LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville Metro councilman defended the hiring of a personal friend who's accused of repeatedly using a racial slur at his previous job.
Councilman Dan Johnson hired Bryan Mathews as a legislative assistant within the past month. Mathews is also the elected Jefferson County judge executive, raising questions about whether he can legally hold both positions at once.
But the issue creating tension among Metro Council Democrats is the allegation that Mathews used the "N-word" while he was the executive director at The Kling Center, an Old Louisville nonprofit that provides free meals to impoverished senior citizens.
"I don't want to sound bitter but I'm very angry with what happened here," said Steve Gahafer, the organization's executive director.
Gahafer said the board voted 6-2 to remove Mathews in January, alleging that he repeatedly used the "N-word" and wasn't securing grants for the nonprofit center.
"His last words to me were, 'I guess you let the ghetto win,'" Gahafer said. "We serve poor people -- we don't care what color they are."
Mathews called the allegation "a ridiculous and malicious lie" before declining to comment further and hanging up the phone on WAVE 3 News.
Johnson admitted that Mathews had been a personal friend for years, but said he hired Mathews for his skills as a manager.
Johnson said Mathews never used the "N-word" and accused The Kling Center's directors of lying about the issue.
"The Kling Center threw him out at a certain councilman's demand," Johnson said, refusing to say which councilman he was referring to. "That councilman was worried someone was going to run against him who worked there at that place. That's why he got him fired. It had nothing to do with a racial slur."
Gahafer, at The Kling Center, didn't back down from his allegations.
"It's not a lie," Gahafer said. "He (Mathews) did it. He admitted it."
Johnson refused to provide a letter sent from the Jefferson County Attorney's office about whether Mathews could hold both his judge executive and legislative aide positions at once.
Johnson had asked for a legal opinion shortly before he hired Mathews, said Bill Patteson, a spokesman for County Attorney Mike O'Connell.
Patteson declined to provide the county attorney's response, citing attorney-client privilege. Johnson also cited privilege as the reason for not making the letter public, even though he has the right to disclose that information, Patteson said.
Johnson has asked the Commonwealth's Attorney for a second opinion on the matter.
"Once the Commonwealth's Attorney has made a decision, that's what we'll go on," Johnson said. "(Mathews) doesn't have an office that's paid as county judge (executive), he just works for me. And I think the Commonwealth's Attorney will see it that way."
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