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.

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