CJ: Sex abuse victim scolds Louisville prosecutor for wanting to name names

Phillip M. Bailey, Louisville Courier Journal Published 11:57 a.m. ET May 8, 2018 | Updated 2:14 p.m. ET May 8, 2018

A woman who is nationally recognized for speaking up on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse is calling out Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell for his response to allegations of sex abuse in a Louisville police youth program.

Katya Estes appears in an online campaign ad paid for by Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson, who is taking on O’Connell in the May 22 Democratic primary. In it, she said she is “outraged” by the county attorney’s argument to release the names of Scouts who claim they were abused in the police department’s Explorer program.

O’Connell, who represents the city in civil matters, said last year that for fairness, plaintiffs should also be identified because the police officers accused of wrongdoing are mentioned by name.

Read this: Special investigation into how Louisville cops handled Explorer sex abuse case is complete

Estes said in the ad that O’Connell was “trying to exploit” the former Scouts, who participated in a program for teens interested in law enforcement that was offered by police and the Boy Scouts of America.

In an interview with Courier Journal on Tuesday, Estes said: “In my experience it’s very delicate and it’s important to have a sense of control over what’s happening with your truth. And it’s not Mr. O’Connell’s place to say that he wanted to release the names.”

The O’Connell campaign did not make the county attorney available for a comment but released a statement saying his “commitment to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is obvious.”

It also cited that O’Connell has created a specialized unit that handle similar cases and that the Center for Women and Families, which provides shelter and services in domestic violence and sexual assault cases, honored O’Connell last year with its community service award.

Ackerson told Courier Journal on Tuesday that O’Connell’s campaign is dodging the issue but can’t ignore his words “defending police rape” last year that the councilman said stood in the way of the accusers seeking justice.

Estes gained notoriety in Louisville when she was awarded $10 million in damages two years ago after a jury found her grandfather guilty of rape and sexual assault. In 2016, she won an award from the National Children’s Alliance for her work at the Family and Children’s Place, which has four offices across the Louisville region.

Estes said she appeared in the online political ad to stick up for the accusers in the Explorer case.

“The youth in this case, I don’t know who they are, but they don’t have a voice,” she said. “… The fact that (O’Connell) wanted to release the names is inappropriate.”

The Ackerson ad highlights O’Connell’s remarks to reporters last year when he said a former Scout should not be allowed to remain anonymous when filing a civil lawsuit against two former officers, who also face criminal charges over the allegations in the Explorer program.

Besides Estes, the ad uses TV clips from a WAVE 3 story and a debate between the two political rivals at the Louisville Forum. During that debate, Ackerson told audience members that O’Connell clearly wanted to reveal the accusers’ names and only reversed his position after a backlash.

“What happened in this town makes me ashamed, it should make all of us ashamed,” Ackerson said. “Kids were hurt.”

Read this: County attorney accused of ‘political stunt,’ he says 2 councilmen are breaking the law

O’Connell argued last year that the law was on the side of the city and the defendants.

“The playing field needs to be leveled,” O’Connell said after a Jefferson Circuit Court hearing on a Courier Journal motion to open a lawsuit filed by a former Scout identified only as N.C. who claimed he was sexually abused by two officers and that the police concealed it.

But O’Connell backpedaled that same day, saying that neither he nor Mayor Greg Fischer wanted to reveal former Explorer Scouts’ names. He said in a statement that his office works “tirelessly every day in the support of victims of sexual assault.”

Courier Journal, which typically does not name victims of sexual abuse in criminal cases, sought to unseal the case to have access to any additional filings made in the case, not for the purpose of identifying any plaintiff.

Since last year six civil suits have been filed alleging abuse or harassment by police officers in the Youth Explorer program. Five of those cases name either former police officers Kenneth Betts or Brandon Wood as defendants.

The latest suit, filed by a former Scout identified only as E.B., claims the program became a “sexually hostile environment” after Betts repeatedly asked the Scouts to send or accept nude photographs.

