For WFPL Public Radio
Published: WED MARCH 13, 2013
By RAE HODGE
The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission will make a ruling on its case involving Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, this week while the criminal investigation against the embattled lawmaker is moving forward.
Shanklin is facing five charges of violating the city’s code of ethics, including accusations that she misused taxpayer money in relation to an upholstery training program her office championed.
The commission has a range of options in the case, from declining any punishment to recommending Shanklin be booted from office.
It cannot bring criminal charges against the councilwoman, but a separate investigation conducted by the Louisville Metro Police’s Public Integrity Unit could.
The police have finished their probe and forwarded the case to a special prosecutor, First Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Robert Schaefer.
Schaefer tells WFPL he hasn’t had a change to review the extensive caseload, including a large number of binders, an internal audit and hundreds of pages of documents, but his office is taking the case seriously.
“Obviously this case has attracted a lot of interest, and we take all the cases that we do seriously. So I’m not going to rush and put something out there before I’ve had a chance to go through it,” he says.
Metro Police met with Schaefer briefly last Thursday in order to give him two-thirds of the Public Integrity Unit’s materials.
The documents deal with several aspects of Shanklin’s time in office either funding or participating in initiatives such as Weed n’ Seed, health training and an upholstery training program for ex-offenders.
Several media reports found Shanklin and her family members participated in the upholstery program, which cost $30,000, but was eventually shut down by Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration.
It was also reported that $14,000 in taxpayer funds went to Shanklin’s family members for services that went through the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association, which the councilwoman was a board member of and signed several checks for.
Schaefer told police that due to his busy schedule it would take time to go through all the documents before making a decision. But he says the case will go before a grand jury for criminal charges if necessary.
“If it’s warranted we’ll go forward to a grand jury. If it’s not, then I’ll submit a written notice to the AG’s (Attorney General’s) office saying that I think nothing in here supports charges and then it will be up to them to determine whether or not to put it to bed,” he says.
Shankin’s attorney Aubrey Williams declined to comment on the police investigation being forwarded to a special prosecutor.
The ethics commission is expected to make a ruling on its case involving Shankin on Thursday.