to two counts of official misconduct each and accepting a one year jail sentence, which would be conditionally discharged for two years or until the two pay back the city $8,885.
Bunton and Smallwood entered Alford pleas in Jefferson Circuit Court Monday, meaning they maintained their innocence but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a jury to convict them.
"We feel largely vindicated," said Todd Lewis, an attorney for Bunton, noting that the pair were facing felony theft charges but have long denied stealing any money.
Ryan Vantrease, another attorney for Bunton, said she "never stole anything," but instead may not have properly followed correct protocal in giving Smallwood more than $1,500 to pay her mortgage on her West Louisville home and $8,895 in public benefits as part of a no-bid contract that the housing department awarded in 2007.
Bunton, former director of the Department of Housing and Family Services, insisted her mother qualified for the $1,500 but she later paid back the money and resigned.
As part of the guilty plea, Bunton will pay $100 a month plus a $5 fee in restitution until the $8,885 is paid in full. Smallwood will pay $10 a month plus a small fee. She left before her daughter was sentenced.
"They are going to get their money back," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown said of taxpers. "Taxpayers won't be at a loss for that amount."
Vantrease said Bunton, who is working in private practice as an attorney, should be able to keep her license to practice law because she wasn't convicted of a felony, though he said she will have to work that out with the Louisville Bar Association.
Bunton declined to comment as she left the courtroom.
The case had lingered on for years, with Vantrease requesting thousands of documents, including bank and employee records. Most recently, the city was ordered to produce personnel records for nine current and former city employees
State Auditor Crit Luallen has said she found gross mismanagement throughout the Housing Department that included lax controls, inadequate financial oversight, and lack of accountability of staff .
Bunton had been appointed by then Mayor Jerry Abramson to try to solve problems at the city's Housing Department.
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