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Council Court sworn in, Green's attorney wants delay of expulsion trial

by WHAS11 News


Posted on July 19, 2011 at 2:37 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 19 at 2:49 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)- The Louisville Metro Council is steaming forward in its planned expulsion trial of Councilwoman Judy Green. 

On Monday afternoon, the council set dates in either the first or second week of August for a three day trial.  Green's attorney told the frustrated council court that he would not be prepared until September.

The 16 present council members were sworn in as the jury of the council trial.  The five members who filed the charges against Green are not allowed to participate in the trial.

Green did not attend the hearing and three council members were absent, Democrats Rick Blackwell, David Yates and Mary Woolridge.

The Metro Ethics Commission has twice concluded that Green intentionally violated ethics law in how she administered taxpayer funded grants through her council office.  The move to expel her from the council came between those two findings from the ethics board.

Green's attorney, Derwin Webb, cited several reasons for the council to delay the start of the trial, including the pending appeal of the ethics commission's findings.

"So she can make sure that she has the best representation possible," Webb explained, "Going forward today, I still don't have discovery and I'm not saying that this is unfair at this point.  But we do know that in order to have a fair trial, you have to be given the opportunity to defend your client and right now I just don't have all the information that you have."

The attorney hired as the prosecutor for the council, Gregg Hovious, dismissed the call for a delay due to the ethics appeal.

"Completely separate proceedings." Hovious said, "Separate decision makers.  This is a proceeding for the council to determine whether she should be removed for misconduct or gross neglect."

Webb also told the council court that he has other clients and that some of the dates discussed for the trial conflict with his trial schedule.  Council members groused that Green has had plenty of time to prepare for the proceedings, yet it was unclear if the council would choose to accomodate Green.

Calling the complaints against Green a "simple matter," Councilman Brent Ackerson (D) said he was not in favor of delaying the proceeding.

"The hour is ripe," Ackerson said, "The evidence is there."

The court voted to appoint former council president and senior Republican Kelly Downard to chair the expulsion hearings.  Metro Council President Jim King immediately turned over the proceedings to Downard, out of concern that Green had accused King of not being objective.

"I know even such implication can impair the perceived fairness of this process and I have too much respect for the Metro Council to risk the finality of this body's decision in this matter," King said.

Much of the half-hour meeting was consumed by council members, who are part-time office holders, expressing concern about juggling scheduling conflicts and private work obligations with the time demands of Green's trial.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell expressed an opinion that council members would need to be present for the entirety of the trial, rather than watch videotapes of testimony, to be qualified to render a verdict. 

"Two-thirds of those who are sworn to sit and hear evidence" would need to find Green guilty in order for her to be removed, O'Connell said, "That number will be what that number will be."

Downard admonished his colleagues to make every effort.

"We have a responsibility," Downard said, "And this may be maybe the most serious responsibility we've faced since we've taken office, most of us."

O’Connell will act as a judge for the trial and will decide what evidence is allowed.

Hovious was hired by the five council members who brought the charges against Judy Green.

Democrat Tina Ward-Pugh
Republican Kevin Kramer
Democrat Barbara Shanklin
Democrat Madonna Flood
Republican Stuart Benson 

Green would be the first elected offical in merged government to be removed from office, yet several other politicians were removed or faced impeachment in the history of the former City of Louisville.

In 1865, Mayor Phillip Tomppert was impeached when he refused to approve a street car contract tainted by a bribe to a city councilman.

In 1907, a vote fraud scandal triggered the ouster of Mayor Paul Barth and all Jefferson County Democrats who had been elected in 1905.

In 1978, the Board of Aldermen started impeachment proceedings against Mayor William Stansbury after he lied about his whereabouts during the firefighters strike and refused to testify about questionable campaign contributions. The Board of Aldermen dropped the impeachment when a court ruled the aldermen did not have subpoena powers.

But the Metro Council does have subpoena power and the council's prosecutor plans to use it to compel Green's aides and the beneficiaries of her grants to testify against her.

"I would love for those people to be subpoeaned," Green said in a July 5 interview, "because they can tell you exactly what happened."