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Barbara Shanklin ouster vote was directly affected by race, councilman claims


Metro Councilwoman Mary Woolridge told others deliberating whether to oust Barbara Shanklin from office earlier this year that she wouldn't vote to remove her because she is an African-American woman, Councilman Kelly Downard said Wednesday.

Downard, a Republican representing eastern Jefferson County's 16th District, told the story to a luncheon crowd without naming the council member, but later told the Courier-Journal, "It was Mary Woolridge. You can say that on the record."

Woolridge, D-3rd District covering the Algonquin area, was not at the Forum event. She voted along with four other African-Americans and two white council members to retain Shanklin, even though she was found guilty by a 16-4 vote of misconduct in the way she spent discretionary funds. The vote to remove her from office was fell one short of needed two-thirds majority.

Woolridge neither confirmed nor denied Downard's recollection.

"She was exonerated and is still a member of this council, and I think it's time for all members of council, including Kelly Downard, all of us, to move on," Woolridge said and declined to comment further.

Shanklin was found guilty of misconduct by a vote of 16-4 for improperly using neighborhood development funds in her district. The vote to remove her from office, however, was 13-7 in favor, one short of the required two-thirds.

Downard made the comment at a Louisville Forum event at which prosecutor David Tachau and defense attorney Aubrey Williams also spoke. Downard later said he was concerned about whether talking about deliberations was even permissible.

"I called the county attorney to even see if I could talk about it," he said.

"First off, I don't know what the context was," Williams responded afterward to Downard's assertion, "because obviously the record is, that can't be true, because all of them (African-Americans council members) had voted to remove Judy Green."

Green had been removed from council in 2011 over similar allegations, and Woolridge along with other African-American members voted to expel her. Williams said any bias in the Shanklin trial rested with Republicans.

All those who voted to keep Shanklin in office are, like Shanklin, Democrats.

Downard on Wednesday told the audience that grew quiet as he spoke: "If I say to you," I will never vote to expel a white man from metro council, what thoughts would you just have? Anger? Revulsion?" That happened in the deliberation room. One member of my metro council said 'I will never vote to remove an African-American woman from this council. Period.' "

He later provided a clarification, saying Woolridge actually said in deliberation, "I will never vote again to remove another African-American woman from council," an apparent reference to Green.

The 20 council members who sat in judgment of Shanklin deliberated three and a half hours after a six-day trial.

Following the verdict, councilman David James, one of the African-Americans who voted to retain Shanklin, said race had nothing to do with his vote.

Downard said in the moments following the verdict, "I have never been so embarrassed to be a member of an organization in my life." But he did not elaborate at the time.

On Tuesday, the council's ethics and accountability committee continued debating proposed changes to rules regarding NDF spending. Some proposals are a direct result of allegations against Shanklin; many others are not.

On Wednesday morning, just prior to Downard's appearance at the Forum event, an annual review of NDF rules for council members and their staff was held at Metro Council chambers. Council President Jim King said the review was particularly important this year, but that "there is no rule we can change that would have impacted what happened with Shanklin."

Attendance at the training session was not mandatory for council members. All 26 districts were represented either by a council member or legislative assistant.

Ten of the 26 council members were there, including Shanklin.