The suits also names as a defendant former Maj. Curtis Flaherty, who led the program as a lieutenant, alleging he was part of a cover-up.

All three have denied wrongdoing.

In another lawsuit, a former Scout identified only as B.L. claims Officer Brad Schuhmann manipulated her into having sex when she was under age 16.

Schuhmann, who was an adviser in the Explorer program, has been put on desk duty with his police powers suspended pending the completion of an internal investigation, though the police have declined to detail the nature of that inquiry.

O’Connell and Ackerson are scheduled to debate at an event hosted by the Metro Democratic Club at 7 p.m. inside the Keneseth Israel Congregation, 2531 Taylorsville Road.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courierjournal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/philb.


Louisville Corruption Review focuses on O’Connell


“…O’Connell kept track of who did or did not contribute to his campaign,”

 Bradshaw also charges in her suit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, that County Attorney Mike O’Connell pressured some of his assistants to donate to his election campaign “or fear his wrath.”

Mike O’Connell, Jefferson County Attorney, and the Price of “Loyalty”.

by Michael Stevens
“It is money, money, money! Not ideas, not principles, but
money that reigns supreme in American politics.”
Robert C. Byrd
A recent op-ed from the Courier-Journal discussed how elected government
officials in Jefferson County have expected their employees to contribute
financially to their re-election coffers. For example, the Jefferson County
Attorney’s office seems to have a long history of expected contributions from
the attorneys working in that office going back as far as Bruce Miller.
Basically, money has been contributed over the years by attorneys employed
at the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office to assist their boss’s election efforts.
A practice that is not new, not novel, not regulated, and worse yet apparently
not acknowledged beyond a simple denial by the current occupant of that
political office – Mike O’Connell.
The Courier-Journal calls attention to this practice and asks its readers if this is what we want or
expect from a County Attorney. Whether called campaign contributions or tokens of employee
“loyalty”, should it continue?
As an Army Judge Advocate and Army Officer occupying a position of trust and public service, we
were held to a standard even higher than the criminal and ethical codes. Accepting money from
those who work for you was and is absolutely prohibited. We were expected to even avoid even
the “appearance of impropriety”.
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office has a large staff. A very large staff with over 400 attorneys.
All of us have read the stories on how difficult it has been for government lawyers to pay their
4/6/2018 Mike O’Connell, Jefferson County Attorney, and the Price of “Loyalty”. | Kentucky Court Report
http://kycourtreport.com/mike-oconnell-jefferson-county-attorney-and-the-price-of-loyalty/ 2/13
school loans and raise a family on their government salaries with some even delivering pizza on
their own time in the evenings.
Well, the Courier-Journal has issued the challenge and concluded its opionion-editorial piece with
the following:
Sometimes the Courier-Journal irritates me with the reactionary tone of their editorials and even
their stories. However, the position that the news media occupies as the “Fourth Estate” aka the
“press” can never be understated. And although everyone seems to fawn over the new digital age,
there is just some power and authority found in the written word on a piece of paper that is not
found in audio or video.
You may not always like or appreciate the stories, but most of us will acknowledge the value they
provide in accountability with the gathering of facts, interviews of those involved, and a
marshaling of all that has been accumulated with a conclusion and opinion which you can either
agree or disagree. Those of us who blog part time owe a debt to the hard work that it takes to
uncover these stories which allow bloggers like myself to throw in out two cents worth of opinion.
Thank you.
Here is the op-ed piece. Hopefully, the Courier will keep it available on-line for some time.
Mike O’Connell’s Loyal Employees
Mr. O’Connell can deny he seeks money from employees. But he can’t deny the appearance
that employees feel pressured to give.
His current fundraising may not violate the law. It may skirt the Metro ethics ordinance.
But like so many things in politics, it doesn’t pass the smell test.
So why not limit contributions from employees? Or just stop taking them?
That way his employees could devote their full loyalty to the public and keep all of their hardearned
paychecks for doing so.

