The five members of the Louisville Metro Council who brought impeachment charges against embattled Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, will hold a committee meeting Friday to prepare for the trial-like removal proceedings.
A bipartisan group signed a petition to oust Green from office after the Metro Ethics Commission ruled unanimously that she violated the city’s ethics law. Besides issuing a letter of reprimand and censure, it recommended she be taken off the council.
Removal proceedings dictate the five council members must form a “charging committee”, which will designate chairs, hire legal staff and be responsible for presenting evidence against Green to the remaining council members, who will sit as a court. The committee is expected to establish meeting times and name attorney Gregg Hovious as their legal counsel to assist in conducting any further investigation.
Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, who signed the removal petition, says the trial will cover the dual ethics charges facing Green, but added several other indiscretions that were levied against the beleaguered lawmaker could be covered.
“What the community is going to see is the depth and the level of miscalculations made by Councilwoman Green.” he says. “And it’s going to be very difficult for a person to look at the totality of it and say ‘Oh, there’s some kind of mistake here’. But it’s not one misjudgement. It’s misjudgement, upon misjudgment, upon misjudgment and at some point you have to walk away from it and say this isn’t someone who made a simply mistake. This is a situation where repeated decisions were made that can consistently abused the public trust.”
According to the rules, the committee must draft the charges and deliver the evidence to Green or her attorneys. Unlike the ethics hearings, however, she will not receive a taxpayer funded attorney and instead will have to provide her own legal counsel for the removal trial. It is unclear if her attorneys from the ethics proceedings will represent her during the trial.
Green could not be reached for comment, but she maintained her innocence when she addressed the council last week, calling it a “dark period” for the council.
The ethics charges stemmed from a complaint filed by a former political rival, who alleged Green used a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. She still faces charges in a second complaint that alleges she broke council rules by rerouting funds through a nonprofit group. The ethics commission is expected to make a decision in that case in early July.
Lawmakers have subpoena powers during the trial and could use information from the ethics hearings and other allegations levied against Green, including information from a 554-page police report that includes a number of sordid details and allegations against her.
“Councilwoman Green has included in her remarks or rebuttal that we all know her character. And if in fact character comes up as a defense and those kinds of testimony are brought up the remaining members could consider (other charges),” says Councilwoman Ward-Pugh, who signed the impeachment petition. “The five of us haven’t talked about it and didn’t need that additional information to make our decision.”
One charge that could resurface is an accusation levied by the councilwoman’s former and current legislative aide, who both told police detectives Green accepted a bribe from a west Louisville liquor store owner to support a wet-dry vote in her district.
If the council court exercises its subpoena power it’s expected those assistants will be called to testify before the council court, but the charging committee hasn’t committed to going beyond infractions outlined in the dual ethics complaints.
“Certainly everything out there is available. If we feel a need to expand the charges, that’s a possibility. We’ll have to wait and see how this unfolds to determine whether it’s necessary to bring additional charges or how to use the evidence we have in our possession,” says Kramer.
Once the five members are ready to proceed with their evidence, the council president will convene the court “as soon as practical” and schedule a time for the removal hearing. The county attorney will serve as general counsel to the 20-member council court, who will decide Green’s fate by a two-thirds vote.