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Top contender for Louisville's inspector general role has history of disputes

WLKY Louisville logo WLKY Louisville 10/23/2021
ed harness named ig candidate in louisville © Provided by WLKY Louisville ed harness named ig candidate in louisville

The top contender to fill Louisville's new role of inspector general, Ed Harness, is no stranger to conflict.

He resigned from his job in Albuquerque because of a dispute over his contract there. A former member of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Board claimed he had a "confrontational attitude."

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The head of the city's police union says he clashed with Harness plenty of times.

"But I will tell you that in my opinion, he was able to call balls, 'balls,' and strikes, 'strikes,' and he was always open to a back and forth and a dialogue," said Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association.

If approved by the Louisville Metro Council, Harness would take on a role similar to the one he is leaving in Albuquerque – investigating allegations of wrongdoing against Louisville Metro Police Department officers. The new office will work alongside the Civilian Review and Accountability Board.

Both were born out of the city's settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor.

In an interview with WLKY News, Harness defended his tenure in Albuquerque.

"I've had 29 bosses in six years, so that in and of itself can lead to different personalities, different points of view," he said, referring to the number of board members he worked with during that time.

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Louisville's Civilian Review and Accountability Board sifted through 154 applications before finally settling on Harness, said Metro Council member Paula McCraney, who worked closely with the board during the process.

On Tuesday, he was unveiled as the city's top pick for inspector general and praised for his experience. However, just days before, Harness told Albuquerque's Civilian Police Oversight Agency board he was resigning because that board refused to automatically renew his contract.

"This decision has permanently damaged the relationship between the agency and the board," Harness told the board during their Oct. 14 meeting.

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Harness also told the board their decision would hurt Albuquerque's progress on a federal consent decree the city entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice after a federal investigation found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Albuquerque Police Department.

"I must say this comes as a shock to all of us, I imagine, but we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and thank you for giving us this information tonight," said the board chair, Eric Olivas.

No other board members commented on Harness's resignation after the meeting.

Asked for an interview, Olivas told WLKY News via text message, "Unfortunately I don't think I have anything to add as the board and board members are limited in what we can say regarding personnel matters."

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Harness's contract dispute was not his first disagreement with board members.

When she resigned in 2019, former board member Chelsea Van Deventer accused Harness in her resignation letter of failing to adequately investigate allegations that APD officers botched a sexual abuse investigation.

"The Board should be concerned that Director Harness repeatedly insubordinated this body in his petulant attempts at winning a proxy war with the Board’s authority," she wrote. "The Board might recall that they sent this case back for further investigation over a year ago."

Van Deventer, who could not be reached for comment for this article, also wrote that Harness had a "confrontational attitude."

Former board member Joann Fine disagreed with Van Deventer's assessment.

"He had conflicts with her, there were conflicts with some other people," Fine said. "Some of that is personality, some of that is agendas involved, just like any arena like this, but I would not say he was alone in his conflict with board members."

As in many cities under similar circumstances, there were many disagreements in Albuquerque about how the city could best satisfy the terms of its federal consent decree with the DOJ, Fine said.

Harness was required to work closely with the DOJ in his oversight role, putting him in the middle of those disagreements, she said.

"I think it was a very hard position to be executive director in," she said.

For his part, Harness said he aims to thread those disagreements by "championing the process."

"In the position of oversight, when you're working with a board and you're also overseeing an agency, conflict is a part of it," he said.

READ THE FULL STORY:Top contender for Louisville's inspector general role has history of disputes

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