Ah, for the good old days of Jefferson County politics where the “2 percent” club flourished in
local offices and employees didn’t have to wonder how much to donate to the election fund of
the boss.
Former Jefferson County Attorney J. Bruce Miller called his request for 2 percent of
employees’ pay the “Assistant County Attorney Voluntary Fund.”

4/6/2018 Mike O’Connell, Jefferson County Attorney, and the Price of “Loyalty”. | Kentucky Court Report
http://kycourtreport.com/mike-oconnell-jefferson-county-attorney-and-the-price-of-loyalty/ 3/13
Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014
News: “Judicial Branch implements… COAM 2014:06 – Court of Appeals M…
Click on the above heading for the rest of the CJ Post.
Categories: Ethics, Government, Opinions and Editorials
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are inappropriate, offensive or off-topic.
And former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Greene made it easy by tucking envelopes into the
paycheck of each employee that bore their names and a calculation of 2 percent of their pay.
But times have changed.
Today, it seems heavy-handed, if not outright wrong, for elected bosses to suggest employees
must donate a fixed amount for the privilege of keeping their jobs.
So Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has come up with a new euphemism for
employee support, calling it “loyalty.”
“I tell people that I hire that I seek competency, diligence and loyalty,” he told The CourierJournal’s
Andrew Wolfson. “And loyalty means they support me and this office in all things we
do, including my election.”
His staff of nearly 400, including 120 prosecutors, has been amazingly loyal, according to
campaign finance records of Mr. O’Connell, a Democrat who is running for re-election to his
second full term.
Nearly half of the $201,000 Mr. O’Connell has amassed since his last election in 2010 came
from assistant county attorneys and other employees in his office.
And this was for a race in which he didn’t even have an opponent until lawyer Karen
Faulkner stepped forward one day before last week’s filing deadline

Kentucky Judge Says Attorney’s Traffic School Can’t Dismiss 2,300 Cases

October 2, 2015


A Kentucky district court judge is challenging a county attorney’s revenue-generating traffic school in the state.

Kentucky news outlets report Judge Sean Delahanty is opposed to the operation of Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s traffic school which allows Louisville traffic violators to get their cases dismissed without having to pay court costs. The school, called Drive Safe Louisville, generates revenue to operate the county attorney’s office.

Delahanty has declined to dismiss charges against roughly 2,300 defendants who have graduated from the program, arguing the county attorney’s office has no right to dismiss charges without court costs also being applied.

According to reports, when the traffic program started, then-District Judge Ann Bailey Smith also declined to dismiss citations against motorists who completed the program, saying they must also pay court costs of $134. A state Supreme Court ruling filed in June, however, said Smith’s objections were rendered moot and allowed drivers to get their citations dismissed if they pay a fee and take O’Connell’s online program. The court dismissed an appeal by Smith last week.

Despite the court’s ruling, Delahanty set a Thursday hearing for five representative defendants, news outlets report. Delahanty said any order he issues will apply to all 2,300 cases that ended up in his court.

O’Connell said in court papers that the charges against all 2,300 should be dismissed based on the state Supreme Court’s ruling and added that Delahanty has no legal grounds for “cherry picking” five representatives.

According to reports, in the first 18 months of operation, 17,557 drivers completed O’Connell’s program, which generated about $2.6 million. About $1.3 million went to the county attorney’s office. The rest goes to a contractor that runs the program and to nine recipients including the state and local governments to fund local jails and other programs.

Police didn’t keep notes or record Scout’s claim against cop now accused of sexual abuse

Two Louisville police officers have been accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy participating in the police’s Explorer Program. Rachel Aretakis/Courier-Journal


Police did not thoroughly document an investigation into whether former Officer Kenneth Betts had improper contact with a 16-year-old Explorer Scout, according to records in a criminal sex abuse case against him and another former officer.

