Metro Council president asking for audit of expenses

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Some Louisville Metro Council members are under scrutiny for how they're spending tax money. City records show they're using their budgets to go shopping and buy groceries and gift cards. Now Council President Jim King (D-District 10) is asking County Attorney Mike O'Connell for a review.

King sent a letter to O'Connell on May 19 asking for advice about their polices and procedures. Specifically he wants clarification about what members can buy and what they can't. Republican Metro Council Member Kelly Downard (R-District 16) says Council members shouldn't be using city money to buy and give gift cards to their constituents.

"You buy a Kroger gift card for $25 or $30 or $40 or $50, and you give it to somebody. You might as well give them cash. I think it's illegal," Downard said.

Downard is on the Government Accountability & Ethics committee reviewing policy after an internal audit.

Every Council member has the option of getting a Kroger card to use for district business.

"Because from time to time Council members will host public meetings they'll want to put out a tray of cookies and some cookies," King said.

Published reports from the Office of Management and Budget show Council members have spent more than $3,000 during the past few years on gift cards. Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton (D-District 5) leads the pack spending more than $1,500.

In a statement sent to WAVE 3, Bryant Hamilton said, "There is nothing improper about buying Kroger gift cards under the Metro Council's current policies and procedures."

King admits to buying gift cards for constituents himself, but now he wants O'Connell to review the policy.

"We want everyone to know what they can and can't do, and frankly, when the media raises questions we have a duty to respond," O'Connell said.

Downard says there shouldn't be any confusion. The County Attorney's Office already said gifts aren't allowed under the Kentucky Constitution.

President King wants an opinion from the O'Connell of the following expenditures:

  • Stamps /postage used to mail letters from district offices
  • Debit cards used for constituent awards to promote goodwill
  • Food and Drink used at public meetings and district meetings
  • Banquet tickets used by a Council member personally if the banquet is a public meeting
  • Soft drinks, coffee and mints kept in Council offices for consumption by guests
  • Plaques, lapel pins, trophies or similar awards for civic service

King is also asking the internal auditor for a new audit on all spending including the purchases made at Kroger.

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