Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, regrets hiring her 28-year-old grandson to work in her office, but hopes voters won’t hold his legal problems against her in the upcoming Democratic primary.
The former council president has been under heavy scrutiny since it was revealed that her legislative aide, Gary Bohler, was declared a fugitive after failing to show up for a court date due to a domestic violence charge. Bohler is Shanklin’s grandson who works as a part-time employee in the District 2 office where he earns $34,000 annually.
But Bohler has had trouble with the law going back to 2003, and has been arrested almost three dozen times for robbery, drug possession and drug trafficking charges.
Shanklin says she isn’t sure if the issue was leaked to the media by rivals given the Democratic primary is a week away, but that hiring Bohler was a mistake.
“If I could do it differently I would. I”m a very trusting person and I stepped out there. I gambled and I lost. I would never hire a family member (again). I think I’ve learned my lesson that family members sometimes hurt you worse than other people in the street because they feel like they can get away with it,” she says.
Shanklin suspended Bohler without pay after a reporter confronted her with about recent arrest. When asked about her grandson’s future, Shanklin says she hasn’t decided whether to fire Bohler or not, but that the two spoke over the weekend and she is disappointed in
In 2008, the ethics commission issued an opinion clearing Shanklin to hire Bohler, but political observers argue the decision goes beyond ethical concerns and puts the city lawmaker’s judgement into question. Shanklin is running for her fourth term on the council, but faces two challengers—Yvonne Woods and Rose Robinson—in the upcoming May 22 primary.
“I don’t think she’ll lose,” says political consultant Harry Johnson, who has worked on a number of council and judicial races. “With the work she’s done in the Newburg community, I think she is stronger than a rope. People can see she was trying to help her grandson and evidently he’s been having trouble.”
But Shanklin acknowledges the timing of her grandson’s arrest could have negative consequences on her re-election bid, adding she will let voters decide her fate in the upcoming primary.
“You know, I”m afraid it may hurt me and if it does, I learned a lesson,” she says. “I just move on and go to something else. And that’s the way you have to look at it because I feel like what God has for me no one can take away from me. And if it’s meant for somebody else, somebody else will have that position.”