A lot of buzz has been generated since last night’s WAVE story on police chief Robert White’s compensation. In the story, Metro Council member Kelly Downard claimed the deal to reward Chief White the pension money he forfeited in North Carolina when he came to Louisville was done in secret, that “no one knew this was going on.”
It turns out, though, that details of White’s package were reported in local media. The deal is spelled out in a Dec. 19, 2002 C-J article by Joe Gerth. I spoke to a former local TV reporter, who did a story on White’s hiring, who told me “Everybody knew it back then, there was no secret whatsoever.”
He called the report on WAVE an example of “sensationalism” and called the story “unconscionable.”
Downard, in fact, was quoted in that 2002 C-J story, saying that White was “a great choice.” I spoke to him by phone today, and he maintains he didn’t know about White’s compensation package, though he did say that the type of deal White got was “not unusual.”
The issue will be front and center at today’s Government Accountability Committee meeting, which Downard chairs. But it’s sure hard to find evidence that anything secret was going on. The deal is detailed in several letters from Abramson to White, all of which seem to be standard stuff. The Administration seems to be simply following through with a deal it made in 2002.
Maybe Downard simply forgot, and saw an opportunity to criticize the Mayor for something that came up in the audit. Maybe he was focused on announcing he was out of the Mayor’s race. Still, Downard should have checked his facts before going on camera, and so should someone at WAVE.
WAVE’s presentation of the story, leading with the statement that the audit “raised a red flag” — was misleading at best. And its implication that the Administration was hiding something, at least in this instance, was wrong.