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As ethics trial looms, Louisville council member wants case dismissed

Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini addresses media
Jacob Ryan
Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini addresses media

Louisville Metro Council Member Anthony Piagentini wants the city’s ethics commission to dismiss the complaint against him and end their investigation before the findings are presented at a hearing set for early next month.

The Republican council member’s attorney filed a motion with the ethics commission last Thursday that requests the complaint be dismissed just weeks before the commission is set to hold a hearing to consider the evidence gathered during the months-long investigation into Piagentini.

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission opened their investigation in March after getting a sworn complaint that alleged Piagentini violated the rules when he helped a local health care nonprofit get a $40 million federal COVID-19 relief grant and then took a job with the group.

Piagentini co-sponsored the plan, urged his colleagues to support it and then took a consulting job with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council the day after the Metro Council approved the spending measure. Piagentini signed a one-year contract with the group of health care executives that will pay $240,000, according to records he filed with the ethics commission.

The city’s ethics ordinance bars council members from using their official position for unwarranted gain. Piagentini said he did nothing wrong.

The ethics commission is tentatively scheduled to begin the hearing proceedings July 6. The seven-member commission will meet next week to issue a ruling on Piagentini’s motion to dismiss the complaint.

Todd Lewis, the commission’s general counsel, said the body will seriously consider the motion, despite already having a trial date set. He said a motion to dismiss is a common court procedure.

Piagentini is the chair of the Metro Council’s minority Republican caucus. He represents District 19 in far eastern Jefferson County. He did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, J. Brooken Smith, also declined to comment.

A copy of the motion was not immediately available.

Earlier last week, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled that procedural records — like pleadings and motions — should be disclosed to the public. But records obtained in the course of the investigation — like subpoenas, reports and recommendations from investigators — could remain confidential until after the commission takes final action in the case.

Piagentini filed a lawsuit in May asking a judge to order the commission keep all records confidential.

Judge Tracy E. Davis said in her order issued last Tuesday that the public interest in the case outweighs the privacy interest Piagentini claimed. The judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit, despite a request to do so from the ethics commission.

Piagentini also claimed in the lawsuit that the ethics commission had violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by failing to provide proper notice of a public meeting. And last week he posted on Twitter that Judge Davis had agreed and “ruled that the Ethics Commission violated other important laws like the open meetings act.”

A screenshot of the order issued by Judge Tracy E. Davis outlining her response to accusations that the ethics commission violated the state's open meetings act.
Jefferson County Circuit Court
A screenshot of the order issued by Judge Tracy E. Davis outlining her response to accusations that the ethics commission violated the state's open meetings act.

But, in fact, Davis did not rule on that specific issue. Instead, she declined to take it up.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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