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Louisville Metro Ethics Commission Seeks Advice on Council Members and Zoning Decisions

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission punted Thursday on an advisory opinion sought by Council President Jim King regarding whether council members have to determine who has an interest in zoning decisions.

With little discussion, the committee voted to send a letter to King’s attorney, saying the commission would seek the legislative guidance of the metro council’s government accountability and ethics committee.

“I really think it was a matter of the request being beyond our authority, frankly,” Chairman Jonathan Ricketts said. “It think if we would have given an opinion it would have lacked the statutory authority that it needed.”

When council members vote on zoning matters, they are given little information, other than a property’s size, location and purpose. In King’s case, a local activist had claimed he had a financial stake in properties he was voting on.

Janice Rucker had alleged that King violated the city’s ethics code multiple times by using his position on the council for financial gain. King is president of King Southern Bank.

The commission dismissed all of Rucker’s complaints.

King announced he would abstain from voting on zoning ordinances until he received clarification on the issue.

“This is an issue with potentially serious consequences for council members and their constituents,” King’s attorney, Jon Fleischaker, wrote. “At any given meeting, the council could be asked to approve numerous zoning requests, and the information provided to them at the time of the vote often reveals little more than the address of the property in question, its size, and its intended use.”

King, through a spokesman, declined to comment Thursday night because he had yet to read the letter.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL News last month broke the story that Rucker’s ethics complaints piqued the interest of FBI agents, two of whom attended the an ethics commission meeting and interviewed Rucker afterwards in private. The FBI’s Louisville office released a statement at the time saying it “does not currently have an open investigation on a specific allegation or individual.”

Editor's note: Attorney Jon Fleischaker has previously conducted legal review for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Fleischaker did not review this article or any other article related to King.