Metro Council president testifies he gave mayor proof of LMPD chief's dishonesty
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In a remarkable court hearing Friday, the president of the Metro Council fought with an attorney representing the city and accused Louisville’s police chief of being a liar, testifying he has provided proof to Mayor Greg Fischer.
Metro Council President David James testified in an emergency hearing in Jefferson Circuit Court after attorneys for the city filed a motion accusing him of “acting in collusion” with a Louisville police officer who has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department and city.
The Jefferson County Attorney’s office, which represents the city in litigation, told Circuit Court Judge Angela Bisig that James was working in collusion with LMPD Lt. Jimmy Harper, who claims he was demoted from his major rank as retaliation for raising concerns about the department’s management.
Assistant County Attorney Peter Ervin accused James of saying Conrad has been untruthful because he is friends with Harper and wants to help him win his case against the city.
James fired back that he provided Fischer with documentation this week so the “mayor could recognize that the chief has not always been truthful and he could reexamine his belief and faith in Chief Conrad being a good chief or not.”
At one point, James told Ervin he was being untruthful about what the councilman has previously said about the chief.
“Sir, are you accusing me of lying,” Ervin asked James, “like you so cavalierly referred to the police chief as a liar?”
James responded, “I just said you weren’t saying the whole truth.”
During his testimony Friday, James said Conrad was found to have been untruthful by internal police investigators in 1998 before Fischer appointed him as chief. James said Conrad had been accused of theft of overtime.
Ervin told James that it was a “misstatement by the chief that he corrected less than 24 hours after he had made it, isn’t that true?”
James testified that Conrad “provided a different statement” to investigators later.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Conrad said he made a "mistake" when he was a captain more than 20 years ago, by not giving investigators "all the information I had during an initial interview as part of a criminal investigation involving one of my subordinates."
However, Conrad said he "recognized my mistake and quickly acted to address it" within 18 hours.
"I asked to be interviewed again so that my initial answers would not be misleading," Conrad said in the lengthy statement. The chief said he was later suspended because of the "misleading answers I gave initially" but he appealed the suspension and it was eventually overturned.
The allegations of Conrad being untruthful stems from a deposition James gave in the Harper case last month in which he testified that Conrad has repeatedly lied and should be on a list the department keeps that identifies problematic officers who have credibility issues.
James, who is a former LMPD officer, said Conrad belongs on the so-called Brady list, named after the “Brady law,” a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says defendants must be told about potentially beneficial evidence in criminal cases, such as the trustworthiness of police officers.
The list, which some defense attorneys use to sow doubt about an officer’s testimony in court, can often damage or even end an officer’s career.
After the deposition, Fischer asked James for “hard facts to support the seriously defamatory statements he had made about the Chief of Police,” according to the motion by Ervin.
Ervin told Judge Angela Bisig that “in cloak and dagger fashion,” James gave Fischer a binder of documents Thursday allegedly outlining instances in which police Conrad has lied.
The binder contains a half-dozen documents, Ervin said, but no proof that Conrad has been untruthful and “demonstrates that Metro President James doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.”
The city “believes that Metro Council President James is working in collaboration with the plaintiff in an effort to aid him in the recovery of a substantial verdict against the very Louisville Metro Government Council President James has sworn to protect,” the motion concludes.
The city asked Bisig to delay the trial and prevent James from testifying in Harper’s trial next week as to his claims about Conrad.
Bisig declined to delay the trial but agreed to prevent testimony about James believing Conrad has been untruthful.
Still, Clay said he would use the documents James turned over to the mayor to question Conrad during the trial.
Mayor Fischer also released a statement Friday:
"This attack on Chief Conrad’s integrity is nothing but a bitter, nasty political ploy aimed at distracting the public from the real, positive work happening in our city. Rather than focusing on the verifiable progress that LMPD is making to curb violence in our city, political opponents would rather reach back more than 20 years to twist one instance of someone acknowledging a mistake into a political jab. It’s well past time we say enough to this political gaming and to those who perpetrate it. Chief Conrad has my full and complete confidence. We will continue to work the plan we have put in place, and we encourage everyone – citizens, city employees and officials alike – to get involved in working together to support our police and continue to improve public safety."
Conrad removed Harper from the high-ranking position of major as part of department-wide reorganization last year.
But Harper claims he was demoted after he told Conrad that he had concerns about the chief’s leadership and also informed some Metro Council members about those issues.
Conrad started the Brady list policy locally in 2013, adding more than two dozen officers whose conduct could be problematic, and their disciplinary issues were turned over to prosecutors.
Also as part of the policy, Conrad put the department's 1,200 officers on notice that any violations involving untruthfulness "will likely lead to termination from this department."
In his statement Friday, Conrad said the 1998 incident is coming to light now "because of politics and personal vendettas."
"Over the past several months, my character has been attacked repeatedly thanks to the ugly underbelly of politics," Conrad wrote. "I have tried to stay above that fray - keeping my focus on the job I'm here to do, which is to keep this community safe. I accept criticism is part of the job. This, however, goes well beyond criticism. This is a smear campaign that relies on half-truths, intentionally misleading information, gossip and innuendo."
Below is Conrad's full statement:
Nearly 21 years ago, when I was a captain in command of a district in the former city police department, I made a mistake by not giving all the information I had during an initial interview as part of a criminal investigation involving one of my subordinates. I did then what I have always asked of the officers I command – I recognized my mistake and quickly acted to address it. Within less than 18 hours, I asked to be interviewed again so that my initial answers would not be misleading. I spoke with my superiors, including the police chief at the time. After a review by my supervisors, no discipline was given and it was determined I had acted in good faith.
Several years and two police chiefs later, the criminal investigation into my subordinate was completed. The only outcome of that investigation was the chief at that time ordered an internal policy investigation. That eventually resulted in a suspension because of the misleading answers I gave initially, years before. I appealed that decision because the previous chief at the time of the incident had already determined there was no violation of policy. Through the arbitration process, the suspension was overturned and ordered removed from my record.
At that point I considered the matter resolved and moved on with my career. I never acted with ill intent. I never attempted to cover this up. I simply went on to do the best job possible in whatever role I was in.
As it relates to the accusations of perjury made in court Friday, as the County Attorney memorandum filed in court indicates, those accusations are completely unfounded.
Let’s be absolutely clear. The only reason this is coming out now is because of politics and personal vendettas. Based on the arbitrator’s ruling, this matter was removed from my record and it has never been raised again when I sought any other job. My integrity was not questioned when I became chief of this department – where there are people who knew about this 21-year-old incident.
Over the past several months, my character has been attacked repeatedly thanks to the ugly, underbelly of politics. I have tried to stay above that fray – keeping my focus on the job I’m here to do, which is to keep this community safe. I accept criticism is part of the job.
This, however, goes well beyond criticism. This is a smear campaign that relies on half-truths, intentionally misleading information, gossip, and innuendo.
I have listened repeatedly to Councilman James and others call me a liar and unfit for this job. What I know is that when I make mistakes, I own up to them – just as I did 21 years ago.
I have tried to turn the other cheek and maintain a professional relationship and work to address the real issues of this city. It’s time we cast aside these political jabs and work together – really work together.
Rest assured, I will keep weathering the jabs if they continue to come because I am dedicated to making sure this police department has what it needs to make our community safer. I know the men and women of LMPD will stay focused and do what needs to be done despite this twisted political climate we are in.
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