In two historic decisions, the Louisville Metro Council Court voted unanimously to expel Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, from office.
The 20-member court ruled Green mismanaged taxpayer money and committed misconduct in two separate cases, marking the first time an elected official was removed in Metro Government history and the first time a Louisville official has been booted in over a century.
For over an hour, council members deliberated the charges levied against Green by a bipartisan charging committee, which stemmed from two rulings from the Metro Ethics Commission earlier this year. That panel found Green deliberately violated the ethics ordinance with her involvement in a youth summer jobs program and the rerouting of city funds through a non-profit without the council’s knowledge.
The commission recommended Green’s ouster from office after delivering a stinging letter of reprimand and censure against the embattled councilwoman.
Green resigned days before the expulsion trial began, citing health concerns and the need for constituents to move on from the scandal. However, the resignation would not have taken effect until the next regular council meeting on September 22.
Court Chairman Kelly Downard, R-16, says the council made a difficult decision, but it was necessary to go forward with the trial to clear up the controversy for the public.
“I think there’s been a cloud over this council for six months and I believe that what we did today removed that cloud. We accepted as a council our most dire responsibility to try to review whether or not to remove a colleague,” he says. “That’s not easy to do. And I think that cloud’s gone. And I believe the community was looking and watching.”
The two-day trial featured sworn testimony from several key witnesses, including Green’s former legislative aide and her current assistant, who did not take the witness stand during the previous ethics hearings. Both testified that Green ran the Green Clean Team summer jobs program.
Green previously said the LIFE Institute ran the program, which would have been keeping with the city code of ethics. rules.
Green’s former assistant Melody Hill also spoke to the other misconduct allegation and said the disgraced lawmaker instructed the organization 100 Black Men of Louisville to ask for more funds than it needed to distribute to other groups at Green’s discretion.
The court also heard from city officials, police detectives and leaders with the non-profit groups at the center of her ethics complaints.
Before the trial began, Green’s attorney Derwin Webb filed a motion to dismiss the charges that was reject by the court in another unanimous vote. He walked out of the proceedings after the court decided to move forward with the trial.
Webb told other media outlets the verdict against Green was not a surprise given the council court had rejected their previous pretrial motions and that it was a “losing battle.”
The court did grant Green a delay in the removal hearing, however, when it rescheduled the hearing from mid-August to early September. She later asked for another two-week delay due to an undisclosed medical condition and submitted a sworn statement from her doctor, but the council reject that motion and set the hearing for September 12.
Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, was one of the five members who signed a petition to remove Green from office. He says the verdict demonstrates city lawmakers are held to a high standard and the community wanted to see that public officials were held accountable.
“It’s not a happy day, I don’t think for any of us. It is gratifying to know that after much deliberation our colleagues came to the same conclusion that we did,” he says.
Several observers had questioned if it was wise for the council to continue with the trial even after Green stepped down from office. But members of the charging committee said it was important the public know the allegations against Green were substantial no matter what the cost, adding it was not a “witch hunt” as Green’s supporters had said.
“It’s important for citizens of this community to know we hold ourselves to a standard they expect,” says Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, who also signed the impeachment petition against Green. “It was very important to go through the process however long it took. Because it’s important for them to know that we take this job seriously and we take spending their tax dollars very seriously.”
During the closing argument, prosecuting attorney Gregg Hovious said Green’s conduct and hurt a lot the non-profits, her legislative aides and taxpayers. He added her actions damaged the “credibility of Metro Government” as well.
The decision to remove Green means she cannot run for office again until 2014. It will become official once the court chairman files the findings of fact with the council clerk’s office. Green can appeal the decision to Jefferson Circuit Court, but the county attorney said at a press conference that could be more difficult considering Green did not provide a defense during the expulsion hearing.
The council will have 30 days to fill the vacant seat once the expulsion is official. As WFPL reported earlier this week, former police officer Ray Barker, Sr., who filed the initial ethics complaint against Green, has announced he will seek the appointment.
For city lawmakers, there is an overall relief that the year-long scandal appears to be behind them as they prepare to move on to other issues.
“This has been an enormous interruption for everyone. I know it’s been a terribly difficult time for Councilwoman Green. My heart and all of us go out to her and her family,” says Downard. “But this is something that had to be done by a unanimous vote and it’s been done.”