Also, at least one former police investigator who talked to the girl has questioned whether then-Lt. Curtis Flaherty should have been directing the 2013 investigation into her sexual harassment claims at all.

The department’s Public Integrity Unit did not record audio of the interview with the girl and her parents, the records show. And no police notes from the interview are known to exist, either.

Betts and another former officer, Brandon Wood, were indicted this year on several charges of sex abuse in connection with their time as advisers in the Explorer Scout program run by police. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The investigators should have at the very least documented the interview, said retired Capt. Buddy Dumeyer, who was the first commander of the department’s Public Integrity Unit. He also said the investigation shouldn’t have been led by Flaherty, who was head of the integrity unit but was also in charge of the Explorer program for youths interested in law enforcement.

The girl’s mother alleges that Flaherty urged the family to keep quiet about the situation, according to court records.

“If it was something I was involved in, Explorers or anything else, I would say it is best that I recuse myself from being involved in that investigation and let my boss oversee it so that there was no potential conflict of interest,”  Dumeyer said.

Police Chief Steve Conrad’s office declined to comment for this story when contacted by email. Louisville police spokesman Dwight Mitchell said the Courier-Journal’s questions “would require a response that would be premature for us to make” because of the criminal case against Betts and Wood.

Former Explorers in the program have told the Courier-Journal that Flaherty and Betts had a close relationship. The two had known each other since Betts was in the Explorer program, and Flaherty wrote a recommendation letter when Betts joined the force in 2006.

Attorney Lee Sitlinger, who is representing Flaherty, said in an Oct. 14 email that he had not reviewed the documents in the criminal case but that his client was always careful to recuse himself from situations where a potential conflict existed.

Sitlinger said Flaherty — who retired Aug. 1 at the rank of major — took immediate action upon learning of the girl’s allegation.

Attorney David Yates, who has filed a civil suit on behalf of a former Explorer alleging that the police tried to conceal sex abuse in the program, said the documents show Flaherty is entrenched in a cover-up.

“It falls right in line with what I’ve been saying for months that very bad people abused their authority and hurt children, and other people helped them cover it up,” said Yates, who is also the Metro Council president.

When the mother of the teen was re-interviewed by police in 2016, she said Betts had sent her daughter photos of himself “half-dressed” and that the photos were “just kind of sexual-looking pictures.”

But because the 2013 interview was not documented or recorded, it is unknown “what questions may have been asked or what statements were made” by the girl or her mother at the time, according to the court records.

The three officers at the 2013 interview, which occurred in the family’s home, were former integrity unit Sgts. Jacqueline Smith and John Polin and Officer Julie Schmidt, who was an adviser in the Explorer program.

Smith and Polin, who now works in Mayor Greg Fischer’s security detail, said they didn’t record the interview. Smith told investigators last year that she probably took notes on the interview but couldn’t locate them.

Polin referred all questions to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Smith and Schmidt, who has since retired, could not be reached for comment.

In the documents, Schmidt said she attended the interview with the female Explorer at the girl’s request. She told investigators last year that she remembered the girl being very upset about the texts, which Schmidt said included Betts asking the girl to meet him behind a church.

Schmidt said she didn’t remember anybody taking notes.

Dumeyer said that during his time as commander of the Public Integrity Unit, investigators always documented their interviews in some way once a serious allegation was made. He said there were exceptions to recording them, such as when officers are working with uncooperative witnesses or victims at their home, but that written notes were used as a substitute.

“In almost every interview our standard practice was to record all interviews of potential witnesses and victims,” Dumeyer said. “You generally almost always take notes because I can never remember not taking notes.”

Smith, the former integrity unit sergeant, also told investigators that she thought in hindsight that Flaherty wasn’t the best person to make any decisions about the investigation, according to court documents.

Dumeyer told the Courier-Journal it would have been in the police department’s best interest for Flaherty to have turned that initial interview over to a supervisor.

