Answering tough questions, Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, spent hours testifying during a day-long ethics hearing Thursday, which alleges she used a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family.
Green was quizzed under oath in front of the Ethics Commission about her role in creating the “Green Clean Team”, a beautification project in her district. Specifically, the embattled city lawmaker was questioned on funding, who ran the program, who interviewed youth participants and how each person was paid.
An internal audit found that children in the program were paid various amounts, but that Green’s family members who worked in the program were among the highest salaries and collected $3,580 in total.
“I do know my children worked every single day,” Green said. “They worked extra and even on Saturdays and did not get paid for those times.”
During the hearing, the pay for participants in the final payroll was calculated and it found that children not related to Green received an average salary of $195. Those identified as her relatives during that same pay period received an average of $310.
Green also testified that she and her staff did select the participants and provided receipts for payment to each that were provided to the LIFE Institute, which was listed as the fiscal agent of the program.
Investigative officer James Earhart says Green ignored the city’s ethics law when she made those decisions, including appointing her husband to manage the program.
“What authority do you have to appoint anybody to anything in the program?” Earhart asked.
“My authority is I care about kids,” Green said..
Proceedings revealed that Green was reimbursed with $4,000 in cash by LIFE for giving the non-profit a loan to cover the program’s second payroll when the grant check was delayed. Green testified she withdrew the money from her bank account in cash and was reimbursed by LIFE in cash, but had lost the receipt.
“I cannot find the receipt, but I was repaid back,” Green said.
“Well, surely you didn’t lend it to them in cash,” Earhart asked.
“Yes sir, I did,” she said.
“Did you deposit the cash?” Earhart asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said.
Green later testified she had no record of depositing the cash back into her bank account, but “held it” for two weeks until her family took a vacation to Myrtle Beach.
Earhart asked Green if she thought making so many transaction in cash with tax payer dollars involved would cause problems during the administration of a city-funded program.
“In my mind, I didn’t see it as a problem,” Green said.
Three other witnesses testified before the commission, including activist Eddie Woods, founder of the LIFE Institute, who told the ethics panel Green made it clear she would run the clean team.
For months, Green maintained LIFE ran the program despite an audit report and police investigation saying otherwise. Testifying before the ethics panel, Woods said Green made it clear that she and her husband would run its day-to-day operations.
“We thought we’d be running the program. We had prepared documents and sign-in sheets and daily report forms, which we do for all our programs,” he said. “We were told that wasn’t going to be what we were going to be doing and that wasn’t our responsibility.”
When asked about the $4,000 cash reimbursement given to Green, Woods says it was unusual but the councilwoman insisted she be paid in cash for that loan.
“That’s what she asked for…That’s a little more than petty cash. We could’ve (written a check),” said Woods. “She didn’t want a check.”
Responding to the allegations, Green’s defense team argued the case stems from a political rival—Ray Barker Sr.—who filed the complaint because he is seeking to unseat Green in a future campaign.
Her attorneys also highlighted Green’s youth advocacy in the community and the success of the program while describing her as a tireless supporter of young people and neighborhoods.
Mausah Kamara, 18, who participated in the program two yeas ago, testified the summer program was a benefit to children in the community in helping families make ends meet and providing young people with important job skills.
“I would clean up in District 1, picking up trash around the street and stuff. But she never showed preference to her children,” he said.
During closing arguments, attorney Brent Wicker said the clean team was as a program setup to provide work experience for youth with limited employment opportunities, and Green is being punished for her public service.
“This case proves the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished,” said attorney Kent Wicker. “You’ve heard that Dr. Judy Green helped in the creation of a good, worthwhile summer youth program for the kids of her community. She gave of her time as a volunteer…and this hearing is the thanks (she) gets.”
“I wish there were more people in the world like Judy Green,” he said.
In his closing statement, Earhart hammered Green, saying she knowingly violated the city’s ethics ordinance because she was on the council when the law was revised last year.
“There is no doubt that Dr. Green ran this program. There is no doubt that Dr. Green supervised this program. There is no doubt that Dr. Green knew by her own statement that doing so was a violation of the ethics rules,” Earhart said.
Retired Circuit Court Judge Tom McDonald, who was appointed as the hearing officer, will have 30 days from the completion of the case transcripts to submit his findings of fact and law to the commission.
At that time, the seven-member commission will then vote whether to find Green not guilty or guilty of either an unintentional or intentional violation of the city’s ethics law.
A second ethics complaint against Green has been postponed until May 23.