Legal bills to defend Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, against two ethics complaints have cost taxpayers close to $30,000, but the total could far exceed that amount once both cases conclude.
By law Metro Government is required to provide Green with a publicly funded legal counsel in her defense before the Ethics Commission. For the past four months she has been represented by Reed Wicker law offices, which to date has charged the city $29,127.90 for its services at a $150 hourly rate.
Jefferson County Attorney spokesman Bill Patteson says Reed Wicker still have bills yet to be submitted, however. He expects the cost to the city could balloon to over $50,000, but argues the city was able to cut costs in defending Green’s case by receiving a discount from her attorneys.
“We believe that it is great value for the taxpayer dollar. I believe Mr. Wicker has said their normal billing rate is $300 an hour,” says Patteson. “For half of that the public is getting the full efforts of a very expert law firm.”
Despite the discount, Green’s legal bills will increase once the firm submits costs associated with the second complaint filed against her. The commission’s decision in that case is expected next month.
Last Friday, the ethics panel returned a decision in the first complaint that found Green deliberately violated the city’s code of ethics and recommended her removal from office. On Monday, five members of the council signed a petition to impeach Green and a trial to oust her could be set within 60 days.
Taxpayers will also have to cover the cost for the Ethics Commission once it calculates how much to pay the hearing officers who prosecuted and presided over the complaints.
The council is also billing citizens in order to pay for special attorney Gregg Hovious, who was hired by Council President Jim King, D-10, to review documents and advise members on the trial-like removal hearing against Green.
Metro Government is paying Hovious a $125 hourly rate to review the two ethics complaints, an internal audit and police investigation involving the councilwoman. It has been estimated the total cost to the public for all fees involving Green’s ethics misconduct from beginning to end could be well over $100,000 once the final tallies are submitted.
“There is really no set amount and it’s going to cost whatever it takes to conclude the matter satisfactorily,” Patteson says.