On Wednesday the House Committee on Local Government approved House Bill 188, legislation sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, addressing the administration of ethics complaints in Louisville Metro.
Ethics complaints in Louisville have been the subject of media reports recently due to two high-profile cases involving members of the Louisville Metro Council. State law requires local governments to adopt a local ethics code, which Louisville Metro has enacted. Provisions of that code allow an official charged with an ethics violation to request a private attorney paid for at public expense. Another provision allows publicly funded legal representation for the complainant in an ethics case. House Bill 188 would prohibit both of these practices.
“Public officials are held to a high standard,” said Clark. “When someone subject to the ethics code is charged with a breach of that trust, it defies common sense to suggest that the public should pay for that official’s lawyer. This bill will prevent that from happening in the future.”
Clark said that officials with the Metro Council have justified current practice by noting the proliferation of what have been called “frivolous” complaints. In particular, members of the Council have been subject to allegedly unfounded complaints, undergoing expenses in defending them. “To the extent there is a problem, the Council can solve it at the local level,” he said. “I have offered them suggestions about how to define frivolous complaints and how to provide a disincentive to a complainant’s publicizing the existence of a complaint. I hope the Council is willing to consider these suggestions, or something similar of their own design to solve their problem. Whether they do or not has no bearing on this bill though. I think state law should bar the payment of legal fees out of local tax dollars in ethics cases, and this bill will accomplish that.”
House Bill 188 next goes to the House Floor for consideration by the entire body.
Larry Clark has represented the 46th Legislative District in southern Jefferson County since 1984 and has served the House of Representatives as Speaker Pro Tem since 1993, having been elected to that position for the 11th time this year. He maintains a 100% voting record in the House. For more information, visit www.keeplarryclark.com.