Politician found guilty, shamelessly bills taxpayers more than $100,000

By Around the Web

(Image by Meszárcsek Gergely from Pixabay)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Wire.]

By Adam Andrzejewski
Real Clear Wire

Topline: A councilwoman in Louisville, Kentucky was found guilty of defamation this April, but not before she billed city taxpayers $108,000 for her legal defense.

Key facts: Receipts obtained by Louisville Public Media showed that Louisville Metro Council Member Donna Purvis used public funds to defend herself in a lawsuit filed by her former legislative aide Denise Bentley.

The lawyers billed Louisville Metro $96,840 and the city also paid $11,455 for court reporter fees and other expenses.

Louisville Public Media says the city will likely also be billed for expenses from the five-day trial in April.

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A jury found that Purvis spread false rumors about Bentley forging timesheets to steal money from the city. Bentley, a former councilwoman herself, was awarded a symbolic $1 in damages.

Bentley says the false rumors started after she refused to support Purvis’ reelection campaign because Purvis had publicly called her a “redbone,” a rude term for an African-American person with light skin.

Purvis’ lawyers were hired through the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office instead of being retained privately because the same lawyers were already representing both Purvis and Bentley in an unrelated ongoing lawsuit.

Kentucky law says the city must pay for Purvis’ defense, unless she “acted or failed to act because of fraud, malice, or corruption.”

Punitive damages are only awarded in Kentucky if “oppression, fraud or malice” are present, so it would seem that Louisville Metro could demand reimbursement. The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office declined to tell Louisville Public Media whether Purvis will repay the money to taxpayers.

Bentley is looking to recoup her own legal expenses, but she says she wants Purvis to pay for them, not taxpayers.

Still, Bentley’s lawyers said if the city offers to repay the expenses on Purvis’ behalf, then a “decision” will “need to be made.” That’s not a definitive guarantee that Bentley won’t accept taxpayer money.

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Supporting quote: “I don’t think it’s fair to say that all of these fees and expenses are solely related to the defamation claim,” Purvis’ lawyer said, explaining that Louisville Metro was initially a defendant in the lawsuit. “We prevailed on getting the wrongful termination and retaliation claims dismissed on summary judgment, so I think the fees were very well spent in that regard.”

Critical quote: “When someone who is in power, and other people listen to, says things about you that aren’t true, you are very, very vulnerable,” Bentley’s lawyer said. “It does sometimes take going the distance and getting a jury to absolve you, but when that happens the person who is wrong is the one who should have to pay up.”

Summary: Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the legal bills of public officials found guilty of defaming a political opponent.

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This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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