UPDATE – See video of the entire press conference by clicking here.
Original story below…
Right now, Louisville GOP Chairman Brad Cummings is holding a press conference about Louisville Mayor for Life Jerry Abramson and all of his misdeeds. No matter your political bent, Brad’s case is highly damaging and paints an honest picture of the Mayor that many would like to ignore. We believe 20 years of Jerry is plenty. Louisville has had enough. And it’s time to move on.
Take a look at Brad’s scathing indictment and connect the dots for yourself when it comes to wrongdoing and incompetence during Mayor McCheese’s years and years as King of Louisville. (We’ll have video in a bit)
We are a city of great culture, restaurants, people and industry. We have a proud sports tradition and a beautiful kindness of spirit. And in Louisville, with some hard work and persistence, the American Dream is alive and well. As a former struggling stage actor turned Jefferson County chairman, I can attest we truly are the ³Possibility City².
So it is because I love this city that I dare ask the difficult questions about our future, questions so many are asking themselves right now. And while I realize that to some folks my words will forever be seen as a partisan attack, I stand here as a fellow citizen personally invested in this community.
With the Mayoral elections being about a year and a half from now, we need to consider if we want 24 years of the same Mayor. As we work together, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, to make government more efficient and transparent, we have to ask if having a “Mayor for Life” is the best way to run our government. And with many bad marks on his resume in recent years, has Mayor Jerry Abramson and his administration performed at a high enough level to even deserve another four years of our tax dollars?
I ask the people of Louisville to let our Mayor know that 20 years is enough. Regardless of which political party wins next year and almost entirely because of his job performance, I call on our Mayor to step down after this term.
Peep the rest of the juicy, juicy after the jump…
Over the years, there have been many holes poked in the Abramson administration. But because of his likability and the fear of crossing a powerful Mayor, he continues to win reelection by admittedly large margins. But this brand of entrenched politics is precisely what is wrong with our government at all levels. I will present to you today many examples of poor judgment and wrongdoing during Jerry Abramson¹s years as Mayor of Louisville. Again, individually he has been able to shed these controversies. But presented together, they are not only shocking, but they paint a picture of a Mayor who needs to find a new line of work.
In his nearly 20 years at the helm of our city, have we become all that we can be, especially when compared to other cities of similar size and scope? The simple answer is an across the board no.
According to a study completed by Dr. Paul Coomes, an acclaimed Professor of Economics, Louisville falls short in nearly every measurable category when judged against 14 other comparable cities. When considering population growth between 1975 and 2005, we were 14th out of 15 and well below the national average. We experienced negative job growth in the housing boom years of 2000 and 2005 of -2.3%, ranking us 10th among the same group of 15.
Our jobs pay less. We ranked 13th out of 15 in average wages and salaries, below the national average by nearly $3,000. This dip below the average began in 1985, the first year Mayor Abramson took office. According to Forbes magazine in 2008, we now rank 72nd on a list of best cities for jobs behind struggling areas like Gary IN, Newark NJ and hurricane ravished New Orleans LA.
We also take home less from our paychecks. A family of three with a $75,000 income was hit with the 3rd highest tax rate among the list of 15. And among all cities in the US, we are the 5th most burdensome to families making $25,000 or less. That means our poorest citizens are more taxed than major metropolitan areas like Washington DC, New York City and Atlanta GA.
Yet our Mayor showed that he believes we should still bear more tax burden when he pushed for the library tax in 2007. No wonder this increase was resoundingly turned down by our citizens. We are already taxed too much!
My mother always told me that she could tell what type of person you are by the friends you keep and clearly the Mayor does not pass that test. The mismanagement of those closest to him is reason enough to question his abilities in the future.
Let¹s start with John Flood. In 1997, this former Chief Inspector for IPL being paid $70,000 a year by the taxpayers was convicted on felony charges of check fraud, charges Gov Patton refused to pardon.
In 2003, Mr. Flood was hired by Metro Government after his wife Madonna was elected to the Metro Council. Unfortunately for Mr. Flood, he had to swear under oath that he was not a convicted felon in order to start taking a salary from the taxpayers. Undisputedly, he lied under oath and was facing misdemeanor charges of false swearing when he suddenly retired and all charges were dropped.
Dr. Gilles Meloche, the man overseeing the Metro Animal Services Department, has made an embarrassment of a community who very much love their animals. As an owner of two dogs, it sickens me to hear how low the standard is when our pets are concerned. According to a recently filed lawsuit The Louisville Kennel Club, v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and numerous media reports, it is clear there has been much wrongdoing here.
At the Manslick Road location, Metro Animal Services was audited by the state government and found that 550 animals were living in a space made for 350. This is not an acceptable standard.
Under the leadership of Dr. Meloche, a man Abramson appointed and described as “the man for the job”, our city signed a contract with a disorganized and overpopulated AAA animal adoption service in a scheme to split profits without any oversight and without authorization.
Additionally, thousands of dollars in cash have gone virtually unaccounted for, much in the same vain as the housing investigation.
A Canadian by birth, Dr. Meloche is not a US citizen. Therefore, by Kentucky law, he is ineligible to hold his position as a peace officer. But this sort of legality is not taken seriously by the Mayor and Meloche continues to serve in his position.
This is a man who has shown a severe inability to communicate. When defending the Animal Ordinance, he admitted in testimony that poor people shouldn’t own dogs. If Dr. Meloche held his job in the private sector, these sorts of thoughtless answers would have him in serious heat. But not in Mayor Abramson¹s administration.
