Former Metro Councilwoman Denise Bentley has launched a website promoting a book about Democratic mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman Jim King, D-10, and his daughter, Jefferson District Judge Katie King, which covers the two years she worked as a campaign consultant for both.
The self-published, 100-page book, entitled “The Real Jim King: Inside the Kingdom,” makes numerous salacious accusations about the former council president’s personal and political life, including allegations regarding his business, King Southern Bank, how he treats employees, and funding his daughter’s 2008 judicial campaign.
In a telephone interview with LEO Weekly, Bentley said she started writing the book after resigning from the councilman’s mayoral campaign — just last month — saying she wants people to know the truth about the councilman’s “take no prisoners attitude.”
“The real Jim King is not the person we want running the city of Louisville,” says Bentley. “I’m sure Jim will put together a statement and do everything he can to belittle me, degrade me and demoralize me. But that’s OK, because people need to know that we deserve better.”
In April, Bentley, who represented the council’s 1st District until 2005, quit the King campaign citing professional, philosophical and ethical differences. She had been a well-paid campaign consultant for King, but said the president and CEO of King Southern Bank wasn’t as “committed to the African-American community” as she had expected.
With the May 18 primary less than a week away, the King campaign questions the timing of the book’s release, adding that Bentley’s accusations are nothing more than rumors. According to online records, Bentley created the site on April 11, four days before resigning from the campaign.
“Anyone who launches a website a week before the election should be looked at suspiciously,” says Jonathan Hurst, King’s campaign manager. “Obviously Denise left unhappy. Anytime an employee leaves under those circumstance and makes these sorts of claims I don’t think people take it too seriously.”
A lifelong west Louisville resident, Bentley rose to prominence in local politics before city and county governments merged in 2003, becoming the first black woman to be elected as president of the Louisville Board of Alderman. Since leaving the council Bentley has gained the reputation as a consultant who used and has been accused of negative ads on several area campaigns.
For months, Bentley says she fought with King campaign staff to get a media budget for outreach in minority communities. After King missed a mayoral forum organized by local civil rights groups, she claims she couldn’t carry the campaign’s water any longer.
It didn’t help Bentley’s cause within the King campaign, however, that a number of black elected officials, ministers and business leaders said her presence was hurting him among voters, particularly in the West End.
At least one outspoken critic and former colleague of Bentley, state Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, sent a letter to Councilman King, explicitly warning him about her recent political freelancing.
In March, Bentley spearheaded the wet-dry vote in a 19-block section of the Parkland neighborhood where alcohol sales had long been prohibited. She canvassed the area for signatures, saying she was concerned about the lagging retail in west Louisville, arguing that allowing the sale of liquor would help reverse that trend. Voters overturned the ban on April 6.
According to The Courier-Journal, a handful of residents said Bentley told them that signing the petition to put the question on the ballot would bring a Wal-Mart to the area. Bentley told the C-J residents might have misunderstood what she said.
“People clearly connected Ms. Bentley’s actions and the perceived underhanded nature of her actions with regards to the wet-dry vote,” Meeks told LEO. “And they clearly made the connection that she was at that time working for King. And I felt it was important for King to know this.”
At the time, Bentley’s unexpected resignation was merely a small distraction for the campaign. But now, a website that makes a number of inflammatory accusations against King — already troubled by past controversies — could have a devastating impact on his mayoral candidacy in the election’s home stretch.
“These claims have zero truth to them and I’m not sure what motive Denise has other than to hurt someone and many other innocent people,” says Hurst. “The sexual innuendos have no shred of evidence. There are no facts to back these up. These come from a person who left the campaign very angry and no one on this campaign believes these rumors.”