LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Mayor defends $94,000 hire amid job freeze


It's an important job, and somebody has to do it.

That's essentially what Mayor Jerry Abramson is saying in defense of his decision to create a new $94,000 position – even though the city is amid a hiring freeze and a $20 million shortfall.

On Monday, Abramson announced his decision to re-hire former deputy mayor Rick Johnstone to oversee the city's economic stimulus money. Louisville is expected to receive nearly $250 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"We needed a person who could hit the ground, know the rules and regs, know all the players and most importantly get those jobs created in the private sector as quickly as possible," Abramson said.

But the hire comes in a time when thousands of city employees have been forced to take unpaid time off due to the city's $20 million shortfall.

The decision has also drawn the ire of other city leaders.

"Think about the furloughs. All the people giving up $100 a month for four furlough days, and we're hiring someone for $100,000 that was already here and paying them a pension – it bothers me a lot," said Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, (R) District 16.

For the past three and a half months, Johnstone has volunteered his time.

"We have a hiring freeze there is no question about it," Abramson said.

Downard took issue with that saying: "The mayor hires anybody he wants. Only the departments are under a hiring freeze."

While the city's money troubles have led to employee furloughs, the closure of a historic firehouse and public outcry over cuts, Abramson says the "creation of thousands of jobs" was too important of a task to pawn off on a volunteer.

"This required of me to take a step aside and say although the freeze is on, this means too much to this community," Abramson said.

While some council members might take exception with this hire, the mayor says the job is very important. And they needed someone with experience.

"No question about it," Abramson said. "He is by far the best prepared individual to lead this effort."

Downard: "I don't believe it."

Abramson says Johnstone's position has already led to the creation of more than a thousand jobs with more in the waiting.

But he did also say next year's budget looks bleak -- with layoffs, furloughs and cuts still all on the table.