Metro Council committee agrees to hire outside attorney for advice on LMPD sex abuse scandal
A special investigation by former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey into how police handled the allegations of sex abuse is expected to be completed and turned over to Mayor Greg Fischer and the council by no later than the week after Derby
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Council committee has agreed to hire an outside attorney to give the council legal advice related to the ongoing police youth Explorer sex abuse scandal.
The council wants to ensure there are no “conflicts of interest with the Jefferson County Attorney’s office,” which is representing the Louisville Metro Police Department and the mayor in several lawsuits filed by alleged victims, Metro Council President David James said during the Committee on Committees meeting Tuesday
In an interview Thursday, James said that “because of that alignment,” the county attorney’s office “interests” may be different than those of the council.
The move, James said, is intended to provide the council with an independent attorney’s perspective on key questions, such as: Who knew what and when did they know it?
“It would be a way to insulate the council from getting the agendas and purposes of what we are doing confused,” with County Attorney’s Mike O’Connell’s responsibility to represent the mayor and police, James said.
James said Kentucky law allows the council to hire outside representation to provide legal advice. He will negotiate a contract with an attorney and bring it before the council for approval on April 26.
At least six lawsuits have been filed against the city, LMPD, Boy Scouts of America and former police officers, concerning accusations of sexual abuse and cover-up in the Explorer program.
In addition, former officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood have been indicted for sexually abusing teens. Another LMPD officer, Brad Schuhmann, is under investigation and on administrative leave. And the former commander of the program, Curtis Flaherty, is accused in several lawsuits of covering up the crimes.
A special investigation by former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey into how police handled the allegations of sex abuse is expected to be completed and turned over to Mayor Greg Fischer and the council by no later than the week after Derby, James said.
Last month, Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Fischer told WDRB the city expected the report to be “delivered in the next few weeks.”
The council initially approved a $50,000 contract for Harvey and that was amended to $70,000 in December, according to a copy of the contract.
James said another contract amendment is expected soon, though he does not yet know how much more the investigation will cost.
While he is unclear on the timing, James said his ultimate goal is for the Harvey report to be released to the public.
Of particular interest, James said, is how police and city officials handled a 2013 investigation of Betts sending inappropriate texts and talking lewdly to a 16-year-old female Explorer.
Betts was accused of sending the girl shirtless pictures of himself and asking her to "make out."
During the course of that investigation, a male teenager told police investigators that Betts offered him money for sex. The teen also said Betts offered to take care of a speeding ticket in exchange for sexual favors. And the male told police he often spent the night with Betts and Wood.
There was never an investigation into what the male teen said, and Conrad closed the Betts case “by exception” when the officer resigned in 2014. Conrad wrote in a memo that “no further action was needed.”
James said he wants to know who knew about the allegations at the time, what investigations were conducted "and what actions, if any, were taken to protect the children in the Explorer program."
Fischer has said multiple times that he first learned of sexual abuse allegations in the program in October 2016 – just before the scandal became public knowledge.
But in a deposition in November, Conrad said he first told Fischer’s chief of staff, Ellen Hesen, about the allegations of sex abuse in the program in 2013 and 2014, when Betts was under investigation.
Hesen has testified that she doesn't have “an independent recollection” of Conrad talking to her about the investigation.
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