“On that particular part I’m just going to be real frank with you, I would have talked to my boss. … And I think my major would have said, ‘Buddy you’re out,’ ” he said. “And I think in that type of situation you want to have eyes and investigators looking at it who have no connection to the program itself to again avoid any potential conflict of interest.”

Smith, Polin and Schmidt all told investigators last October that after the interview with the girl, they found the situation “highly inappropriate” but didn’t think it rose to the level of a crime, according to the documents.

Smith said she informed Flaherty of the situation after leaving the girl’s home and that she thinks there was a meeting with Flaherty a few days later. Smith says she cannot recall anything discussed at the meeting, only that it was decided the case be forwarded to the Professional Standards Unit, court records show.

In July 2013, Chief Steve Conrad opened a Professional Standards Unit investigation into the girl’s allegation.

Smith, whose son was in the Explorer program, also told investigators last year that she had heard rumors about Betts having inappropriate contact with other Explorers but couldn’t remember if that was before or after interviewing the girl.

Polin told the police investigators he was “surprised to learn there was not a case file prepared for the incident involving Officer Betts” and the female Scout.

Schmidt told investigators she had heard rumors that Officer Wood would have parties at his house and invited Explorers. She said she never brought those rumors to Flaherty’s attention.

The court documents say Schmidt couldn’t recall hearing any rumors about Betts last year, but police noted that she admitted to hearing rumors about “inappropriate conduct” between Betts and past Explorers in an earlier interview into the teenage girl’s allegations with the standards unit.

Other law enforcement officials who spoke with integrity unit investigators said they heard similar talk about Betts and Wood, according to court records.

Richmond Police Officer Casey Scott, a former Explorer, told Louisville investigators he had heard about Betts having an inappropriate sexual encounter with an Explorer.

And an unidentified Louisville officer, who is only identified as an officer in the 5th Division, said there were rumors of Betts trying to “hook up with an Explorer,” according to court records.

In April 2014, Conrad closed the investigation into the girl’s allegation, a month after Betts submitted his resignation. “No further action need be taken,” Conrad said in an internal memo.

Betts later became a reserve officer for Audubon Park Police and was a code enforcement officer for the city of Rolling Hills.  He no longer works for either one and was fired by Rolling Hills in April after the abuse allegations became public.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com.

WDRB: When did mayor learn about LMPD sex abuse allegations? Police chief deposition raises questions

Posted: Nov 22, 2017 4:35 PM ESTUpdated: Nov 22, 2017 5:00 PM EST

Louisville Mayor Greg FischerLouisville Mayor Greg Fischer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said multiple times in recent months that he first learned of sexual abuse allegations in the police department’s Explorer program in October 2016 – just before the scandal became public knowledge.

But in a deposition this week, Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said he first told Fischer’s chief of staff about the allegations of sex abuse in the police mentoring program in 2013 or 2014, when former Officer Kenneth Betts was under investigation for his involvement in the matter.

While questioned under oath on Tuesday, Conrad said he twice talked with Ellen Hesen, Fischer’s chief of staff, about the investigation into Betts at that time.

Conrad told attorney Thomas Clay he spoke with Hesen “during the beginning of the investigation” in 2013 and near the end, when Betts resigned in 2014.

Hesen did not tell the chief whether she passed along that information to the mayor, Conrad said during the deposition.

Clay said Conrad’s testimony appears to raise “a glaring inconsistency” as to when Fischer was informed of the allegations against the department.

Conrad’s deposition was completed as part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by LMPD Lt. Jimmy Harper, who claims he was demoted as retaliation for expressing concerns about the department’s management.

In July of 2013, an internal investigation was launched concerning allegations that Betts sent a 16-year-old girl shirtless pictures of himself and asked her to “make out.”

During that investigation, a male teenager told police investigators that Betts offered him money for sex.

There was never an investigation into what the male teen said, and Conrad closed the Betts case “by exception” when the officer resigned in 2014. Conrad wrote in a memo that “no further action was needed.”

