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Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Sues Mayor Greg Fischer Over Upholstery Program Records

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin has filed suit against Mayor Greg Fischer's office.Shanklin, D-2, is seeking public records regarding an upholstery program for ex-offenders that her office funded, which is part of a recent ethics investigation against her.In September 2012, Shanklin requested records related to Fischer's "involvement in the investigation," and what authority the mayor's office had to close the program.The councilwoman alleges the mayor is violating the state's open records law and depriving her of evidence needed for her defense in the ethics case."Basically we asked for what authority or rule or policy the mayor relied on to terminate the upholstery program," says attorney Aubrey Williams, who is representing Shanklin.Williams is requesting the ethics commission delay its ruling until this matter is settled.The council put approximately $30,000 toward the upholstery program over five years, but Fischer's administration halted it after questions were raised about the lack of ex-offenders being referred to the program.Records kept by facilitators show few offenders participated in the program, though Shanklin and her family members did. Last summer, a Fischer spokesman told The Courier-Journal it appeared taxpayer dollars were not spent appropriately in regard to Shanklin's program.One of the concerns raised in the ethics case was that upholstery instructor Linda Haywood billed the city for $17,900 despite few students or ex-offenders participating. Part of Shanklin's open records request sought the rule that prohibited Haywood from being paid for services rendered.Williams says it appears the mayor deliberately withheld the information and that his client did not receive a fair hearing as a result."The mayor had to have some law that he acted on, and I'm simply trying to find out what that is," he says. "If he did not then Mayor Fischer acted without the legal support, and if so how could he justify terminating the program? And how can my client be tried on that charge relating to the upholstery program?"Shanklin's suit also seeks the contract that employed the program instructor, agreements between city agencies responsible for the program and when the contract was terminated.It also demands that the judge reopen the hearing and that Shanklin be awarded $25 a day for each day Fischer denied her access to the public records.The case against Shanklin closed in November, and a decision by the commission is expected in March to determine whether she violated five sections of the ethics law. Twice during the hearing Shanklin exited the proceedings at the instruction of her attorney.The mayor's office declined to comment for this story.

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