Metro Councilman David James resigns University of Louisville Po - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Councilman David James resigns University of Louisville Police Department, takes job with U of L Foundation

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Metro Councilman David James Metro Councilman David James

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Metro Councilman David James has resigned from the University of Louisville Police Department and taken a job with the U of L Foundation.

The move comes more than a year after James' dual role as an elected official and a sworn officer was first called into question.

James began work with the foundation on June 1 as director of operations for construction projects, according to Kathleen Smith, chief of staff to U of L President James Ramsey.

While someone with a similar job resigned in May, James' role is considered a new position and on an “interim” basis to allow James to determine if he wants the job permanently, Smith wrote in a memo to WDRB.

In an interview, James described the position as a “natural fit” and said he frequently consulted with his predecessor in the job about safety-related things like lighting and cameras.

In February 2014, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell wrote in a letter that James was "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. The issue has to do with James swearing two oaths under the Kentucky Constitution.

But then O'Connell became the first in a string of elected officials who said it wasn't their job to do anything about James' potentially incompatible roles, and James continued to serve and vote on the council.

James, a Democrat, represents the Metro Council's 6th district, which includes the Old Louisville, California and Russell neighborhoods.

“Our position has not changed,” said James' attorney Todd Lewis, adding that no one ever formally challenged James' dual role in court.

James acknowledged that one “byproduct” of his recent move is that the question about whether his two roles are compatible is finally moot – but that's not why he made the change.

“To move forward and do something better and different and be connected to the university is an opportunity,” he said.

James makes $65,000 annually in his new job, Smith said. In February 2014, Hebert said James' police salary was $55,223. James held the rank of major and was the department's commander of operations.

James retired from the Louisville Metro Police in 2003 before joining U of L, he said. After 30 years as a police officer, the new job will be easier to balance with his family life, he added.

“You don't have to be available 24-7 much like with the police department,” he said. “The schedule has a better rhythm to it.”

Explaining the new role, Smith said James “assists with interface with Metro and state governments on permitting, regulations, traffic management, construction management, team participation on new project proposals, communication of detours, neighborhood presentations, and other assignments.”

The foundation did not publicly advertise the job opening, Smith said, because James was “an ideal candidate.”

“Since 2007, James has been our contact in University Police for traffic management, detours, security, communications, and other operational coordination,” Smith wrote. “When we heard he was considering leaving University Police, we recruited James to consider joining the project team.”

The $1 billion foundation is a separate nonprofit organization overseen by U of L President James Ramsey.

While he still needs to decide whether he wants the foundation job permanently, James said a return to the police department is "not in my plans."

Passing the buck

After O'Connell first raised the issue of James' two roles last year, he passed the matter to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who passed it to Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine, who passed it back to Conway.

Conway then appointed Laura Witt Donnell, the commonwealth's attorney for Anderson, Shelby and Spencer counties, as a special prosecutor. Donnell looked into the matter for months but did not reach a conclusion, according to a December report in The Courier-Journal.

Conway then appointed another special prosecutor: Tim Coleman, the commonwealth's attorney in Butler, Edmondson, Hancock and Ohio counties.

Lewis, James' attorney, said he met with Coleman to discuss the issue but was never made aware of any final report or action on Coleman's part. No one answered the phone Thursday at Coleman's office.

Leland Hulbert, a spokesman in Conway's office, referred questions to Coleman.

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