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August 18, 2010

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Facts, rumors and political innuendo

In a decision that backhands Metro government, the state’s division of unemployment insurance ruled the suspension of Public Works employee Eric Garrett — who filed a “whistleblower” lawsuit against the city earlier this year — was not backed up by sufficient evidence.

The city suspended Garrett without pay three months ago for supposedly threatening a co-worker. Those charges were made a week after he reported alleged mismanagement and financial waste within the department to city officials.

Last month, however, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training held a hearing that determined the city’s allegations lacked proper evidence and, in turn, awarded Garrett his unemployment benefits.

“The only other reason they would suspend him was filing a complaint against his boss, which is illegal by the way,” says Shane Sidebottom, Garrett’s attorney. “The city had an opportunity to present documents to show the suspension was warranted. The state looked at the evidence provided, and it was determined insufficient.”

In 2009, Garrett complained to Public Works Director Ted Pullen that the city wasn’t properly maintaining mechanical systems on city-owned buildings, a complaint he eventually took to city officials. Soon after, he was suspended for alleged misconduct.

Claiming retaliation, Garrett filed a civil lawsuit against Metro government. Now, the city is trying to force him to undergo psychiatric testing before returning to work, or risk losing his job altogether. In July, Sidebottom filed a motion in Jefferson County Circuit Court asking a judge to prohibit the city from ordering his client to take a mental health exam. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.

•••

In the race for mayor of Louisville, Democrat Greg Fischer will have a tough time calling Republican Hal Heiner a right-wing extremist if the GOP candidate keeps gaining Democratic support.

Last week, former mayoral primary candidate Shannon White — a Democrat — broke with party politics and endorsed Heiner, citing his experience and passion for the city.

“I met with both Greg and Hal, and that’s why today it is very important to endorse an energizing leader who I believe is the best choice as the next mayor,” White said at a press conference last week. “I hope people vote for the candidate and not just for the party.”

Given White came in fifth in the mayoral primary with only 2 percent of the vote, it’s unlikely her endorsement will carry much weight on Election Day. That said, the mayoral poll recently commissioned by WHAS-11 and The Courier-Journal showed 21 percent of Democrats surveyed already support Heiner.

The Heiner campaign is touting both the poll and the endorsement as a sign that he garners support from both sides of the aisle, reiterating that the GOP nominee is not “outside the mainstream,” as described by the Fischer camp.

“The Fischer campaign has been looking for something negative to say because they don’t have any ideas,” says Joe Burgan, Heiner’s campaign manager. “This is a lifelong Democrat supporting Hal, because it’s not about the partisan politics that Greg is trying to make this race about.”

•••

After narrowly missing the appointment for the Metro Council’s 6th District seat and being overlooked by the Jefferson County Democratic Party, Ken Herndon is filing to run as a write-in candidate in the fall election.

“The people of the 6th District were completely ignored throughout this process,” Herndon said in a statement to LEO. “It will not be an easy campaign, but it is very viable, particularly when people are sick of backroom deals made by people who don’t live in their district.”

After Councilman George Unseld’s sudden death in June, Herndon jockeyed for the appointment and came close to winning. However, the deadlocked council ultimately selected University of Louisville professor Deonte Hollowell, a registered independent, to fill the seat.

A few weeks later, a Democratic Party executive committee interviewed a number of applicants to run in November. Although Herndon carried several endorsements, the committee chose former Fraternal Order of Police president David James as the nominee.

For unclear reasons, Herndon blames Councilman Jim King, D-10, who is a friend of James, for the party’s decision. In a news release sent out earlier this week, he claimed the former mayoral candidate orchestrated the nomination behind the scenes.

During the interview process, King was rumored to have called committee members on James’ behalf, as many city lawmakers and district residents did for certain applicants. And even though King showed up at party headquarters to congratulate James after receiving the nomination, no arm-twisting has been alluded to until now.

Herndon was unavailable for further comment before press time.

“I welcome Ken to the race and the discussion,” James says. “I had been hearing since a day after the nomination process was over that he would be doing a write-in campaign.”

Even though registered voters in the district are 71 percent Democrat, Herndon’s write-in candidacy could split their vote, particularly in Old Louisville.

In 2008, Herndon — who is gay — narrowly lost a primary challenge against Unseld by 112 votes, due in part to a nasty, homophobic mailer, which Unseld adamantly denied any connection to. Since then, Herndon has remained popular in the district and has the resources to wage a formidable campaign in a crowded field.

Earlier this month, Hollowell filed paperwork to retain the seat and seek election as an independent. And a day before the deadline, the Louisville GOP-selected Candace Jaworski, an account manager at a local advertising firm, filed to run on the Republican ticket. 

Whistleblower & Support for Heiner

By thinknaloud
Eric Garrett is an intelligent and talented individual. Eric and others like him have been a real problem for Abramson’s corrupt administration for many years. In my opinion, the problem isn’t with employees like Garret, it’s the corrupt and inept bureaucrats Abramson has surrounded himself with. The shameless mistreatment and actual abuse of good employees by a Democratic administration is so egregious it demands a change in party administration. Especially when we have a level headed, experienced candidate in Hal Heiner. Given the level of dysfunction and corruption at City Hall, I applaud and join with fellow Democrat Shannon White in supporting Hal Heiner.