Politics & Government

Ethics commission to ask judge for clarification in Akers case

Shevawn Akers
Shevawn Akers

The Lexington ethics commission will ask a Fayette District Court judge for clarification on whether recently re-elected Councilwoman Shevawn Akers' criminal records can be used in an ethics case against her.

The Urban County Council Ethics Commission decided Thursday to seek a judge's order after discussing the matter for nearly 45 minutes behind closed doors.

Corey Dunn on behalf of Community Organizers of Lexington filed the complaint against Akers, saying that she violated the city's ethics rules when she was cited this year for a misdemeanor in relation to irregularities regarding signatures on her petition to run for council. Akers was charged with "unsworn falsification to authorities," a Class B misdemeanor.

To run for office, candidates must turn in 100 signatures of people in their district. The person who obtained the signatures is supposed to sign a form saying he or she obtained the signatures. There was a question on whether one of Akers' forms was signed by the appropriate person, officials said.

Akers was given diversion, which means that she does not have to serve jail time and the criminal charges against her would be expunged.

Akers won re-election Tuesday, beating challenger Michael Stuart by nearly 550 votes. Akers represents the 2nd District, which includes neighborhoods along Leestown Road.

She was first elected in 2012. Brannon Dunn, Corey Dunn's brother, was one of her opponents in the 2012 election.

Don Todd, a lawyer who represents Akers, asked the commission to dismiss the case, alleging that Dunn had no basis to file the complaint because the criminal records were expunged. Todd also argued that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the case because it did not involve Akers' conduct as a council member but related to conduct while she was running for council.

Allison Connelly, chairwoman of the ethics commission, said she did not believe that the order expunging the records included the ethics commission and added that even if the criminal case were expunged, Akers still could be held accountable for her actions.

Connelly also said Todd had failed to comply with an earlier order that said any motions had to be filed within 48 hours of Thursday's hearing. Todd filed one motion on Wednesday and a second motion at 3 p.m. Thursday. That did not give Dunn time to respond or prepare for Todd's motions, Connelly said. Dunn was not represented by lawyers in the ethics hearing.

Todd said that he was told late last month about Thursday's hearing and didn't have much time to prepare. But commission staff said they tried to contact Todd twice to schedule Thursday's hearing and he did not return phone calls. Todd said he never got the messages.

Dunn said Todd and Akers deliberately tried to delay the ethics hearing so it would not be held until after the records were expunged. Todd disagreed.

After the closed-door discussion, the commission decided to seek advice from District Court Judge Julie Goodman, who entered the diversion and expungement order, before proceeding with the ethics hearing. Connelly said the group needed further clarification on whether those records — which the commission obtained through the court — could be used in the ethics case against Akers.