Louisville Metro Council leader denies wrongdoing on day two of ethics trial
The Metro Council’s top Republican Anthony Piagentini says he did not use his official position to get a job with the nonprofit that he helped get a COVID-19 relief grant.
Piagentini, a District 19 Republican, has dismissed the allegations that he violated local ethics laws since the complaint was filed against him in early March.
He’s facing seven ethics charges for allegedly negotiating a job with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council while at the same time pushing a $40 million COVID-19 relief grant to the group.
Here's a rundown on the first day of the trial.
On Tuesday attorneys peppered Piagentini with questions about his relationship with Tammy York Day, the president and chief executive officer of the Healthcare CEO Council. York Day also testified on Tuesday.
The two first connected in November 2021, when Piagentini was a healthcare executive “deciding what to do next” and “wanting to network,” York Day said.
At the time she told him that the Healthcare CEO Council did not have an open position, she said.
In January of 2022, the same month the Healthcare CEO Council filed an application with Metro Council for COVID-19 relief funding, York Day said Piagentini sent her his resume.
Piagentini and Metro Council president Markus Winkler, a District 17 Democrat, ultimately sponsored the spending proposal for the Healthcare CEO Council.
York Day said she didn’t see anything wrong with offering a Metro Council member a job while her organization was in the process of securing a grant, as long as things were done properly.
During their testimony Tuesday, Piagentini and York Day framed the conversations they had prior to his support for the project as unrelated to a specific job opportunity.
Attorneys, however, pointed to an interview York Day had with an ethics commission investigator where she said she'd told a colleague “he was always in the back of my mind” for a position advising on health care policy.
Piagentini voted in support of the proposal during a November 17 meeting of the Metro Council’s budget committee. York Day sent Piagentini a non-disclosure agreement the same day via email. But Piagentini said he didn’t open the email until the next day.
York Day on Tuesday denied that the non-disclosure agreement indicated a job was being offered to Piagentini.
“There’s a lot of interest in the [Healthcare CEO] Council and what we do,” she told the Ethics Commission. “We don’t want things to get out prematurely.”
York Day said she had no conversations with Piagentini about a potential job before she sent the non-disclosure agreement.
Though the ethics trial is not a criminal procedure, the two sides presenting cases and questioning witnesses are akin to a prosecution and a defense.
Kent Wicker, an attorney for Kevin Fields, a local nonprofit leader who filed the initial complaint against Piagentini, is the primary prosecuting attorney at the trial.
Near the end of Tuesday’s morning session he asked York Day to explain how Piagentini would know to sign the non-disclosure agreement as a “principal consultant,” if the two had never before discussed a potential job.
York Day insisted that Piagentini was simply “a consultant,” not a principal consultant.
Piagentini said he just needed to put down a title and made something up.
“Principal consultant sounds a lot better than just consultant,” Piagentini said.
York Day said on Tuesday that when she talked to Piagentini on November 18 that he stressed the job offer from the Healthcare CEO Council was not connected to his support of their grant application, as prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors briefly called Louisville Deputy Mayor David James to the stand following York Day. James was the Metro Council president at the time of the final vote to award the $40 million grant to the Healthcare CEO Council.
James acknowledged that Piagentini had not described the nature of his conflict of interest when he recused himself from the final vote on Dec. 1 and he was surprised to later hear in news reports that Piagentini had taken a job with the Healthcare CEO Council.
Prosecutors asked James to explain how Piagentini could have removed himself as a co-sponsor of the legislation earlier — after he’d signed the non-disclosure agreement and before the full Metro Council voted on the proposal.
James agreed it was “as easy as typing out a few sentences” to the Metro Council Clerk’s Office.
The trial will continue Wednesday. Piagentini is set to continue testifying.