In a unanimous decision, the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission has ruled that Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, deliberately violated the city’s ethics ordinance and should be removed from office.
Green was charged with nepotism and using a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. In 2009, Green approached Dr. Eddie Woods, founder of the LIFE Institute, to run the “Green Clean Team” in her district, but the beautification project was quickly embroiled in controversy.
After certain participants were unpaid, a police internal audit last December revealed 12 of Green’s family members worked in the program and were enriched as a result. The audit also found Green, her staff and her husband ran the program and were making payroll decisions.
It was revealed during an ethics hearing last month that the average youth participant related to Green received $310 average pay compared to $195 paid to non-relatives in the program.
After an hour and a half of deliberation the panel returned the verdict, which includes a letter of censure and a letter of reprimand over her handling of the program she sponsored.
From the ethics commission ruling:
“The commission finds Dr. (Judith) Green intended to and did in fact use LIFE Institute’s legitimate status to receive Metro funds in obtaining public funds. Further, the commission finds Dr. Green intended to use the funds and run the program in accordance with her standards and directives. Dr. Green did not intend to turn control of the program over to the LIFE Institute after funds were received. The commission finds by clear and convincing evidence that the described actions of Dr. Judith Green constitute intentional and deliberate violations of the Louisville Metro Code of Ethics.”
Neither Green nor her attorneys were present at the deliberation, and the councilwoman could not be reached for comment. The ruling is the harshest penalty the panel could deliver and sets the stage for Green to be the first city lawmaker removed from a office.
In a joint statement released Friday, leaders of the Louisville Metro Council’s Ethics and Accountability committee said the council must discuss the next steps in dealing with Green. Democrats and Republicans said they want to review the case findings and come together before making a decision on whether to oust their colleague.
Asked if Green should resign in order to avoid further public scrutiny of herself and the council, Council President Jim King, D-10, says that’s an her decision.
“For my part I think that everyone has to do what’s right for themselves and what’s right for the community and what’s in their heart. I hope that Councilwoman Green will do some soul searching and make that decision herself,” he says.
According to council rules, removing a member from office requires five members to recommend the body take action by signing a petition for a hearing . The remaining members will then act as a court with subpoena power to decide by a two-thirds vote the councilwoman’s fate.
Council members have stressed this is new territory for them and they will consult with the county attorney on what proper steps to take now as they ask for the public’s patience.
“All of us knew that this was a potential outcome from the ethics commission. We know what the ethics commission has decided and it’s time for us to start looking more carefully and figure out what comes next,” says Kevin Kramer, R-11, vice-chair of the Ethics and Accountability committee.
Other council members who were contacted either declined to comment or were unavailable, however, leaders have indicated they will move forward before a ruling on the second ethics charge against Green is made.
“I would be inclined to accept the (commissions) recommendation and have the council act on that recommendation,” says Councilman Tom Owen, D-8.
Later this month, the commission is expected to make a ruling on a case stemming from accusations that Green instructed a non-profit group to request more money than it needed from the council, then reroute the excess at Green’s discretion.
In a statement to the media, Mayor Greg Fischer, who told WFPL he hadn’t paid much attention to the issue beyond the headlines, said he believes the council will take the proper steps.
Admitting Green’s actions weren’t perfect while maintaining her innocence, her attorneys are considering appealing the decision. Meanwhile, the embattled councilwoman has told the Courier-Journal she does not intend to resign after and called the ethics hearings a “sham” and “waste of taxpayer money.”