David Yates releases ethics opinions in conflict of interest spa - WDRB 41 Louisville News

David Yates releases ethics opinions in conflict of interest spat

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David Yates David Yates

LOUISVILLE, KY., (WDRB) – Attorney David Yates has asked a judge to ignore the County Attorney’s “blatant grandstanding” and “pandering to the media” and allow him to continue representing the alleged victim in the Louisville Metro Police sex abuse lawsuit.

In a response to County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s motion to disqualify Yates because of a conflict of interest with his role as Metro Council President, Yates argues he has obtained ethics rulings finding he is compliant. The ethics opinions are included in his motion, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court Thursday.

Yates "undertook meticulous efforts to research the law in Kentucky,” obtained ethics rulings from attorneys and reached out to the Kentucky Bar Association hotline for an opinion, according to the motion.

“There is simply no conflict which would prohibit Yates from pursuing justice on behalf of the victims in this case,” according to the motion.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman has scheduled a hearing on the issue for September. 

Yates was contacted in 2017 by multiple victims, their family members and witnesses to police misconduct, the motion says.

O’Connell claims Yates reached out to the alleged victim through Facebook, offering his legal services and making reference to his “unique position” and role on the council, according to a previous filing.

The victim, identified only as “N.C.” in the lawsuit, initially told Yates he did not want to file a lawsuit, according to a Facebook posting in the motion. It is unclear how the county attorney’s office obtained the Facebook conversation between Yates and N.C.

In the motion, Yates said he did not acquire any information about the police scandal through his role as a member of the council.And he argues it is not uncommon for council members to abstain from votes in which they feel they have a conflict. 

“After careful investigation,” according to Yates’ motion, “being fully aware of the appearance of a potential conflict,” Yates and experts found “no conflict existed.”

Along with the motion is an opinion from Louisville attorney Peter Ostermiller, who defends lawyers in bar disciplinary cases. In addition, the motion includes a letter from attorney Deborah Kent, who was retained by Yates to advise him on any possible conflict.

Kent, former general counsel for the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission, concludes that any complaint against Yates for a conflict would be “dismissed for lack of probable cause,” according to her letter.

As a member of Metro Council, the settlement would be a conflict for Yates because he votes on the city budget, which funds lawsuit settlements, O’Connell argues. Attached to the motion was an opinion from an ethics expert, Professor Vincent Johnson, who was not paid for his opinion. 

"It is simply breathtaking that the President of the Metro Council would purport to act as lead counsel in a highly publicized and potentially costly claim against the Metro Government," Professor Vincent Johnson said in O’Connell’s motion. "The entire situation is shrouded by an appearance of misuse of official power that threatens to corrode public confidence in government."

Ostermiller said Johnson “misstates Kentucky law on the issue,” according to Yates’ motion.

The KBA opinion, from March, concludes Yates' representation is "permissible" but noted the "possibility of lack of understanding by the public," a fact which "deserves serious consideration."

N.C. claims former Officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood sexually abused him while he was a teen in the department’s youth Explorer program between 2011 and 2013.

In addition, police officials are accused of concealing evidence of the conduct by intimidation, destruction of evidence, deletion of information and refusal to comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act, as well as conspiracy to cover up the wrongdoing, according to the suit. 

N.C. is suing Metro government, the police department, Wood, Betts, Maj. Curtis Flaherty and the Boy Scouts of America.

Betts, Wood and other defendants have already asked Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing, in part, it is barred under Kentucky’s one-year statute of limitations for personal injuries.

Wood was indicted on seven counts of sexual abuse with one alleged victim, a juvenile, stemming from incidents in 2011 and 2012.

Betts was charged with two counts of sodomy involving two different alleged victims. The indictment alleges Betts engaged in “deviate sexual intercourse” with one of the victims through the use of “forcible compulsion” over a five-month period in 2007.

And Betts is accused of committing sodomy on July 26, 2013 with a minor “he came into contact with as a result” of his position as a police officer.

Attorney Tad Thomas also represents N.C..

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