LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin is under fire again after a Courier Journal article said her tax-payer funded program was mostly serving her family.
At a Tuesday news conference, Councilwoman Shanklin admitted to securing funding for a program that spent $31,000 on job-training for ex-convicts. An instructor was supposed to teach the ex-offenders how to upholster furniture.
But Shanklin acknowledges that over the five years the program was in place only one documented ex-offender took part in the training, and he was her grandson. Shanklin says a few more offenders participated in the program but there is no record of it. This partly because prior to September of 2010 there was no requirement that the instructor, provide proof that anyone was actually taking the class. Shanklin says metro corrections, is to blame for that lack of oversight,
It wasn't until that last year of the program that sign in sheets were required, however they show most of the attendees were councilwoman Shanklin's friends and family. The councilwoman says, due to poor attendance at the beginning of the program, Metro Corrections decided to open it up to the public, and that's why her children were at times the only people who attended.
However the although program was pitched to the Metro Council and renewed annually as job training for ex-offenders, it ended up essentially being a hobby class for members of Shanklin’s community. Shanklin says the only thing she's sorry about is that the program ended.
Shanklin released the following letter sent to the Louisville Courier Journal Tues. The letter is in response to the Sunday article concerning the ex-offenders program.
Letter to the Editor:
Louisville Courier Journal
525 West Broadway
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Anyone who picked up Sunday's Newspaper and took a glance at the Page One headline would have immediately said "WOW! What a scandal?" The headline and the first few paragraphs of what was billed as a "Sunday Exclusive" would have made anyone think: another waste of taxpayer dollars, another self-serving politician is at it again. Any reader would think that I purposely created a program solely to help my family learn a trade. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I think it is time to set the record straight.
In 2006, many of us in the Newburg Community began to work on how we as a community could offer a second chance to ex-offenders. Did they need job training? How about a GED? Is there some practical way to help get them back on their feet and into society? Metro Louisville was already looking at ways to help ex-offenders reenter society who were coming out of the State of Kentucky prison system. So we began this program.
From 2007 until the time Mayor Fischer came into office, Metro Corrections expressed no serious concerns on how this program was being run. During that period, there was no demand to keep specific records of who attended classes and did they find employment. The idea of the program was to offer training not job placement. We worked with many who were connected with the Newburg Weed and Seed program and talked with the state probation officials for referrals. Metro Corrections officials were very well aware of this program and it would have been easy for them to make referrals if they had wanted to participate.
In the last year of the program, we complied with every request that was made by Metro Corrections. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it is more likely this program was cut because of the city's budget shortfall that year rather than any serious questions they may have had about how this program was run.
The other main point in the article alleges my family took advantage of the program. I have never met the former Mayor of Santa Clara, California. I am sure she is a fine person and given the fact that she may never have been to Newburg or understood what we were creating, I am not surprised by her comments.
When it was determined this program should be available to the community, it was publicized. My family like many others participated in the program offered to anyone in the community. They stopped by to learn about it and take advantage of it like any other citizen.
For the record, I think there should be some explanation about these classes. This was not a situation where someone would drop off a couch or chair and the people in the class did the work for them and tax payers paid for all the materials used. Anyone who attended this class did the work themselves; they paid for all materials used. The only thing free to the public was the instruction. I paid for my own materials and so did my family. I did the work on the off hours of the class and asked for instruction and advice.
And for the record, I do not recall talking with any reporter where I denied any upholstering done of my furniture or my families furniture in this class.
I can only assume that Mr. Klepal believes the families of local elected officials should not take advantage of any aspect of government services where we have influence over a program. If that is the case, those family members would never go to a library or Cherokee Park. They would not walk on sidewalks or drive on a city road.
I have never taken anything illegally from Metro Government. Not one dollar! There have never been any allegations of misuse of funding in this program. Metro Corrections had control over the budget every year this program was taxpayer funded.
I have never tried to give special breaks or favors to members of my family. I have never tried to deceive anyone in the community about anything I have undertaken in the district. I do not appreciate the back handed way of alleging that I am unethical or stealing from tax payers. Nor do I appreciate the suggestion that members of my family mentioned in this article are taking advantage of taxpayer dollars.
I was honored on May 22nd to be re-elected to represent the Metro Council's Second District. It is an honor that I hold very dear. But many of us in politics know that there will always be articles written about the programs you are involved with and the actions you take on issues. You always have to take the bitter with the sweet and know that your actions to better the community are more important than a reporter's perception of what he believes government should or shouldn't be doing.
This is one of those times.