Ex-official, mother reject plea deals
February 2, 2011 – By Dan Klepal – The Courier-Journal
Plea agreements have been offered to former Louisville Metro Housing Director Kimberly Bunton and her mother, Vickie Smallwood, which would likely allow both women to avoid jail time in the felony theft cases against them.
The women, however, have rejected the offers.
The plea offers were revealed Tuesday at a pretrial hearing for both women. Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze set another hearing for April 11.
The offers include one-year sentences, which would most likely be served as probation but could be jail time; or five years of a diverted jail sentence with the charges being dismissed if each woman stays out of trouble while on diversion.
In either case, both women would have to plead guilty to the charges against them. Additionally, Bunton would have to agree not to contest the suspension of her law license; Smallwood would have to agree to testify against her daughter if that case were to go to trial.
“At this point, I anticipate this going to trial,” said Bunton’s attorney, Ryan Vantrease. “She’s has not done anything wrong, so she is not going to enter a guilty plea.”
Both women face identical counts of felony theft related to allegedly improper aid Smallwood received while Bunton led the department.
Smallwood allegedly received improper aid for utility expenses and mortgage assistance.
In a separate count against both women, Smallwood allegedly received more than $9,000 in a kickback of city funds from a nonprofit agency that entered into a personal services contract with the Housing Department while Bunton was director.
Bunton resigned in 2008 after The Courier-Journal raised questions about the amount of aid her mother had received.
Vantrease filed motions with the court Tuesday that ask for:
Bank records from the Jefferson County Children Welfare Fund, from which Bunton is accused of directing $500 to Smallwood for mortgage assistance.
The personnel file on former Community Action Partnership employee Rhonda Wooten, who told investigators that she processed much of the paperwork for aid to Smallwood. Wooten was forced to resign from the agency in July 2009 after admitting she submitted documents that showed an artificially high number of meals being served during the CAP summer lunch program.
Bank records for the CAP accounts out of which Smallwood allegedly received aid.
All material related to investigations of Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green and metro employees Melissa Mershon and Carol Butler. An audit found that Green’s youth summer jobs program employed several of her children or foster children, who collected 10 percent of the $35,000 grant the Metro Council awarded to the program.
Mershon and Butler resigned after a state audit found they had failed to comply with city purchasing rules when working on a book on the history of city neighborhoods. None of the three was charged criminally.
All work papers related to state and local audits of the Housing and Family Services Department for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
All documents for contracts over $9,000 awarded by local government between 2002 and 2010.
Vantrease also asked that the commonwealth attorney’s office be more specific about the evidence it plans to present at trial. There are 1,564 pages in the investigative file.
Bunton and Smallwood “are entitled to know what witnesses and evidence the commonwealth is going to produce at trial,” the motion says. “The commonwealth’s voluminous … discovery is entirely inconsistent with their scant response to their obligations.”
Regina Warren, division director for the city’s Department of Human Services, said the Children Welfare Fund was dissolved in 2009 and $44,499 was deposited in the department’s Emergency Assistance Fund, used to help families with rent or utility bills.
“The directive was that it be spent on families with children,” Warren said.
Reporter Dan Klepal can be reached at (502) 582-4475