In an unprecedented step, members of the Louisville Metro Council took an oath to sit as jurors in the removal trial of impeached Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, on Monday. The council court also selected hearing officers to oversee the proceedings and voted on two possible hearing dates in August, but Green’s attorney objected to the scheduling process and questioned the fairness of that decision.
“I think it’s premature for us to set a hearing date, especially considering as of today I have no discovery regarding this case,” says attorney Derwin Webb, who is representing Green and asked the hearing be scheduled in late September. “For us to have dates this soon I think is very premature. It’s going to be difficult.”
The council voted to hold the trial on either August 3-5 or August 8-10, but city lawmakers may consider other dates once Councilman Kelly Downard, R-18, who chairs the council court, meets with Webb and attorney Gregg Hovious, who is representing the five-member charging committee.
The east Louisville Republican will meet with both men Tuesday and stressed the importance of council members being present for the full proceedings.
“Not being here for a session in my mind is not one of the options. We have a responsibility and this may be the most serious responsibility we faced since we’ve taken office. And I think this one is probably one of the most important type of activities we will have,” he says. “I would fully expect and ask you, please to be present if at all possible.”
The court will be made up of the 20 city lawmakers who were not part of the initial five who signed a petition to oust Green from office after the ethics commission ruled she deliberately violated the ethics ordinance in two separate cases. During the meeting, 17 members took the oath, but Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said the other three members who had an excused absence can take the oath at a later date before the proceedings begin.
Downard was selected to chair the court after Council President Jim King, D-10, announced he was stepping down, citing Green’s numerous allegations in the media that he is biased against her. The council president said he had done his best to prepare fellow lawmakers for the trial, but had too much respect for the council to risk hurting the case after Green’s accusations.
“I believe I have conducted my duties as president of the Metro Council and chair of the council court with objectivity and professionalism and I continue to maintain my objectivity,” King says. “However, (Councilwoman Green) has been personally critical of me and expressed a belief that I cannot be objective in this matter. I know even such implication can impair the perceived fairness of this process and I have too much respect for the Metro Council to risk the finality of this body’s decision in this matter.”
The misconduct charges were filed by council members Barbara Shanklin, D-2, Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, Kevin Kramer, R-11, Stuart Benson, R-20, and Madonna Flood, D-24, last month and stem from two ethics complaints filed against Green that alleged she violated the law for her handling of a city-funded summer jobs program and rerouting funds through a non-profit group without the council’s knowledge.
Green has maintained her innocence and appealed both verdicts in court, but the ethics commission slapped Green with its harshest penalty in both cases. She is the first elected official in Metro Government to have a letter of reprimand and censure delivered against her.
However, she has appealed both decisions in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Asked if the removal trial needs to be delayed any further, Hovious said the two dates passed by the court work for him and that he’s ready to proceed, adding the community has waited long enough.
“She told us the last time I was here that she’s been dealing with this for eight to ten months. That’s plenty of time to prepare a defense. She’s already got two lawyers who know the case,” he says. “I don’t really know why they haven’t been hired to deal with this now. If she really wanted to defense this case on the merits she would have them come in and defend it.”
A two-thirds vote is required to remove Green from office.