During a day-long proceeding, Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, admitted it was a mistake to tell a non-profit group to reroute public funds to other organizations without disclosing it to the council. But the embattled city lawmaker put most of the blame on her former legislative aide.
For over two hours Green testified in front of the Metro Ethics Commission, telling the panel she appropriated $7,5000 to 100 Black Men of Louisville two years ago, but the group only needed $1,900 for a mentoring program. No documents filed by Green’s office showed the money was being rerouted, which violates council rules.
The extra money was funneled to other agencies at Green’s discretion, namely $240 for a fund-raiser at St. Stephen church, where Green is a member and attended the event; $400 for a Kentucky Derby fundraiser that Green attended; $1,000 for two youth football organizations; and $2,785 to Clarence Yancey, a political consultant, for catering to a luncheon for seniors in Green’s district.
“Everyone of those organizations and every dollar that was spent, I stand by,” Green said.
Green’s attorneys argued she made an honest mistake, but hadn’t breached ethical standards under the city’s rules. Her defense argued the councilwoman was not trying to hide the money and that it went to worthy causes she had little connection with.
“Judy Green is not perfect,” said attorney Steve Reed. “Judy Green makes mistakes like every other human. She is doing everything she can to help the poor children of District 1 become better citizens.”
Green told the ethics panel she didn’t know the other groups were not listed on the original grant application and faulted the shoddy paperwork with her former assistant, Melody Hill, who resigned last year amidst a police investigation of Green’s office.
In that police report, Hill told investigators she only picked up the paperwork for the grant applications.
According to Green, Hill told her it was within council rules to use larger non-profit groups as a “pass through” to smaller groups that were not eligible for taxpayer grants. Investigative officer James Earhart pointed out, however, that Green served two years on the council’s Appropriations Committee, which provided city lawmakers with those rules at each meeting.
After a series of tough questions, Green acknowledged she lobbied for the funding during a committee meeting without disclosing the side agreement with 100 Black Men and was responsible for the paperwork.
The panel also heard from Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, chair of the Appropriations Committee, who testified about the funding process and said he never heard of a “pass through” process before and that it was unusual.
In his closing argument, Earhart says Green knowingly disregarded council rules and used public funds for her personal benefit and to gain support among constituents.
“There are rules on who can and who can’t get (funding). And those rules are in place because it is not a personal fund to further their own agenda. That’s not what it’s supposed to be for,” said Earhart. “If this is not unethical, then nothing is.”
The seven members of the ethics commission will await a hearing officer’s findings before voting to either uphold the discoveries or dismiss the charges.
According to the city’s ethics law, the commission has a number of rulings it can make. Unintentional ethics violations can result in no penalty or a letter of reprimand. Intentional violations allow for a range of punishments, including a public censure, fines and removal from office.
Last month, Green was the subject of another ethics hearing. In that case, she was accused of using a city-funded summer jobs program—dubbed the “Green Clean Team”—to benefit members of her family.
The verdict in that case is still awaiting the completion of the proceedings depositions.