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Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Editorial | Barbara Shanklin revelations continue to pile up

It’s tempting to suggest that the recent revelations about the questionable ethical practices of Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin could amount to the political equivalent of death by paper cuts.

But that would imply that the things uncovered in recent weeks by Courier-Journal reporter Dan Klepal are nothing more than a series of nicks.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s review.

First the newspaper reported that Ms. Shanklin’s grandson, Gary Bohler, was a convicted felon who she kept on the payroll despite repeated arrests — and even paid him once for time he spent cooling his heels in the pokey.

Then it reported that Ms. Shanklin, a Democrat, oversaw a job-training program for ex-offenders that employed a friend of Ms. Shanklin to teach upholstery classes. Alas, Metro Corrections canceled the program after figuring out that former felons weren’t attending.

In fact, the newspaper found that the program benefited Ms. Shanklin and at least seven members of her family far more than it helped criminals who were trying to learn a trade.

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton said his agency was never asked to refer former inmates to the program, and Ms. Shanklin can’t verify any felons ever attended the classes, which cost taxpayers $30,000 over five years.

Next, we learned that Ms. Shanklin was appropriating government money to organizations in which she was involved. To be sure, she was signing checks on those organizations’ accounts and sometimes directed that money to family members.

She even spent $1,744 for supplies for an ex-offender cake decorating class. That class was canceled for lack of interest.

Ms. Shanklin wrote checks using government funds to pay Zena Helm, the mother of Mr. Bohler, to cater events for a neighborhood association she she helped control, and she paid Derwin Fort, her son-in-law, using government funds, to cut grass on various lots in her neighborhood.

Finally, Mr. Klepal reported Friday that after the administration of Mayor Greg Fischer canceled the upholstery program for convicts, Ms. Shanklin kept it going using city grant money she had directed to the Petersburg/Newburg Improvement Association, of which she is a board member.

In doing so, she paid her friend, Linda Haywood, $863 for “classes and supplies” after the program was supposedly nixed.

She defended that action, saying that Metro Corrections closed the program so abruptly that two people who were taking the class hadn’t completed their projects. She wouldn’t say who those people were.

To this point, Ms. Shanklin has steadfastly defended herself, saying she has received no benefit that wasn’t available to the public despite the fact that family members and friends seemed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of her government largesse.

She exhibits absolutely no awareness that anything she has done could be wrong.

And by this most recent event, she has shown a complete disregard for the taxpayer by re-instituting a program that had already been found to be fraught with waste.

Her colleagues on the Metro Council are taking a wait-and-see approach for now.

Council member Brent Ackerson has called for a full-scale ethics investigation but Council member Jerry Miller, who heads the committee that would conduct such an inquiry, has rejected the idea saying that taking the issue up now could prevent members from sitting on a council court that might ultimately have to remove Ms. Shanklin from office.

But any citizen can file an ethics complaint. For information about how to do it, call the Louisville Metro Ethics hotline at (888) 226-2264.

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