- An aluminum company in Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood has agreed to a settlement with Metro Government in response to several alleged record-keeping and pollution violations. The proposed agreement fines Eckart America $668,250, and sets up a plan to help the company come into compliance with its permit.
- Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Walker was diagnosed during a routine mammogram last week, where she learned after follow-up tests that the tumor was cancerous.
- Louisville Metro Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, has drafted a resolution asking the General Assembly to reduce the number of consecutive terms the mayor can serve from three to two, and limit city lawmakers to three terms.
- Critics say Gannett CEO Craig Dubow‘s $37.1 million in retirement and disability pay is excessive, since Dubow oversaw roughly 20,000 layoffs at Gannett media outlets, including the Courier-Journal. Dubow is stepping down due to medical issues.
Leaders with Louisville Metro Government’s Brightside and Metro Council Republicans have made peace after disagreeing over a WFPL news story that had the quasi-government agency reeling over possible funding cuts.
A memorandum drafted by GOP members outlined their spending priorities for the city budget. The minority caucus recommended making cuts to any area which they listed as “non-mission critical” to city services. It lists Brightside as one of those areas that is “not mission critical” if cuts are necessary.
Rather than making equal cuts across the board, Republican Caucus Director Steve Haag says GOP members advocate for heavier cuts in areas that do not relate to public safety.
“We need to look at programs and functions that essentially if their funding is reduced or diminished, it will not be detrimental to our main goal of Metro Government which is the safety and protection of our citizens,” he says.
In a response to concerns from Brightside Director Michael Seebert, however, Republican caucus leaders said the memo does not advocate for any cuts to the beautification initiative.
“Partnering with successful entities like Waterfront Development and Brightside will move us forward faster than we can alone,” the letter reads.
Republican Caucus Chair Ken Fleming, R-7, was reached by telephone, but declined to comment because he was on vacation and Vice Chair Kevin Kramer, R-11, could not be reached for comment.
Haag says the purpose of the memo was to qualify the minority caucus’s approach to budget cuts and that Brightside misunderstood the information reported by WFPL.
“It was a perception, it wasn’t a correct perception, so basically we went and corrected that, quickly,” he says. “I don’t think there was any fault with the way it was reported, some people read it one way…and it was written correctly, it just wasn’t understood the way it was written, I guess.”
“We sent a letter to Brightside and I think everybody’s okay now and understands where everybody stands.”
You can read the GOP spending priorities and correspondence here:
The Louisville Metro Council Budget committee will meet Thursday to discuss tax policy.
The meeting will focus on whether businesses that lose money in a given year should be allowed to deduct the loss from the next year’s profits. For example, if a business loses $1 million one year, then makes $1 million the next year, the business would not pay tax on any income in the profitable year.
Councilman Ken Fleming says it will allow businesses of all sizes to pay less money in taxes as they recover from bad business years.
Opponents say Metro Government will lose money if the deductions are allowed. Fleming says that’s not necessarily the case.
“Will it delay some revenues? Yes, it probably will delay some revenues for Metro Government,” he says. “But if you look at it in terms of having extra cash for businesses to hire new employees or buy new equipment, well, bringing a new employee, that employee will pay payroll taxes. And if you buy new equipment, you’ll pay property taxes.”
Opponents further say there’s no guarantee savings will be reinvested.
For the deductions to be allowed on the city level, the General Assembly would have to change state law. Fleming has drafted a resolution encouraging it to do so.
Several members of the Louisville Metro Council say the Metro Sewer District board’s recent change in ethics policy is a good first step, but it doesn’t go far enough.
After reports showed that several MSD contracts were given to businesses owned by board members, council members and the mayor called for changes. At least two board members resigned and Monday, the board adopted a new policy that bars members from doing business with MSD.
Councilman Ken Fleming previously said MSD should place itself under the Metro Government ethics code, and he stands by his statement.
“I would like for them to try to adopt that, or adopt most of it to implement within their organization, but I think they’re taking a good first step toward transparency and to shore up their ethics policy,” he says.
Councilmen Kelly Downard and Jim King both tell the Courier-Journal MSD should adopt the city ethics code as well.
Dalton Main contributed to this report.
Members of both sides of Metro Government say the Ethics Commission must complete its review of Metro Councilwoman Judy Green before any further action is considered.
The commission will hold a hearing this month on a complaint regarding Green’s relationship to a summer jobs program that may have benefited her family. On Wednesday, LEO Weekly revealed a number of other allegations leveled against Green, including identity theft and accepting bribes.
“We saw a story about old allegations from political opponents or disgruntled employees,” says Green’s attorney Kent Wicker. “These allegations have been investigated by the police public integrity unit and found to be without merit. Dr. Green looks forward to her chance to answer the ethics charges in the upcoming hearing.”
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office has declined to comment while the proceedings are underway, and Metro Councilman Ken Fleming says it’s too early to make any judgments.
“We’ve got a process set up to handle any type of ethics issues and so forth. I know there’s been a complaint that’s been filed. We need to let things take their course. After it takes its course, we need to assess the situation and see what we need to do at that point,” he says.
The Ethics Commission hearing is on the 17th of this month. Green’s former political opponent and the man who filed the ethics complaint, Ray Barker, says the LEO article shows a pattern of unethical behavior. But, if the Ethics Commission clears the Councilwoman, Barker says he’ll relent.
“If this doesn’t go through, if doesn’t have enough legs to stand on its own and the Ethics [Commission] decides that the information I provided, which is public knowledge, is not enough. Then I’ll let it be. I will respect the findings of the Ethics [Commission],” he says.
Green’s office has declined to comment.
Last year’s elections gave Republicans their smallest minority yet in the Louisville Metro Council.
The minority caucus has nine members. The Democratic majority has 17. Republican Ken Fleming says he doesn’t think his party will be marginalized, and the caucus will continue to work across the aisle on key issues.
“We want to continue looking at increasing the transparency of government options,” he says. “We want to make sure that ethics are held and make sure a tip line is fully utilized.”
Fleming says he’s also looking forward to working with the new mayor.
“One thing he mentioned was looking at performance reviews and performance audits and that’s something we’d like to see him do because we pushed that on many occasions,” he says.
Other members have pointed out that Mayor Greg Fischer has taken some steps to reach out the council. That’s a slight departure, they say, from Mayor Abramson.
The Louisville Metro Council is scheduled to vote on an e-transparency ordinance Thursday.
The ordinance would create a searchable website of the city’s revenues, expenditures and contracts. The contracts would have be phased in over the next couple of years.
“For them to get ramped up to that, it’s going to take them a little longer to do that,” says ordinance co-sponsor Councilman Ken Fleming. “Then they have to go through and scan these documents and store them so they can be accessible.”
The ordinance unanimously cleared its committee and Fleming expects it to win easy passage.
“I haven’t head any dissenting comments of people voting against it,” he says. “So I’m anticipating it should pass fairly easily. If we get all members, great, if not, I’ll respect those people and how they vote.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Abramson says the administration supports the legislation.
This is the last week for Louisville Metro Council members to submit changes to a proposed ethics ordinance.
The measure would redefine what Metro employees and elected officials are allowed to do in terms of political actions and commercial endorsements. It spent months in committee and was postponed by the full council twice, with some members saying the ordinance was too broad.
Seventh District Councilman Ken Fleming co-sponsored the bill. He says he and Council President David Tandy will take suggestions from their colleagues through Thursday, then start making changes.
“He and I are going to sit here and we’re going to go through what the people that we know are familiar with in this area and consult with other people who are familiar with people in this area to bring someone in here to help us out,” he says.
The ordinance is set to go before the full council again on February 12th.