And again, the Mayor chose to hire someone with a more than questionable background. Dr. Meloche was fired by the Durham NC government after only 10 months of working there. When employed by the Tallahassee-Leon County government, Dr. Meloche pleaded guilty to improper record keeping when 27 bottles of steroids went unaccounted for. On four occasions, employees wrote letters to officials citing mistreatment of animals. And once when he brought a dog home with him after work, it was soon found dead due to an overdose of painkillers.
He eventually resigned claiming political reasons. But with a record like that, it’s hard to understand why a first-class city like Louisville would hire Meloche. Since when has the trash of other cities been an acceptable game plan for our future? We deserve better.
Most recently, Planning Director Charles Cash and Regulations Director Bill Schreck were involved in a secret meeting of the Board of Zoning Adjustments, a meeting they knew was a clear violation of Kentucky¹s Open Meetings law. In an email uncovered by Rick Redding at The Ville Voice, Mr. Cash suggested the secret meeting and acknowledged they would have to hide it to avoid the public notice. Mr. Schreck in a later email agreed with Mr. Cash.
This zoning case was to help a former Metro Employee get the correct zoning after the fact for a building he built without approval. Mr. Cash’s
department incorrectly issued a permit when it had been previously denied.
As a result, the chair of the Board of Zoning Adjustments resigned and accused Cash of not telling the truth when he asserted the board knew about the building. Furthermore, Cash, appointed by the Mayor, was merely given a slap on the wrist for knowingly breaking the law. And just yesterday, a new zoning infraction was uncovered regarding these two loyal Abramson employees.
In a time when the Mayor has induced a hiring freeze and when many Metro employees are forced into taking furlough days, Mayor Abramson rehired two recently former employees in Jane Driskell and Rick Johnstone. Creating new positions for both of these former employees of the taxpayer, our city is now on the hook for thousands more dollars as we have to pay into both of their retirements twice according to state law. Were these two employees so valuable that they had to be hired despite the fact thousands of taxpayer dollars would be wasted? In a town of so many talented people, I suspect not.
Under the leadership of Kimberly Bunton, former Director of Housing and Family Services, and her predecessor Melissa Barry who happens to be Abramson¹s cousin by marriage, $20 million in federal grants had been lost by the city. But as with many Abramson appointees, her shortcomings did not stop with incompetence.
It was uncovered by Dan Klepal of the Courier-Journal that Ms. Bunton had stolen nearly $2,000 from various funds, including the Children¹s Welfare Fund, to give to her mother for personal expenses. She stole money out of the taxpayer¹s pocket and only returned it once she was caught.
While the Mayor has an excuse for each of these hiring mistakes, it is clear with all of the facts laid out, this is a pattern of poor judgment and deceit that the people of Louisville do not deserve. Again, we can do better than this.
And finally, our Mayor has made business deals with outside corporations that are bad for Louisville and almost inexplicable in nature. For example, when dealing with the Maryland-based Cordish Company, the Mayor continuingly stuck it to the taxpayer.
We gave this out-of-town company a $1.8 million forgivable loan, originally intended for the Starks Building to expand 4th Street Live. When Cordish stopped paying their lease payment on that location, the money was allowed to be used towards what is now The Sports & Social Club and as long as Cordish operates a business in that space for 5 of the next 10 years, they never have to pay back that loan.
Additionally, we gave Cordish $2.5 million to plan the Center City project. While this money was officially intended to be used for marketing purposes, the parameters are so loose that the taxpayers of Louisville may be expensing Cordish plane flights between Maryland and Louisville and expensive client dinners. And worst of all, Cordish has the right to pull the plug on the project at any time and not be obligated to pay back a single dime.
We have also given Cordish $36 million in additional assets and loans towards the Center City project with no restrictions. While the original Center City claim was to make this a $435 million project, they have since cut that number in half and actually have no plan submitted as to what they intend to develop on this property, property they were given by Mayor Abramson for $1 a year over 149 years.
The parking lot at the Galleria was sold to Cordish for $2.7 million or $3,200 a space with no strings attached as to how they operated the garage. This is a garage we originally paid $6.8 million for and has been recently appraised at somewhere between $8 and $12 million. For those who would like to make the argument that we needed that money to help make up for a $20 million shortfall in the budget, they would have a point if the Mayor hadn’t turned around and bought another garage for $8.2 million at an astonishing $18,000 a space. Even in a good economy with budget surpluses, these two transactions make little sense and are extremely suspect.
But this is nothing new for our Mayor. During the first years of merger, Mayor Abramson made a reminiscently shady deal with Titan development, a former client of his when practicing law between mayoral terms. Another Maryland-based company, he gave Titan the former Naval Ordinance Station for $1 a year over 99 years with Metro Government only receiving 3% of the annual rental revenue, revenue Louisville owned 100% of before the deal.
Many other issues existed with this 2 person company in bad standing that could be detailed with more time, but to go down that road would ignore the principle violation. Mayor Abramson gave a very favorable business deal to a former client. This sort of ethical mushiness explains why the Mayor has been more than resistant to numerous good faith attempts by Councilman Ken Fleming, Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh and others to pass much needed ethics reform.
While this case against Mayor Abramson contains many examples of wrongdoings and poor judgments, it only scratches the surface and tells a small part of the story. Through his inexplicable actions, it is clear Jerry Abramson has taken his ³Mayor for Life² nickname to heart and whether it has been debris pick up after storms, road maintenance or cronyism, it is clear he stopped serving the interests of the people long ago.
We will have a strong and spirited debate next year about the direction of our great city. But there is one thing we should all agree on as citizens of this beautiful town. 20 years of Mayor Abramson is enough! Please Mr. Mayor, if you¹re listening, for the good of Louisville, step down. Don¹t let your ego get in the way of a better tomorrow for our citizens. We deserve better than that.