LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two high-ranking Metro Louisville officials who were expected to answer questions about Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's handling of recent protests sparked by police shootings walked out of a Metro Council committee hearing Monday afternoon without giving their testimony.
Louisville Metro Police acting Chief Robert Schroeder and Public Safety Chief Amy Hess were scheduled to testify before the Council's Government Oversight and Audit Committee but left on the advice of their lawyers.
Attorneys for the officials said their clients were opting not to testify after a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Thursday against Metro Government, Fischer, Schroeder and several LMPD officers. The attorneys argued that testifying before the committee in a public hearing would jeopardize their clients' positions in those lawsuits.
Instead, the attorneys said Schroeder and Hess were willing to testify publicly later or answer the Council's questions immediately behind closed doors.
Councilman Brent Ackerson, the committee chair, put his foot down.
“We’re not going into executive session. There will be nothing hidden from the public regarding this matter," Ackerson, D-26, told the attorneys and chiefs. "Zero. Plain and simple. So, with that being said, if you’re not going to proceed, there’s the door.”
Minutes later, Schroeder, Hess and their attorneys chose the door.
As he left City Hall, Schroeder's attorney, Joey Klausing, defended his client's rights and called the proceedings a "dog and pony show."
“To come in here and politicize this matter with these elected officials is not what our city needed today to heal. To suggest that we are hiding something is farther from the truth. Chief Schroeder, just like anyone in this Commonwealth, has rights," Klausing said as he and Schroeder left City Hall.
Here’s some of what LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder’s attorney just told us as he and his client left council chambers. He said council is putting on a “dog and pony show” today. @WDRBNews pic.twitter.com/S9uOGGV9VA— Chad K. Mills (@ChadKMills) August 3, 2020
Attorney David Gaurnieri, who represented Mayor Fischer's administration, also declined to allow Hess to testify.
After the chiefs and attorneys left, Council members including Jessica Green, D-1, weighed their next steps.
"Let's face it. We have to call a spade a spade. This is a pattern of behavior in terms of this administration and this police department seeking to hide information not only from the public but also from us as elected officials, and so I'm sick of it," she said.
Ackerson shared similar feelings.
"This is getting to be modern day government. It's no longer for the people, by the people. You know, it's lawyers hiding behind things. And you know, who's calling the shots?" he said. "You know, this is pure frustration, and you — the general public — should be livid."
Ackerson, Green and other committee members, with the exception of one, voted to formally subpoena Schroeder and Hess to compel testimony. Ackerson believes the move will initiate a court battle that will decide how and when the Council can seek that testimony.
“The truth will eventually come out," he said. "The question is how long do we have to wait for it.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Fischer said the mayor is committed to releasing information when legally able to do so.
"The Committee chair was well aware before they set up today’s meeting that there are matters that we are legally not allowed to share, and they were advised of our concerns about proceeding at this time," she wrote. "... But the Committee chair proceeded nonetheless.
"We look forward to returning to Council when all concerns have been properly addressed," she wrote.
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