Potential lawsuits threaten millions of Kentucky taxpayer dollars

(Source: WAVE 3 News)
(Source: WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Jan. 30, 2020 at 4:11 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville is facing a number of lawsuits in addition to LMPD’s child sex abuse scandal that could reach costs well into millions of dollars.

People sounded off after WAVE3 News’ exclusive Troubleshooter Investigation which found that the city has already been billed nearly half a million dollars to cover the attorney fees to defend the officers in the Explorer lawsuit. Especially since two people in the lawsuit have already been convicted as sexual predators.

After the Troubleshooter’s first investigation, we decided to go deeper and take a look at other lawsuits against the city which aren’t over yet. We found a number of them on the pipeline, worrying city leaders across party lines.

“Does the taxpayer have the full visibility to what’s going on?” Council member Anthony Piagentini asked. “I have a serious concerns with how much money we’re spending settling these things and what that means related to the leadership of our city?”

Other active lawsuits include: one filed by Terry Whitehead, an inmate who was assaulted by two LMDC Corrections Officers and Ki’Anthony Tyus; a child killed in a crash after a police pursuit; and Tae-Ann Lee, a teenager who alleges he was wrongfully searched and handcuffed by police.

Another potential multi-million dollar lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Keith Hardin and Garr Clark against Louisville for the alleged actions of a former Homicide Detective, Mark Handy. Hardin and Clark’s convictions were overturned recently after spending more than 20 years in prison.

Then there are cases where judgments have already been made but not paid. One example is the case won by LMPD Officer Jill Hume. Hume alleged the department failed to protect her against another officer who she claimed stalked her and sent her sexually explicit pictures without her consent. Hume won $1.2 million. The city is appealing her case. Another example is the lawsuit filed by Tiffany Washington for a wrongful arrest. The jury recently awarded $2.25 million. That case also includes an additional nine plaintiffs whose cases haven't started yet.

"It has a financial impact on all the citizens and taxpayers in this community," David James said.

Mayor Greg Fischer told WAVE 3 News the "city's foundation financially is healthy" in relation to the payout. He said the city had to cut expenses because of pension requirements, but that it has a healthy rainy day fund.

Last year, Fischer closed libraries, pools and cut a police recruit class because of those financial concerns.

Fischer called concerns from Councilwoman Jessica Green the lawsuits could bankrupt the city, "ridiculous."

Through a series of emails and open records requests, the city said they have a trust and insurance in place to cover lawsuit payouts, even into the millions. They explained the city is part of a trust made up of 14 entities, called Louisville Area Governmental Trust, or LAGIT which would pay for part of the city's lawsuits. A secondary Insurance Carrier, the city said, would pick up an aggregate $10 million dollars per member, per policy year.

David James says that's only part of the story.

"Those insurance policies only cover to a certain amount and then we have to find the money to cover the rest," James said.

Piagentini and Council President David James told us they plan on getting a full understanding of how these lawsuits are getting paid, how the city's insurance policy is applied and where tax payer money is going.

Piagentini is the Vice Chair of the Government Accountability Committee which has subpoena power. He working on legislation that would require the council receive reports about the lawsuits, settlements and payouts regularly.

Jessica Green, Piagentini and James all agree it's the victims in LMPD's Explorer case who have already paid a huge price. They are also upset that the city is now in a position where taxpayers are picking up the attorney bills for two convicted sex offenders.

"We are using taxpayer dollars to pay for bad acts where people have already been found guilty of committing bad acts," James said. "I'm not sure why we're doing that."

The County Attorney's office said they're obligated to pay the legal fees for those two convicted officers because the abuse happened in their official capacity. James says that's not necessarily true, if they broke city law.

Tuesday, before WAVE 3 News' first investigation aired, a spokesperson for Mayor Greg Fischer asked us to not run the story because of their disagreement with Councilwoman Green's concerns about bankruptcy and their fear the story would paint the city's finances in a negative light. That incident was not the first time the same spokesperson has asked WAVE 3 News to not run a story.

WAVE 3 News declined and ran the story, offering the Mayor’s Office another opportunity to share relevant information with viewers. WAVE 3 News reached out for comment again for this story, they declined.

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