Louisville Metro Council emails flagged as potential law violati - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville Metro Council emails flagged as potential law violation

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Louisville Metro Council members were warned Thursday that they might be breaking a law while debating a $10.10 minimum wage proposal.

An email chain started this week after disagreement over whether summer jobs would be exempt from forthcoming minimum wage legislation. Several council members began debating the issue electronically until Assistant County Attorney Bill O'Brien stepped in.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Economists, business owners weigh in on Louisville minimum wage proposal]

O'Brien said a judge may see the email chain as a violation of the state's Open Meetings Law, cautioning council members against having group emails about policy issues, said Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney's office.

“Formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret,” reads the Open Meetings law on the Kentucky Press Association's website.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Louisville Democrats to begin $10.10 minimum wage push]

Council President Jim King, a Democrat who started the online discussion and provided the emails to WAVE 3 News, said he couldn't believe the debate was a violation because the emails were part of the public record.

“Here we are working, trying to do good for the city and do our job, and we're criticized for communicating about something,” King said by phone.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Democrats to push minimum wage hike in Louisville pending AG's opinion]

The controversy began because of the latest sticking point over the $10.10 minimum wage, a policy all Metro Council Democrats have publicly backed but now disagree over how to implement.

Some Democrats support a tiered wage system, in which teenagers working summer jobs aren't subject to the same minimum wage as an adult.

“First we have to have the conversation with the County Attorney's office as to whether that's age discrimination,” Councilwoman Attica Scott, a Democrat who has pushed for a $10.10 minimum wage across Louisville, said Wednesday. “We want to do the right thing, and not exclude anyone knowing that's the wrong thing to do.”

The disagreement sparked the email chain, as Councilwoman Marianne Butler suggested exempting workers who have jobs for 120 or fewer days each year. Fellow Democrat David James questioned whether companies would simply begin hiring people 119 days at a time.

Democratic Councilman Tom Owen recommended a 100-day probationary period before the higher minimum wage would begin.

King cited Michigan as an example of a two-tiered system where 16- and 17-year-olds may be paid 85 percent of the minimum hourly rate.

King said the email issue had larger consequences than just the minimum wage debate; members regularly email each other about policy discussions between the council's biweekly meetings. King said a prohibition on email could “stifle” the amount of work the council could finish.

“I don't know what the answer's going to be,” he said. “We'll have to try to work out something else if we can't email each other. This could affect not just the council but committee work.”

Scott has said the minimum wage ordinance she introduces will exempt businesses with fewer than 10 employees because of concerns about how paying the higher wage would impact owners.

It would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2017 in a series of three steps, Scott said.

Scott would need to file the ordinance by Monday for it to be formally introduced and assigned to a committee at Metro Council's Sept. 11 meeting, King said.

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