LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad answered questions under oath for several hours regarding a whistleblower case and about the department's Explorer Program child sex abuse scandal.
The lawsuit was filed by Lt. Jimmy Harper, who claims he was demoted in retaliation for speaking with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and council members about crime and the Explorer Program allegations.
During Tuesday's deposition, Conrad said he spoke to Fischer in a face-to-face meeting about the Explorer investigation in 2016. That seems to contradict a previous statement made by Fischer during his own deposition last month. During that sworn statement in October, the mayor said he'd learned about the investigation through reports from the media, not by LMPD.
+ "Have you been briefed by anyone in LMPD about the progress of the investigation?" Thomas Clay, Harper's attorney, asked Fischer during that deposition.
+ "No," Fischer replied. "I know it's ongoing."
+ "But other than that, that's all you know," Clay said.
+ "I'll wait for these investigations to play their course out," Fischer said.
+ "OK, so you haven't been briefed by anyone on LMPD about the status of that Explorer investigation?" Clay asked.
+ "No," Fischer said.
On Tuesday, Clay was limited in the types of questions he could ask Conrad about the Explorer case. That was a result of a judge's ruling Monday after the county attorney filed a motion trying to stop Clay from asking any Explorer-related questions at all. The judge ruled Clay could not ask specific questions about the investigation, but could ask about a timeline and actions taken by the department. Tuesday, Clay took that opportunity to ask Conrad if he'd had communications with the mayor about the Explorer case. Conrad did admit to a meeting, but did not go into specifics about what was discussed.
+ "Was that a face to face meeting, or was that telephonic?" Clay asked Conrad during the deposition's video recording.
+ "It was face to face," Conrad answered.
+ "Was anyone else present at that meeting?" Clay asked.
+ "Ms. Hesen," Conrad responded, speaking of Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen.
+ "Anybody else?"
+ "No," Conrad responded.
+ "Just the three of you?"
+ "Yes," Conrad answered.
Conrad said he did not remember having any other direct communication with Fischer about the Explorer program outside of that meeting. He did however say that he's spoken with Hesen on numerous occasions about the Explorer investigation.
+ "Ballpark figure of how many times, if you can give us one," Clay asked.
+ "Dozens," Conrad said.
Clay persisted in asking about the communication Conrad had with Fischer about the Explorer case.
+ "The meeting you had with the mayor, was that before or after the Explorer Program was suspended?" Clay asked. "Was the question clear?"
+ "Yes, sir, the question was clear. It would have been before it was suspended," Conrad said.
Fischer suspended the program in March 2017, after the first lawsuit was filed.
Conrad also was asked about former LMPD Major Curtis Flaherty, one of five officers mentioned in the Explorer Program lawsuits. Flaherty was the head of Special Operations, which includes the Professional Standards Unit and the Public Integrity Unit from August 2011 to August 2014. The unit was in charge of investigating the allegations against former officer Kenneth Betts. From there, Flaherty was promoted to major of the department's seventh division, and later to Community Relations. Flaherty was listed in the first lawsuit in March 2017. He was not placed on administrative duties or leave after those allegations arose against him. He retired on Aug. 1.
Tuesday, the chief stated he had the intentions of demoting Flaherty before Flaherty retired. He would not state the specific reasons for wanting to demote him.
The questioning continued about Harper, and the reasons why Conrad said he demoted him from major to lieutenant.
We did ask the mayor's office about the chief's and the mayor's statements about whether the mayor was briefed.
A spokesperson told us to consider the timeline of when the mayor says he was not briefed, and that of course their office knew about the investigation before the media did.
ABOUT JIMMY HARPER
The majority of the deposition was in relation to Lt. Jimmy Harper.
Harper believes he was demoted in retaliation for his involvement in a previous whistleblower case dating back to 2012. He believes part of the demotion was also because he spoke to Mayor Fischer about the chief's decision to dismantle the department's flex platoons. The mayor approached Harper to ask him about the department, Harper states. A few days later, he received a counseling statement in regards to that conversation.
Harper also contends the chief was upset because he had spoken to Councilman David James about crime and about the Explorer Program investigation, urging him to call the FBI.
Tuesday, the chief did acknowledge Harper was in fact demoted -- something the chief had declined to specify in a previous press conference.
On the demotion documents Conrad stated the reason was a reorganization of the department. During the deposition, Conrad listed other reasons why Harper was demoted.
Conrad stated Harper was not a team player.
"His consistent failure to being a team player, a member of my team, someone who was supportive of me," Conrad said.
He also spoke about how Harper did not sit with the command staff during a service for Fallen LMPD Officer Nick Rodman, choosing to sit with other officers instead.
Conrad stated he believed Harper was an excellent police officer, but not a good administrator. Conrad stated Harper did not follow, or chose to ignore some of his orders, including telling officers not to "call out" unless they thought they were going to "get into something," Conrad said.
"I believe this was a disagreement with a position that had been taken that he had a responsibility as a member of this staff to support," Conrad said.
Harper's attorney Thomas Clay says Harper was only praised for his work in his documented employee evaluations, and that the crime stats of his time as Major of the Second division would support that.