Seeking advice on any legal action the Louisville Metro Council may have to take, Council President Jim King, D-10, has hired a special counsel to review the ethics charges against Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, who faces two separate complaints.
In April, Green was grilled under oath during a hearing where she was accused of nepotism and using a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. Another complaint alleges Green broke council rules by ordering a non-profit group to reroute funds from a city grant to another organization without proper documentation.
A hearing on that charge is scheduled for May 23.
Once those proceedings conclude, Green faces a number of possible outcome including no penalty, hefty fines, a public censure or removal from office.
King says hiring attorney Gregg Hovious to advise council members on the inquiry is a prudent step because state law provides a vague guideline on what steps if any they should take.
“People would be asking me what rises to the level of removal from the council. And I don’t think the rules are clear on that. They look to the state law. So I felt like I needed legal counsel to essentially guide me through the ethics hearings and then depending on the outcome of the ethics hearings what would be the next step,” he says.
The city rules based on state law allows for a member to be removed for malfeasance, misfeasance or being unfit to fulfill their duties. It says either the mayor or five council members can bring charges and call for a trial that would then require a two-thirds majority vote for removal, but King says there are other procedures that need clarification.
Despite warnings from Green’s attorney that the council president should let the ethics commission finish its investigative process first, King says hiring an attorney is not sign of the council tip-toeing towards any decision. However, the charges against Green are being taken seriously.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that when you have allegations such as these that there’s a high level of concern by all of our members. We want to do what’s right. We want to make sure due process prevails. We don’t want to prejudge anything and we want to make that sure we follow the ruels ourselves,” he says .
For months, council members have refused to comment on the scandal for fear that it could hamper any future decisions. Sources in City Hall have told WFPL News, however, an intentional violation against Green in either case would result in her colleagues taking the unprecedented step of removing the councilwoman from office.
Since city and county governments merged eight years ago, no city legislator has been voted out of office by fellow members.