In October, while under oath during a deposition in the same case, Fischer testified he had not been briefed on the status of LMPD’s investigation other than to say he was aware it was “ongoing.”

In March, Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Fischer, told WFPL that Fischer “didn’t know the full extent (of the allegations) until the lawsuit was filed that month.

On Tuesday, Conrad said he has met with Hesen two or three times since the investigation began in 2016 and talked with her on the phone about it “dozens” of times.

And Conrad said he met with Fischer himself in person once about the investigation in late 2016, though he did not remember the exact date. Hesen was the only other person present, Conrad testified.

The meeting with the mayor, Conrad said, occurred before Fischer suspended the Youth Explorer program in March, after a former Scout had alleged in a lawsuit that he was raped by two officers and police concealed it.

Poynter said he was unsure which investigation Fischer was being asked about when he said he had not talked with LMPD – the initial 2013 investigation into Betts or the ongoing criminal investigation which began in 2016.

He referred further comment on the mayor’s deposition to the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, which is representing the city in lawsuits filed by alleged victims of sex abuse.

A spokesman for the county attorney’s office did not return a phone message and text seeking comment on Wednesday.

Clay said he was planning to take Hesen’s deposition next.

In March, Fischer told reporters he wanted to “know is what the truth is, and then we will hold people accountable all along the way,” Fischer said. “Where the chips are going to fall, they’re going to fall.”

So far, four lawsuit have been filed against the city and police by alleged victims of sex abuse or misconduct by officers.

In addition, both Betts and former Officer Brandon Wood have been indicted on sex abuse charges.

Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

Ky. hospital turns tables, sues lawyers over multiple lawsuits

Jewish Hospital, Louisville, has turned the tables on two lawyers who filed nearly 100 lawsuits against it.The hospital is suing the two attorneys, claiming they never intended to take the cases to trial and were using publicity surrounding the lawsuits to force settlements.

Jeff Polson, spokesman for Jewish Hospital, said the lawsuit against the two lawyers, Joseph White and Michael O’Connell, is aimed at holding them accountable for “false allegations” they made.

“They were given multiple opportunities to substantiate their claims in court and they failed to do so,” Polson said.

White and O’Connell filed 96 lawsuits against Jewish Hospital, with the bulk of the cases involving allegations that patients were infected by a bacteria called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The two attorneys alleged that Jewish Hospital knew of the infections and did not warn patients, did surgery and housed patients in unclean rooms. Jewish Hospital denied the allegations and 84 of the 96 suits have been dismissed.

Gary Weiss, who represents White and his law firm, said the lawyers have done nothing wrong.

“The fact that you lose a case doesn’t mean that you didn’t have good cause to file it,” Weiss said.

James Grohmann, an attorney for O’Connell, said the lawsuit against the two attorneys should have never been filed.

White and O’Connell met with their clients in December, telling them they were withdrawing from the cases because they couldn’t afford to continue. The remaining cases will be dismissed if new lawyers are not found. — by the Associated Press

O’Connell reverses stance on naming plaintiffs in police sex-abuse case

After initially saying Thursday that former Explorer Scouts who allege abuse in the police youth program should not be allowed to remain anonymous, County Attorney Mike O’Connell backtracked later in the day, issuing a statement that said neither he nor Mayor Greg Fischer want to reveal their names.

O’Connell told reporters after a Jefferson Circuit Court hearing Thursday morning that for fairness, plaintiffs should be identified because police officers who are defendants are identified by name.

“The playing field needs to be leveled,” said O’Connell, who is representing the city in an effort initiated by the Courier-Journal to open a lawsuit filed by a former Scout identified only as N.C., who claimed he was sexually abused by two officers and that the police department concealed it.

But later O’Connell’s office issued a statement saying: “I want to be clear that neither I nor the city want any abuse victims’ identity to be made public” and any decision on that would be made by the court.

“My staff and I work tirelessly every day in the support of victims of sexual assault. Our pleadings, from the very start of this case, have demonstrated this commitment to protecting victims,” O’Connell said in the statement.

Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman delayed until May 3 her ruling on a motion by the Courier-Journal to unseal the March 8 lawsuit,  which was filed by attorney David Yates, who has said he has talked to other former Scouts who said they were abused.

McDonald-Burkman said she wants to hear arguments on whether the state law cited in sealing the lawsuit is unconstitutional.

The law says if a suit is filed alleging an act of child sexual assault or abuse occurred more than five years prior to the date of the lawsuit, the complaint shall be immediately sealed and all filings in the case shall remain sealed if the defendant wins the case and wants it to remain confidential. The only exception is if a higher court orders the case opened.

One of the Courier-Journal’s attorneys, Jon Fleischaker, said the law is invalid because it mandates that suits filed on behalf of alleged childhood sex-abuse victims automatically be sealed, without a hearing, which higher courts have said is not allowed.

The Courier-Journal, which typically does not name victims of sexual abuse in criminal cases, is seeking to unseal the lawsuit but not for the purpose of publishing the names of any plaintiffs, said Executive Editor Joel Christopher. The news organization wants the suit to be open to have access to any additional filings made in the case, Christopher said.

O’Connell said Thursday morning that N.C.’s case should be open because the allegations are serious and the public has a right to know about them. He told reporters afterward that the law cited by Yates in getting the suit sealed was intended to protect defendants, not alleged victims.

Yates, who is also president of the Metro Council, told McDonald-Burkman that he doesn’t necessarily think the statute is constitutional but that the identity of his client — and others he claims to represent — should be protected. Another circuit judge, Barry Willett, previously struck down the state law, but McDonald-Burkman said his decision is not binding in her courtroom.

“There is no public purpose in having them named and victimized again,” Yates said during the hearing.

The Courier-Journal obtained a copy of the suit and reported on its allegations, which include that Wood and Betts sexually abused N.C. in police cruisers and made pornographic videos of their alleged misconduct. The suit also names as defendants Maj. Curtis Flaherty, who supervised the Explorer program for youths interested in law enforcement; and the Boy Scouts of America, which helped run the program.

Last week WDRB Media also filed to unseal the lawsuit, saying it is adopting the Courier-Journal’s arguments that the public has a right to know.

Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at 502-582-7189 or awolfson@courier-journal.com. Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com.

Courier-Journal: County attorney accused of ‘political stunt,’ he says 2 councilmen are breaking the law

Phillip M. Bailey, Louisville Courier JournalPublished 11:08 a.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018 | Updated 4:52 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell is once again locking horns with Metro Councilman David Yates by claiming he has a conflict of interest in a court case.

Only this time O’Connell is making the same accusation against Councilman Brent Ackerson, who will be his opponent in the Democratic primary for county attorney. If O’Connell prevails, the councilmen could lose out on hundreds of thousands in legal fees for representing two severely injured EMS workers.

The dust-up stems from a case in which Ackerson and Yates, who have separate private law firms, are suing an auto company on behalf of their clients after one of its employees — an alleged drunken driver — hit a city ambulance in a head-on collision during an emergency run.

The driver, who died in the crash, and the auto company had no assets, but the company did have a $1 million insurance policy.

In a motion filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on Wednesday, O’Connell’s office claims Ackerson and Yates should be barred from collecting legal fees from their clients. The county attorney says the council members are breaking state law, which carries a fine up to $5,000, that forbids local officials from being involved in a case in which the city has an interest.

But Ackerson and Yates assert that the suit was against the auto company, and that the city has no financial interest in the case beyond Louisville government’s wrecked ambulance vehicle.

“This is a political stunt by Mike to try to get me to look bad in the press and a retaliation by Mike against me for running against him,” said Ackerson, D-26th District.

Yates said O’Connell still has bad blood from their clash over the Explorer sex abuse scandal. O’Connell argued that Yates had a conflict of interest in that case because he couldn’t sue the city and stand to personally profit while serving on the council.

