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Louisville Metro Council member’s ethics trial ends, but the decision is delayed

Louisville Metro Council Member Anthony Piagentini and his attorney J. Brooken Smith have spent the week denying allegations that the council member broke ethics laws.
Lily Burris
Louisville Metro Council Member Anthony Piagentini and his attorney J. Brooken Smith have spent the week denying allegations that the council member broke ethics laws.

The city’s ethics commission won’t decide if Metro Council Member Anthony Piagentini broke ethics laws for at least another week. The commission first needs a copy of additional records and a transcript of the trial.

After three days of witness testimony, lawyers in the ethics trial for Louisville Metro Council Republican Anthony Piagentini shared their closing arguments on Thursday.

Here’s a recap of day one, day two and day three.

The trial centers on Piagentini’s involvement with a COVID-19 relief grant that the Metro Council awarded to a local healthcare nonprofit in December 2022.

Piagentini, a District 19 Republican, sponsored the spending plan, voted for it in a council committee meeting and then took a job with the nonprofit — the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council — the day after the plan passed the full Metro Council.

He’s facing seven counts of breaking local ethics laws. He denies he did anything wrong.

The ethics commission started deliberating Thursday following the closing arguments, but then recessed to await delivery of post-trial pleadings and an official transcript of the trial, said Todd F. Lewis, the commission’s general counsel. Attorneys will have a week to file the additional documents.

The closing arguments

Piagentini’s lawyer, J. Brooken Smith, said there isn't enough proof that shows the council member broke the rules and used his official position for unwarranted gain.

“Where’s the proof of a connection between the job and the grant?” Smith said. “Where’s the clear and convincing evidence of a connection between the job and the grant? I submit that there is none.”

Piagentini is also accused of failing to update his financial disclosure forms after he took the job with the Healthcare CEO Council. Local rules require Metro officers update the forms within 30 days if there is a “material change” in the source of their income. Piagentini started working for the Healthcare CEO Council in December 2022, but didn’t update his disclosure forms until he was questioned about the job by a KyCIR reporter in February of this year.

On Thursday, Smith asked the commission to “issue a ruling of mootness” since Piagentini updated his disclosure forms and “corrected the violation.”

Kent Wicker, an attorney for Kevin Fields — the local nonprofit leader who filed the initial complaint against Piagentini — said the council member should be found guilty of all charges.

“This is not a criminal case. You don’t have to find that Piagentini intended to take a bribe,” Wicker said. “All you have to find is that there were circumstances from which it could reasonably be inferred that the official position was the reason for the transaction.”

Wicker said Piagentini's attorney didn’t provide any evidence to support the claim that he did nothing wrong.

“(Piagentini’s) counsel has objected to everything in this case except the color of my tie,” Wicker said.

Wicker said Piagentini should be removed from the city's legislative body.

“His conduct is beneath the office of Metro Council,” Wicker said. “If there is any penalty less than that, then this proceeding hasn’t done anything but prove that cheating wins.”

Piagentini is the third Metro Council to face an ethics trial since 2011. In the previous cases, the ethics commission ruled the other two — council members Judy Green and Barbara Shanklin — both violated ethics laws. The Metro Council voted to remove Green in 2011. Shanklin is still a member of the Metro Council and represents District 2.

Investigative Reporter Lily Burris is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email Lily at lburris@lpm.org.

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