Local News Politics

O’Connell, U of L Settle Suits Over Hospital Merger Records

An agreement has been reached between the University of Louisville and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell that will end lawsuits he filed over hospital merger documents.

O’Connell went to court seeking to force the university and U of L Hospital to turn over financial and other records related to the hospital’s pending merger with two other health care companies.

O’Connell argued that the records should be made public because they involve taxpayer funds. U of L says the documents were not turned over in an Open Records request because they’re protected under Kentucky law.

Local News Politics

Maze To Hear Arguments December 21 in U of L Merger Records Suit

A Jefferson Circuit judge has scheduled a December 21 hearing on whether the University of Louisville should turn over records requested by the county attorney related to the pending hospital merger.

County Attorney Mike O’Connell filed a lawsuit last week seeking what he says are substantive financial and other documents involving taxpayer money regarding the pending merger of University of Louisville Hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives and Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare.

Local News Politics

O’Connell Sues Over Hospital Merger Records

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville, seeking the release of records related to the pending U of L Hospital merger with Catholic Health Initiatives and Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare.

O’Connell says U of L has turned over some records that he described as “fluff,” but has not released financial information and other details that the public has a right to see.

“This is a huge financial transaction, and for the life of me again, I don’t know why the University of Louisville, its representatives and everyone else does not want people to see and know what this is about,” O’Connell said during a Tuesday press conference.

U of L has said it’s allowed to withhold the information because it’s preliminary in nature, falls under attorney/client privilege, or is otherwise protected under Kentucky law.

The university has 20 days to respond to O’Connell’s suit. The hospital merger is subject to approval by Governor Steve Beshear.

The merger will be the focus of a WFPL News special tomorrow at 1:00pm.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Metro Council Court to Meet Today

The members of the Louisville Metro Council who will hear the removal case against Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, meet Monday to be sworn in as a court and possibly set a trial date.

In two separate complaints, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled Green deliberately violated the city’s ethics ordinance. Since then, a bipartisan group of five city lawmakers have signed a petition to impeach Green and oust her from office.

The remaining 20 members of the council will sit as jurors on a court and will be administered the oath by the Jefferson County Attorney at City Hall. The court will then appoint court officers and could  set a trial date sometime in August, a council spokesman says.

The five members who have filed misconduct charges against Green have hired attorney Gregg Hovious to represent them in the removal proceedings. Green has retained defense attorney Derwin Webb, who says the trial should be set after her appeals to the ethics commission’s decisions have been heard.

Over the past month, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled against Green in two separate ethics complaints. The panel found she deliberately violated the city’s code of ethics and recommended her ouster.

The court will decide Green’s fate by a two-thirds vote.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

King Seeks Legal Advice, Requests New Audit on Council Purchases

Responding to the recent controversy surrounding gift card purchases made by city lawmakers, Louisville Metro Council President Jim King, D-10, has requested a formal opinion from the Jefferson County Attorney’s office to make sure those expenditures are legal.

The request was made in a letter to County Attorney Mike O’Connell Thursday. King is asking for  an opinion on the legality of spending taxpayer dollars on food and drink used at public meetings, using city-funded debit cards for constituents to “promote goodwill” and buying banquet tickets used by council members if the banquet is a public meeting.

“There have been many questions raised recently about the business operations of the Metro Council,” says King. “I would like to make sure that what we are doing is legal and what changes are needed in how we process our operations.”

Different media outlets have revealed that council members spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on dozens of questionable purchases, including prizes for constituents at parties and neighborhood festivals using gift cards bought from their office accounts.

Outside experts have likened the practice to “handing out cash” and Republican lawmakers have voiced concerned as well. Many council Democrats, however, have defended the use of gift cards, saying it is allowed by the body’s policies and procedures.

Local News

Hotel Tax Suit Dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which officials in Louisville and Lexington tried to collect taxes from hundreds of online hotel room brokers.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell says city and state hotel laws are outdated and don’t cover the web brokers.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell says he’ll appeal the ruling.

He says the companies are not paying their fair share of taxes when they reserve hotel rooms at a discounted rate then charge another rate to consumers.

“(They) only pay the transient room tax on what we would call the wholesale amount and we believe they should pay the tax on the amount they receive for the room itself, and thus it’s deprived Metro Louisville of a substantial amount of tax revenue,” O’Connell said.

Several other cities have filed similar suits againg the online companies, which claim they’re doing nothing wrong.