Last Friday, WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting dropped a bombshell story on how the FBI is currently probing Metro Government to see if there was misconduct by unnamed Council members, appearing to be especially interested in an ethics complaint recently filed by Louisville resident Janice Rucker against Metro Council President Jim King. The Metro Ethics Commission says that the current complaint by Rucker against King is not yet public record — which the commission postponed a ruling on last Thursday and is now scheduled for March 6 — but WFPL and KCIR have the goods:
In Rucker’s latest round of ethics complaints, she alleged that King earned large sums of money by knowing what developments are being considered, loaning those developments money through his position as president of King Southern Bank and then voting on those developments as a council member.
WFPL obtained King’s 24-page response to Rucker’s ethics complaint today, in which his lawyer claimed the allegations are frivolous and without merit, and suggested that Rucker herself should be prosecuted:
The attorney, Jon Fleischaker, claims the complaints lodged by political activist Janice Rucker could be considered harassment and that the matter should be referred to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The city’s ethics code instructs the commission to forward false complaints, those made in bad faith or with actual malice, to the commonwealth’s attorney for potential action.
“It’s something we’re serious about,” Fleischaker said, calling her complaints a “very frivolous effort.”
WFPL’s original story quotes four unnamed Council members saying they have spoken to the FBI. Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, the target of a dismissed ethics complaint by Rucker, said that he had been contacted but has not yet met with the FBI, while King said that he has not yet been contacted.
Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, told LEO Weekly last Friday at a Jefferson County Republican Party event that he was contacted by the FBI and met with them recently for an informal discussion. Miller said the federal agents asked him general questions about how Neighborhood Development Funds work, and told him they were looking into the actions of multiple Council members. At the same event, Councilman James Peden, R-23, told LEO that he had not been contacted by the FBI.
At a Simmons College event this morning celebrating their new national accreditation, Councilman David Tandy also told LEO that the FBI has not contacted him.
“No, I haven’t been contacted by anybody,” said Tandy. “The first I learned of it was reading it online. So I’m learning everything just like everybody else. I don’t know what’s going on.”
King was also at the Simmons event this morning. When asked if he wanted to comment on the WFPL/KCIR story, he replied, “No. I’ve done all that.”
Adding to the FBI/Ethics/Council intrigue, there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding the allegations brought forward two weeks ago by Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch that the staffer of a Democratic Council member was campaigning against a fellow Caucus member up for re-election this year. Though more information regarding Welch’s investigation was assumed to come out at the Democratic Caucus meeting last Thursday, the meeting ended without any discussion on the matter. Caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt told LEO that Welch and Caucus staff are still investigating the matter, and no further details have been provided to the media. As LEO wrote two weeks ago, Councilman David James, D-6, is under the assumption that he and his staffer are the ones under investigation, though he claims they are completely innocent of the charges.
Are there merits to either of the charges against King and James, and are they in any way related to one another? Until we get our hands on the specific information from either investigation, we’ll leave the rampant speculation in City Hall to itself for now. But we’ll safely assume that you haven’t heard the last of this, and the drama among Metro Council Democrats is only going to escalate from here on out.