Metro Council committee advances vote of ‘no confidence’ against prison management – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
The Louisville Metro Board Public Safety Committee has voted to move forward with a vote of no confidence in downtown jail management following six deaths in detention since the end of November. The full Council is expected to take a final vote next week.
The resolution, which states Metro Council has lost faith in prison warden Dwayne Clark and its leadership team, is sponsored by council members David James of District 6, Amy Holton Stewart of District 25 and Mark Fox of District 13, all Democrats. The sponsors of the resolution also want Mayor Greg Fischer to fire Clark.
At Wednesday’s public safety committee meeting, Democratic District 7 council member Paula McCraney said that while it’s not the metro council’s job to manage city staff, she thinks it’s got to this point. She blamed the problems at the prison on Clark, but also on the mayor.
“I beg the [Fischer] administration to bring it together,” McCraney said. “Let’s work together so that no more lives are lost to incompetence, lack of understanding, lack of care or lack of leadership.”
In addition to the eruption of deaths inside the prison, officers from the Metro Corrections Syndicate also pointed out what they consider to be “dumpster fire” conditions in the facility. The union has been denouncing for months the chronic lack of staff, overcrowded dormitories and faulty equipment. Its members too passed their own resolution of censure Last year.
At a press conference in late January, the trio of board members pushing for the vote said there were currently more than 150 vacancies within Metro Corrections and officer morale plummeted to “dangerous levels”.
Holton Stewart also said prison management had repeatedly failed to tackle drug smuggling in the prison, despite the Metro Board’s approval of a budget adjustment in December that gave the prison 72 $000 to add two drug-sniffing dogs. Holton Stewart, who proposed the funding, said Metro Corrections officials were dragging their feet to get the dogs.
Metro Council does not have the power to hire or fire municipal department heads. The resolution of defiance can only add to the pressure on Fischer to make drastic changes to Metro Corrections.
Republican Councilwoman Marilyn Parker of District 18 said she feared the resolution was “tokenism.” Parker wondered if Fischer would take the vote seriously.
“Is something going to happen when we pass this resolution or will it just be another piece of paper that gets filed?” she said.
Parker declined to vote in favor of moving the resolution forward at the committee meeting, saying she wanted to take the time to vote in an informed manner.
District 1 council member Jessica Green, a Democrat, expressed a similar concern, saying she tends to shy away from “token legislation.” But Green said she felt she had to vote for after the latest death in custody.
“I have no confidence in [Clark]”, said Green. “And if this is to be a symbolic position that we take to let the public know that this is unacceptable, I am ready to vote for it today.
Fischer has not indicated that he wants to fire Clark or other members of Clark’s management team despite the impending vote. Jessica Wethington, a spokeswoman for Fischer, said in a statement to WFPL News last week that the resolution was not constructive.
“When the Council has worked with us on recent improvements to the prison, it has been helpful and appreciated,” Wethington said. “Today’s brief, however, is unnecessary and divisive, and an unnecessary distraction from the significant efforts that Director Clark and his team have made during this time of unprecedented challenges.”
Metro Council members said they received a letter from Fischer’s public services chief, Matt Golden, urging them not to push for Clark’s firing.
Louisville Metro and the Corrections Union recently reached an agreement on a new contract which includes an 8% pay raise and thousands of dollars in retention incentives and a pandemic bonus.