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Lawsuit claims Louisville worker fired over unease with role of mayor's wife

Man in blue suit suit speaks at clear lectern featuring a green and white sign that says "Greenberg for Mayor." A woman in a white dress stands to his right. A large group of people stand behind them.
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM
Rachel Greenberg standing beside her husband at his primary election night watch party on May 17, 2022.

A former city employee is suing Louisville Metro Government, claiming she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on the role of the mayor’s wife in his new administration.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Samantha Ricketts said she was fired from her job as a graphics specialist in the mayor’s office after reporting a potential violation of the city’s Ethics Code. Ricketts alleges that Mayor Craig Greenberg’s wife, Rachel, made “substantive decisions” within the administration and gave instructions directly to city employees. She detailed numerous examples in a 19-page timeline, which documents her experiences between Dec. 2022 and Oct. 2023, when she was fired.

“The actions of [Louisville Metro Government] violate the Kentucky Whistleblower Act in that Plaintiff Ricketts' employment as a Graphic Specialist was terminated following her reporting actual or suspected violations of the LMG Ethics Code to appropriate authority,” the lawsuit states.

Ricketts is asking the court for punitive damages and lost wages over the violation. She was making $57,000 per year, according to Louisville Metro’s salary database.

The lawsuit comes as Greenberg is facing scrutiny by the city’s Ethics Commission over the outsized role his wife has taken in city affairs. Rickett’s alleged interactions with his wife also directly contradict statements Greenberg’s made in his defense, and they back up previous reporting by the Courier Journal.

Malcomb Haming, the former director of the Jefferson County Republican Party, filed an ethics complaint against Greenberg last October, claiming his wife’s actions violate city nepotism rules. The complaint, which called on the Ethics Commission to investigate, was based entirely on a Courier Journal article.

Greenberg pushed back against the allegations at a press conference in December, calling the complaint “frivolous” and describing Rachel’s position as a “volunteer role.”

In a statement Wednesday night, Greenberg called Ricketts a “disgruntled employee” looking for an “undeserved and lucrative payout” through a lawsuit. He said Ricketts was not fired.

“Her position was eliminated after it was determined Metro Government did not need a full-time graphic specialist in the mayor’s office,” Greenberg said. “Shortly thereafter, Sam Ricketts applied for and was offered another position that better matched her career goals at the same salary.”

He added that Louisville is “fortunate to have Rachel” and that neither he nor his wife “will be deterred by these hateful, false and recycled allegations.”

Greenberg has maintained that his wife does not supervise or “interact with employees” in her volunteer capacity. He’s also defended her use of office space within Metro Hall, saying the office isn’t dedicated solely for her use.

The timeline Ricketts filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court as part of her lawsuit casts doubt on Greenberg’s defense.

Ricketts details multiple instances in which she allegedly received orders from Rachel Greenberg to design stationery, business cards and a new city seal.

“I am confused as to who I am supposed to listen to; my supervisor approved the design, but the First Lady rejected it. I feel I can't voice any disagreement with the Mayor's wife,” Ricketts wrote in an entry for Jan. 11, 2023.

In other entries, Ricketts writes Rachel Greenberg “gives me orders as if I work directly for her.” She also describes meetings being held “in Rachel Greenberg's office” with other mayor’s office employees. Ricketts says it makes her feel uncomfortable “that I and so many others are using our work time and taxpayer-funded salaries on work for Rachel.”

Since Greenberg took office last year, his wife has attended events and helped launch initiatives focused on young people and education. In September, the mayor’s office announced Rachel helped launch a program that would get local high school students involved in shaping city government-sponsored events.

The seven-member Ethics Commission is still considering whether the body should hire an outside investigator to look into the nepotism complaint against Mayor Greenberg. The commission has not yet ruled on a motion to dismiss Greenberg filed in December.

The Ethics Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

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