Fayette County

Lexington ethics commission dismisses complaint against council member Shevawn Akers

Shevawn Akers was re-elected last month to a second term as 2nd District representative.
Shevawn Akers was re-elected last month to a second term as 2nd District representative.

Lexington's ethics commission on Wednesday dismissed a complaint against Urban County Council member Shevawn Akers, saying there was not enough proof that she violated the city's ethics code.

Corey Dunn, on behalf of Community Organizers of Lexington, a nonprofit, filed the complaint, alleging Akers violated ethics rules when she was cited this year for a misdemeanor in relation to irregularities in signatures on her petition to run for council. Akers was charged with "unsworn falsification to authorities," a Class B misdemeanor. She was given diversion, meaning she did not have to serve jail time, and the criminal charges against her were expunged.

Because the records were expunged, any court records of the charges could not be used in the ethics case against Akers, the Urban County Ethics Commission ruled previously. That made proving Akers had violated the ethics code difficult.

During a hearing Wednesday night, Dunn referred to statements Akers made this year during a preliminary hearing before the ethics commission. That hearing occurred before the expungement order was entered, and Akers admitted she had been cited, Dunn said.

However, he did not submit the recording of the preliminary hearing to the commission or to Akers. An earlier order required that all evidence used during Wednesday's hearing be given to the commission by Dec. 3.

Dunn said that he thought he had told the commission he was going to use the recording when he picked it up and that he did not realize he had to submit it back to the commission to be used as evidence.

Allison Connelly, chairwoman of the ethics commission, said the case would have been difficult to prove even with the recording. Under current ethics code, Dunn would have to prove that being cited criminally for a campaign violation was a conflict of interest. Akers was charged for improprieties regarding several signatures on signature pages that she filed in January to run for re-election.

"There is no general misconduct provision in our ethics code," Connelly said. But the ethics commission will recommend that the Urban County Council modify the ethics code, including adding a provision that would cover misconduct, Connelly said.

Akers said after Wednesday's meeting that she was relieved and pleased that the charges against her have been dropped.

Brannon Dunn, Corey Dunn's brother, ran unsuccessfully against her in 2012. Akers won a second term in November; she represents the 2nd District, which includes neighborhoods along Leestown Road.

"It is unfortunate that my opponent from 2012 still holds a grudge against me and used the ethics commission to try and settle that vendetta," Akers said. "I am relieved to be free of this distraction and look forward to serving my district for another two years."

Corey Dunn said after the hearing that he didn't understand how an elected official with a misdemeanor charge could escape ethics charges. Dunn previously had said that his problems with Akers had to do with her violations of the law and were not based on politics.

"It's no surprise that people think the government is corrupt," Dunn said, adding that he might file another ethics complaints against Akers now that he understands the commission's rules.