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Five Metro Council members begin steps for removal of Judy Green


Five members of the Louisville Metro Council signed a petition Monday that takes an unprecedented step toward the possible removal of Councilwoman Judy Green from office.

Democrats Tina Ward-Pugh, Madonna Flood and Barbara Shanklin joined Republicans Kevin Kramer and Stuart Benson in signing the petition, which contends Green twice committed misconduct by violating city ethics rules in her handling of a summer jobs program and in her handling of a grant from her council office to a non-profit agency.

The petition clears the way for a trial-like hearing, likely to be held within 90 days, in which Green's fellow council members - other than those signing the petition - will act as her jury.

"It was our hope that Councilwoman Green would resign and prevent this action," Ward-Pugh and Kramer, chairwoman and vice chairman of the council's Government Accountability Committee, said in a joint statement. "Understanding that ... Green plans to stay in office, despite the many findings against her, we have no choice but to move forward with a fair process that allows for all information to be heard in accordance with our rules."

Green answered her cell phone Monday evening but hung up when a Courier-Journal reporter identified himself. She vowed Friday to remain in office and fight the accusations against her.

The petition comes after the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission on Friday unanimously recommended Green's removal from the council, finding that she intentionally violated four sections of the city's ethics law in running a 2009 summer jobs program for youth.

The petition, which was delivered to the council's clerk Monday and will be read into the record at Thursday's council meeting, contains two complaints:

The first relates to the Ethics Commission findings that Green had a conflict of interest in running the Green Clean Team; used her position to secure unwarranted privileges for herself or family; paid family members more than others performing the same work; and had personal involvement to the point that it impaired her objectivity.

The second complaint relates to a $7,500 grant Green awarded the non-profit 100 Black Men of Louisville, then had the organization reroute $5,600 of the grant to other agencies at her direction without the council's knowledge. The Ethics Commission is expected to rule on that complaint in a few weeks.

Attorney Gregg Hovious, who was hired to advise the council on the legal steps related to action against Green, said he thought it was important that the council rule on both issues at once.

"There is ample evidence to warrant the complaint" related to the 100 Black Men grant, Hovious said.

Ward-Pugh attended both of Green's hearings before the Ethics Commission and said she felt "compelled to do this based on the evidence observed."

Kramer said it's important for the public to know the council is taking the issues seriously.

"The community has every reason to expect that," Kramer said.

Hovious was hired because the Jefferson County Attorney's Office represents all council members, and has a conflict of interest with this case.

Nevertheless, that office is working with council members to determine the structure and format of the hearing.

Ward-Pugh said all of the details matter because the hearing will be precedent-setting.

"What we're doing here hasn't been done before," she said.

Unlike the hearings before the Ethics Commission, the council will have subpoena power and can compel testimony from witnesses. They are drawing up the names of people they will want to testify, Ward-Pugh said.

Green has been represented before the Ethics Commission by attorneys Kent Wicker and Steve Reed, who are being paid by tax dollars. She will be required to pay her own legal costs related to the hearing before the Metro Council.

Earlier Monday about 20 people stood outside City Hall to show support and pray for Green and warn other council members there could be consequences if she is removed.

Rev. Charles Elliott Jr., pastor of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, led the rally and said Green has done nothing wrong and that there will be a concerted effort to vote out of office any council member who works to remove her from office.

"All of you on the Metro Council have made mistakes," Elliott said. "Treat Sister Green like you would want to be treated."

Elliott also said that there will be a re-election group that would work toward having Green voted back into office if she is removed. Green would be eligible to run for her council seat in 2014.

Elliott, who was speaking on behalf of The Christ Benevolence non-profit organization, said the Green supporters at the rally represent seven churches. No council members were present.

Green "has done a marvelous job," Elliott said. "I am getting some bad reports about a conspiracy against Sister Green," although he did not elaborate who was in on the conspiracy.

Elliott said he believes Green is being "persecuted" although he said he doesn't believe that persecution is a result of racism. But there were racial overtones in comments made by some of Green's supporters.

Gracie Lewis, a resident of Green's 1st District, said the voters in the district should decide if Green stays on the council. "What the white community refuses to believe is that black people have common sense," she said.

When asked if Green made any mistakes, Elliott replied: "She may have, but she did what is right, which was to help her community." He said to the council: "Meet not to remove her, but to find money for summer jobs."