Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to release a redacted version of the long-anticipated investigative report on allegations of sexual abuse in the Youth Explorer program of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
The 90-page report — written by former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, who was hired by Mayor Greg Fischer last March — concluded that while “mistakes were made and policy was not rigidly followed,” there was not “a massive cover-up of misconduct in the senior ranks of the LMPD,” as some have asserted since the abuse scandal came to light.
The council members had not yet read the report when it was released to the public Wednesday evening, though they spent several hours in a closed session going over redactions to the report with their attorneys, along with the mayor’s attorneys and the Jefferson County Attorney’s office.
Harvey completed the report in March of this year, though Fischer’s office had since delayed the release of the report due to what they said were concerns about harming civil and criminal cases. Former LMPD Officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood have both been indicted on a charge of sexually abusing teens in the Explorer program, and six lawsuits have been filed by former Scouts alleging abuse.
The report called the misconduct by officers in the LMPD Explorer program “disturbing and unacceptable,” concluding that there are “lessons to be learned,” though also noting the work of many officers “striving mightily to do the right thing in the right way.”
An internal investigation into allegations about Betts was conducted in 2013 and closed the following year by LMPD Chief Steve Conrad after Betts submitted his resignation. The report indicates that Conrad said he told Fischer’s chief of staff, Ellen Hesen, about the investigation in late 2013 or early 2014, but the mayor says he only learned about the allegations of minors being sexually abused in the program in 2016.
The Harvey report does note a conflict of interest in the original internal investigation of Betts, as Officer Curtis Flaherty — who has been accused of covering up the abuse in lawsuits — was both an internal investigator involved in the case and the lead adviser of the Explorer program at the time. Also noted is the failure of the public integrity unit to forensically image the original accuser’s phone to obtain texts with Betts.
While the report states that the internal investigation of Betts prematurely concluded that there was no criminal case, it does conclude that it is a “false rumor” that Chief Conrad prematurely closed the investigation, as the matter was closed by exception due to Betts’ resignation. The report also says it is false that the mayor’s office improperly intervened with the criminal investigation of Wood that began in September 2016, accusing unnamed people of disseminating “demonstrably false” information alleging so.
Immediately after the meeting, Councilwoman Jessica Green, D-1, told the media that it was “shameful” that the report was withheld from the council and the public for so long, adding that she would never let her children join the Explorer program.
Council President David James, D-4, noted that while he had not yet read the report, Flaherty’s conflicts of interest were not appropriate, and internal investigators not obtaining texts on the Explorer’s phone was a “clear dropping of the ball.” However, James added that “the question is whether it was intentional or not,” which would matter.
Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, also questioned whether there was additional information that was not put into the report.
After his initial review of the report, Fischer released a statement Wednesday night that he is “deeply angry about the disturbing allegations of abuse against children outlined in the Harvey report, as well as violations of the community’s trust. It is also clear from our initial review that mistakes were made and must be addressed.”
The mayor also tweeted: “My team and I will further review this report and quickly begin implementing appropriate changes, in addition to the action we’ve already taken.”
Metro Council will have a committee meeting next week to further discuss the report and ask questions of Harvey and his investigators. Harvey was paid $141,743 to compile the report.
This story has been updated with Fischer’s statement.