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Metro Council approves new financial disclosure rules for Louisville officials

Louisville Metro Council chambers.
Louisville Metro Council chambers.

Elected officials in Louisville will now have to make yearly disclosures of their financial and business ties under new rules approved by Metro Council Thursday night. The requirement will also apply to candidates for public office and city workers who can award contracts.

Officials in Louisville are already required to recuse themselves from making legal or contract decisions if they have a conflict of interest. But previously, there was no mandate for them to report much of their finances, making it hard to know when a conflict existed.

The ordinance, approved unanimously by Council Members, will require officials to report any Kentucky businesses they own or have more than a 10% stake in. It also requires the disclosure of any gifts they receive worth over $200.

District 9 Council Member Bill Hollander, a Democrat who sponsored the ordinance, said the goal is to increase transparency in local government decisions.

“We had some pretty glaring weaknesses, for example no requirement that sources of income be disclosed,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting.

Hollander said the ordinance is based on model legislation from the Kentucky League of Cities, which has been adopted by other localities throughout the state.

Louisville’s current ethics rules require officials to disclose their spouse’s job. That requirement will stay, but will now include domestic partners or anyone the official files joint taxes with.

The ordinance also requires city officials and candidates to name any person or institution they owe more than $10,000, and any property they own outside of their primary residence. They’ll also have to disclose the zoning of their property, which determines what can be built on the land, to highlight any conflicts in re-zoning cases. 

Hollander is proposing other ethics reforms that are currently being considered, including an ordinance requiring professional lobbyists to register with Metro Council similar to what’s required of them at the state level. Although Hollander says the legislation is not a direct response, the proposals come after a Metro Council member was found to be working with a developer behind the scenes to force through a development project.

The reports will be managed by Louisville’s Ethics Commission. Anyone who doesn’t make the required disclosures could be fined $25 per day, up to $500.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.