Facts, rumors and political innuendo
Problems surrounding a jobs-for-youth summer program are piling up for Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, who now is being asked to resign in a complaint filed with the Metro Ethics Commission.
Later this month, the panel will meet to determine whether it should hold a hearing or dismiss charges based on four grievances filed by Ray Barker Sr., a retired police officer and anti-gang activist, who made an unsuccessful bid against Green in last year’s Democratic primary.
The complaints cite an internal audit of a $55,000 grant Green appropriated to the nonprofit LIFE Institute to fund “Green Clean Team,” a summer program for at-risk youth in her district. It criticizes the city lawmaker for hiring her husband, James Green, as the program manager, along with other relatives.
“I choose to be the voice of the children and families damaged by the misconduct of Judy Green,” Barker writes. “It is now that I ask with much regret that Judy Green, because of her many transgressions … and unethical practices as a Metro councilperson, vacate her office to start the healing and trust in our community.”
At its Feb. 24 meeting, the ethics commission may decide to launch its own investigation to determine whether the facts alleged by Barker constitute a violation of the recently amended ethics ordinance, which, among other things, forbids Metro officials from securing “unwarranted privileges” for family members.
LEO left two messages at Green’s office, but the councilwoman did not return either request for comment.
In December, the city auditor found that 12 of Green’s family members worked in the program and collected $3,580, and that another $28,270 was unaccounted for due to poor bookkeeping. And although the LIFE Institute was supposed to be in charge, the report indicated Green and her husband administered the program, in which teens were paid a stipend to clean up vacant lots, alleys and parks.
Those results were forwarded to the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit, and although no charges were filed against Councilwoman Green, a police investigation summary stated there was the “appearance that criminal activity could have been taking place.”
In response, Green disputed both investigations and indicated she will go forward with the initiative again this summer. However, the founder of the nonprofit that was supposed to oversee the program tells LEO that Green deceived the public and should step down.
“There was a ton of stuff that this lady did that was twisted in her relationship with my organization. Primarily, going on television and lying about whether or not she ran the program when the audit and police integrity report basically said that she ran it,” says Eddie Woods, founder of the LIFE Institute. “Initially, it started out that we would run the program. Then we realized we weren’t going to be in charge by her basically saying, ‘I’m going to run the program and that’s that.’ We said OK, and thought it wouldn’t matter as long as the paperwork was in order. The idea was the kids get paid and families get help, but Councilwoman Green didn’t fill out the paperwork.”
Since the fallout over the program, Woods says several council members have encouraged him to file an ethics complaint against Green. Asked if she should step down, Woods says it’s only a matter of time.
“I don’t think anybody expects her to continue to be quite honest,” he says. “It will be difficult for her to go on when her integrity has been so damaged.”
Still upset about the deal between the city and Todd Blue, local preservationists were floored to learn that part of the settlement allows the Louisville developer to use Whiskey Row as a parking lot before any construction starts.
Earlier this month, Mayor Greg Fischer announced the city and Blue had reached an agreement that allows him to demolish a row of 19th-century buildings along Main Street within 90 days in order to construct the Iron Quarter, an ambitious development project.
According to legal documents obtained by LEO Weekly, the Mayor’s Office has given Blue’s company, Cobalt Ventures, permission to use the properties as a surface parking lot for an interim period of five years once the demolition is complete. The Waterfront Review Overlay District would have to approve such a use, and Metro officials have agreed to advocate on Blue’s behalf at any hearing.
Ultimately, if any board or agency objects to the parking lot plan, Blue can do whatever he wants with the properties, according to the agreement.
“We have a city full of empty lots that have started with a promise of development and now are parking lots and mud holes,” says Martina Kunnecke, president of Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, a group dedicated to saving local monuments. “This new information is very distressing, and that the Fischer administration has paved the way for Mr. Blue to bring those buildings down without any guarantee to build anything is disturbing. People are not happy, and we’re not going down without making a lot of noise.”
In response, preservationist organizations have sent a letter to the Metro Council in an effort to save Whiskey Row.
“Conducted outside public scrutiny, Mayor Fischer’s negotiations with developer Todd Blue and their ultimate deal regarding Whiskey Row sidestepped the law and excluded the community,” Kunnecke writes. “We urge the Metro Council to pose the questions that many in our community — preservationists and non-preservationists — now ask.”
In 2007, Blue purchased the long-vacant buildings for $4.3 million with plans for a $50 million development. But the recession stalled the project, and the buildings have remained an eyesore. Asked how quickly construction could begin if demolition takes place as early as May, Blue says:
“We’ve got discussions ongoing with our banks, our partners and our hotel company at this point. You got at least 15 months to draw it and then another 18 to 24 months to construct it. We’re talking three to five years. By the way, that’s not unusual. How long has Museum Plaza been talking about what they’re doing?”