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Louisville mayor faces ethics complaint over jobs program, wife’s involvement in city affairs

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks at a lectern
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg downplayed the filing of an ethics complaint against him, in comments to members of the media on Oct. 20, 2023.

The ethics complaint filed against Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg is based on reporting from the Courier Journal that found his wife was working out of an office at Metro Hall and that the children of donors and friends had been hired for the Summerworks program.

Malcomb Haming, former director of the Jefferson County Republican Party, filed the complaint against Greenberg with the city’s Ethics Commission. It was first reported by WLKY. In the complaint, Haming wrote that he believes Greenberg violated Louisville's Ethics Code.

“There is evidence the Summerworks program was used inappropriately and the mayor used his position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages … for other persons,” he said in the complaint.

Those other people are Mariana Barzun, a donor to Greenberg’s campaign and head of Metro’s Office of Philanthropy, and Steve WIlson, Greenberg’s former boss at 21c Museum Hotels who chaired his inauguration committee earlier this year.

The Courier Journal reported in August that Wilson’s granddaughter and Barzun’s daughter were hired as interns through the city’s SummerWorks program. The program helps young people between the ages of 16 and 21 find job opportunities with local companies, nonprofits and government agencies. Applicants who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are supposed to be given priority.

The ethics complaint also takes aim at the role Greenberg’s wife, Rachel, has taken in his mayoral administration. A Courier Journal story in September said Rachel had an office in Metro Hall and a city-issued email address, and that she gave orders to city staffers. The Greenberg administration later admitted that she also had a city-issued phone and computer, and described her role as “an unpaid volunteer working on Mayoral initiatives.” Greenberg’s General Counsel David Kaplan denied Rachel managed any employees, despite a Metro Hall intern listing her job as Rachel’s assistant.

“It is quite clear the mayor has hired a member of his family in an official capacity,” Haming argued in his complaint. “Regardless if she is paid direct compensation, she is clearly using government resources in furtherance of her job.”

Haming asked Louisville’s Ethics Commission to immediately conduct “a thorough investigation.”

Greenberg was asked about the complaint at a press conference Friday afternoon, where he announced the city was pulling a $40 million grant from a local nonprofit because of ethics concerns. He said his office had yet to receive any formal notice of the complaint, but said he thought it was “a purposely timed distraction.”

“I am focused on the serious business of our city,” he said. “I’m focused on preserving $40 million of federal funds to invest in the future of our city.”

The federal funds Greenberg referenced are at the heart of an ethics complaint against Metro Council’s top Republican, Anthony Piagentini. On Thursday, the Ethics Commission said Piagentini violated city ethics rules when he sought a job with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, the nonprofit who applied for the grant.

At a separate press conference, Piagentini said the commission’s ruling was politically motivated.

“Let’s put it this way, the Ethics Commission had better treat [Greenberg] in precisely the same way they treated me or it will expose this for exactly what it is and that’s a partisan hit job,” he said.

Piagentini has vowed to fight the commission’s ruling and any attempt to remove him from office.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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