In January, Yates was disqualified by a judge from representing several former Scouts who allege they were sexually abused and harassed by Louisville police officers. He said the county attorney is using his public office to harm Yates’ private practice.

“For them to challenge the fees, I think anyone who is paying attention will understand there are ill motives here and that this is a political play to try and tarnish an opponent,” Yates, D-25th, said Friday. “There’s been no love loss between me and O’Connell’s office since I challenged his reasoning with regards to the victims of child sex abuse.”

Yates is endorsing Ackerson in the Democratic primary for county attorney.

Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson speaks during a press conference with members of the Democratic Caucus about current legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly and the “War On Louisville”. March 2, 2017 (Photo: By Michael Clevenger, C-J)

The Louisville government spent about $1.7 million on workers’ compensation, medical care, lost wages and other costs for the two EMTs, John Morgan and Johnathan Johnson, according to the county attorney’s office.

Morgan, who is being represented by Ackerson, was in the passenger seat of the ambulance and suffered a crushing wound to his leg that later resulted in amputation, according to court records. The arbitrator said he suffered $5.6 million in damages alone.

Under state law, a third party, which in this case would be the city, isn’t entitled to recover expenses unless the victims are made whole.

The city claims it has a right to some of that money, but O’Connell’s office said it won’t seek any as long as Ackerson and Yates do not collect their fees. His office cites the EMTs’ pain and suffering, adding that the city has “significant interest in seeing them recover as much as possible in an attempt to be made whole.”

The county attorney’s motion said the EMTs should be paid about $612,900 from the pool of the auto company’s insurance money. But it argues that the court should withhold the roughly $364,600 the city estimates will be paid to Ackerson and Yates.

Citing state law, O’Connell’s office said in its motion Wednesday that two council members cannot have claim to a pool of money before the city they represent collects. It adds that as council members, Ackerson and Yates, “should be interested in recovery on behalf of the government they represent” rather than themselves.

Ackerson obtained an opinion from the Metro Ethics Commission, which oversees those guidelines for city officials, that affirmed in July 2017 that he was “acting as a private attorney” and had no conflict.

He also said that O’Connell’s assistants acknowledged in a letter that month that while the county attorney’s office believed there was a conflict of interest, it was irrelevant to the case. Ackerson noted that was before he filed to run for county attorney.

“The only wrong I have committed is to have the audacity to challenge Mike O’Connell for an office that he believes he’s entitled to,” Ackerson said. “For that wrong I will not apologize nor will I concede ground to.”

O’Connell spokesman Josh Abner said the motions, “speak for themselves in that (state law) controls this purely legal question.”

David Yates, Metro Council President. March 2, 2017 (Photo: By Michael Clevenger, C-J)

His office claims Yates is seeking a whopping 45 percent of his client’s damages while Ackerson is seeking 33 percent. The court records say Ackerson acknowledged that was his fee but that Yates had not responded to their inquiry.

Yates told Courier Journal on Friday that the amount in the motion was “fabricated” by the county attorney. He said his fees are 33 percent prior to litigation and 38 percent afterward.

“That might be what Mr. O’Connell charged in his private practice but I charge less,” Yates said.

“If you contact any personal injury attorney you will find that these type matters are taken on contingency fees, usually 33 percent to 40 percent,” Ackerson said. “I took Morgan’s case at 33 percent, a reasonable fee under all the circumstances.”

In its motion, the county attorney also alleges that before filing the suit two years ago, Ackerson and Yates reached out to the city’s budget office asking if the city would waive its claims to the settlement.

O’Connell’s office said that request by itself wasn’t unusual but that it raises concerns because Ackerson and Yates are council members.

Ackerson told Courier Journal that the county attorney’s “motion is lying when it says” they reached out to the budget office. He said their case never involved Louisville government because the EMTs were no longer employed by the city when they took on the case.

Yates also denied that he approached the Office of Management and Budget about the city releasing its liens in the case.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/philb.