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Ethics Commission dismisses complaints against Councilwoman Hamilton

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission dismissed all four complaints against Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton on Thursday, which had been filed less than a week before her primary loss this May by an ally of the opposing candidate that defeated her.

Dawn Elliot, who co-hosts a radio show with the campaign manager of Hamilton’s victorious primary opponent Donna Purvis, filed a complaint with the commission six days before the primary. She asserted that the longtime councilwoman had violated the city’s code of conduct by using her office’s discretionary funds to buy $6,200 worth of Derby gala tickets used by herself and her family.

Elliot also asserted that Hamilton used her city email account for campaign purposes, paid her legislative aide for work she didn’t do, and used her office to have a debris cleared from the alley behind her house.

However, the Ethics Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to dismiss each charge, though indicating that they will issue a formal written reprimand to Hamilton within the next week over a technical violation relating to the use of her city email.

After the ruling, Hamilton issued a defiant statement that called out both the politically motivated ethics complaint just before the primary and the media’s coverage of that complaint — blaming her surprising defeat on both.

“I’m gratified that the Ethics Commission dismissed the complaints filed against me by my primary opponents’ associate the week before the May election and found no wrongdoing on my part,” stated Hamilton, who is serving in her fourth term as councilwoman. “The allegations, suspicion, and insinuation of wrongdoing covered in the (Courier Journal) and local media in the final days of the campaign was enough to damage my reputation and standing in the community and sufficient to cast enough doubt on my character and alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars to defeat me at the polls.”

Hamilton added that after 18 years of elected service, “such dirty political tactics are regrettable and the reason why many hold negative opinions of politics and why so many young people and committed citizens are discouraged from pursuing careers in public service.”

As Insider Louisville noted in an investigation the day after the ethics complaint was filed, the spokesmen of both the Democratic and Republican caucuses stated that Metro Council rules do not explicitly prohibit members from using Neighborhood Discretionary Funds to sponsor fundraising luncheons and use the tickets for themselves, their families and the legislative aides, as long as they disclose who will receive those tickets.

That report went on to note that Hamilton was far from the only council member to buy fundraising tickets with her office’s funds for personal use, as the majority of council members had done so over the past two years.

Since the beginning of 2017, council members have spent over $20,000 in NDF grants on tickets to fundraising galas that were either used by themselves, their aides, or the families of both, with that figure nearing $40,000 when including tickets that members gave away to their designated guests.

Elliott did not return an email from Insider about the Ethics Commission’s dismissal of her complaints.

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