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Consulting Firm Makes Transparency Recommendations to Louisville Metro Council

A consulting firm has made recommendations to the Louisville Metro Council to increase transparency and accountability in discretionary spending.

The council hired Mountjoy Chilton Medley for nearly $10,000 to review its policies and procedures in response to reports of questionable spending earlier this year. The report was presented to the Government Accountability and Ethics Committee Monday night.

The report shows several areas where the council’s practices do not meet its policies. Recommendations ranged from requiring more paperwork to having council members and their staffs undergo regular training. The report further asks that a four-hour training session developed by a council staff member be adopted by the Metro Council and updated on a regular basis as policies change.

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Environment Local News

MSD Considers Adopting More Stringent Ethics Policy

The Metropolitan Sewer District is considering strengthening it’s ethics policy.

The agency already has an ethics policy, but amid allegations of impropriety and an investigation by the state auditor, Metro council members have called for it to adopt a policy similar to the Metro Government Ethics Code.

Attorney Larry Zielke prepared a draft for the MSD policy committee last month. In the meeting today (Monday) he told the board the policy, as written, was very similar to the Metro Ethics Code.

“All that’s the same,” he said. “The main difference here, again, when you get to it, is do you want to open this up to apply to more people than just the board. It seems to me that’s the overriding feature you’re going to have to consider right now.”

The board did want to open it up to apply to more than board members. They asked Zielke to prepare another draft, which also subjects MSD’s Executive Director and four senior employees to the new ethics policy.

Board members also considered the policy’s enforcement. The draft gave that power to the board, but members felt that should be left up to a third party. It was suggested to subject the MSD to oversight by the Ethics Commission, but leave the final decision of whether to accept or reject the commission’s ruling up to the mayor.

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Local News Politics

UPDATED: Ethics Commission Recommends Green Be Removed From Office

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.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Green Could Face Accuser at Public Forum Tonight

A west Louisville group has invited Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, to a public forum tonight to discuss the two ethics charges filed against her, but it’s unclear if the embattled city lawmaker will show up.

American Slaves, Inc. has invited Green and retired police officer Ray Barker, Sr., to tell their side of the story in a debate. A flier promoting the event says the public discussion is to help residents understand the controversy better and provide the community direction to “brace for her predicted dismissal” from the council.

“Our concern isn’t necessarily who is right and who is wrong. Our concern is what was working—is that going to be affected—or can we also be more progressive with this delicate matter and keep the people in concern,” says moderator Dereck Barber.

Earlier this year, Barker, who ran against Green in last year’s Democratic primary, alleged Green used a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. The councilwoman’s defense has argued Barker is seeking to unseat Green in a future campaign.

In previous interviews, Barker has said he would seek an appointment from the council if Green were removed from office.

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Local News Politics

Live Updates From the Judy Green Hearing

The second hearing on ethics charges against Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green is underway. WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey is there and he’s posting live updates to our Twitter feed. He’ll also appear on Here and Now at 1:30 to discuss the hearing.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Green Faces Second Ethics Hearing Today

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission will hold another hearing on charges against Metro Councilwoman Judy Green Monday. It is the second ethics hearing she has faced in less than a month.

Green is accused of breaking council rules by instructing a non-profit group to reroute $5,600 in city funds to other agencies at her discretion.

In 2009, Green allegedly told officers with 100 Black Men to ask for more money than the organization needed in order to give out the additional funds to groups not listed on the original application at her discretion, including the purchase of tickets for a Kentucky Derby fundraiser that she attended.

During an interview with the Courier-Journal, Green blamed her former legislative aide for the mistake, saying she took training on Neighborhood Discretionary Fund expenditures and told the councilwoman that the arrangement was proper. In a Metro Police report, however, that aide told investigators she only picked up the paperwork for the grant applications.

Also, Green served two years  on the council’s Appropriations Committee, which have those rules provided to city lawmakers at each meeting. It has been confirmed that Councilman Robin Engel, R-22, vice-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has been asked to testify about those rules and policies at Monday’s hearing.

Community activist Ed Springston, who filed the second complaint, says Green has clearly violated council rules by making a side agreement with the organization and needs to be held accountable.

“When you intentionally over inflate a grant and then you do that so you can redirect money to places that are going to benefit you personally as an elected official that’s a problem,” he says.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Special Counsel Hired to Advise City Lawmakers on Green Inquiry

Seeking advice on any legal action the Louisville Metro Council may have to take, Council President Jim King, D-10, has hired a special counsel to review the ethics charges against Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, who faces two separate complaints.

In April, Green was grilled under oath during a hearing where she was accused of nepotism and using a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. Another complaint alleges Green broke council rules by ordering a non-profit group to reroute funds from a city grant to another organization without proper documentation.

A hearing on that charge is scheduled for May 23.

Once those proceedings conclude, Green faces a number of possible outcome including no penalty, hefty fines, a public censure or removal from office.

King says hiring attorney Gregg Hovious  to advise council members on the inquiry is a prudent step because state law provides a vague guideline on what steps if any they should take.

“People would be asking me what rises to the level of removal from the council. And I don’t think the rules are clear on that. They look to the state law. So I felt like I needed legal counsel to essentially guide me through the ethics hearings and then depending on the outcome of the ethics hearings what would be the next step,” he says.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Audio: Green Testifies in Ethics Hearing

On Thursday, the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission heard testimony in the case involving Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, in a day-long proceeding. The case alleges she used a city-funded summer jobs program—dubbed the ‘Green Clean Team’—to benefit members of her family.

Green was the first witness called and testified for over two hours, answering several questions from investigative officer James Earhart and her attorney, Steven S. Reed, about the clean team.

Excerpts from her testimony are below.

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Local News Noise & Notes

Ethics Hearing Against Green Begins Today

After months of mounting allegations, a hearing on the ethics charges against Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, begins today.

The embattled city lawmaker faces charges of wrongdoing, unethical behavior and financial mismanagement in two separate complaints that stem from an audit and police investigation, which raised serious questions about her conduct on the council.

In the first complaint, Green has been accused of using a city-funded summer jobs program—dubbed the “Green Clean Team”—to benefit members of her family. An internal audit found that 12 of Green’s family members worked in the program and collected $3,580.

The Ethics Commission moved last month to add the charge of nepotism to that case, citing some of her family members were allegedly paid more than other participants.

Another complaint filed by community activist Ed Springston alleges Green broke council rules by instructing a non-profit group to reroute money to other agencies.

In 2009, she allegedly told officers with 100 Black Men to ask for more money than the group needed in order to give out the additional funds at her discretion, including the purchase of tickets for a Kentucky Derby fundraiser that she attended.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Rogers Still “Prince of Pork” With Non-Profit Empire, Says Ethics Group

Calling him the “Prince of Pork”, an ethics watchdog group says U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has funneled more than $236 million in federal funds to several non-profit organizations that he created.

In March, Rogers swore off earmarks and joined a GOP pledge to cut spending and reduce the deficit, saying America was at a crossroad. As political observers noted, the 14-term congressman was a well-known defender of steering federal funding back to his district, but like many longtime GOP leaders (re: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.) he publicly denounced the practice after Tea Party candidates were elected to Congress.

After a three-month investigation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims that Rogers has found ways to circumvent the earmark ban, and has established a non-profit “empire”.

From CREW:

Rep. Rogers sits at the center of an interconnected web that includes Kentucky nonprofit groups, a bank he partially owns, and several companies he has supported with federal money. These entities have strong ties to Rep. Rogers and to each other, and help extend the congressman’s influence in his district.