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‘The fix was in’: Piagentini says Louisville Metro Ethics investigation unfair

Piagentini denies ethics allegations
J. Tyler Franklin
Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini held a press conference on Friday, October 20, 2023 to dismiss ethics violations.

The Metro Council Republican says he will fight the commission’s ruling that he violated ethics laws. Anthony Piagentini said the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission members were biased against him and their investigation lacked the evidence needed to find he violated laws.

The commission on Thursday ruled that Piagentini broke the city’s ethics laws when he took a job with a nonprofit after helping the group get a $40 million COVID-19 relief grant.

As a result, the commission recommended that the Metro Council remove him from office.

The investigation into Piagentini began in March 2023 and was prompted by a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting account of how he took a job with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council after urging local lawmakers to approve the federal spending package for the group.

On Friday, Piagentini held a press conference at City Hall where he decried the commission’s ruling and pledged to fight.

"I'm not a perfect man, but I would rather die than accept what they accused me of,” he said.

He said the ethics commission lacked the political diversity to ensure a fair process. He said the Republicans on the commission had formerly been Democrats and that they had donated money to Democrats running for political office. He said they were “handpicked” by former Mayor Greg Fischer.

Piagentini cited a recent op-ed in the Courier Journal that was authored by the commission’s chair, saying Dee Pregliasco showed bias against Republicans.

And he said the commission repeatedly stonewalled his attempt to obtain public records related to the investigation.

“The fix was in from the beginning,” Piagentini said at the Friday press conference.

Jean Porter, a spokesperson for Fischer, said the commission members he appointed were approved by Metro Council "by virtue of their known and consistent reputation for integrity and their knowledge of local government affairs.”

"If Mr. Piagentini disagrees with the commission findings, he has many avenues to appeal beyond insulting those who’ve volunteered to serve our city as commission members," Porter said.

He did not say if he would appeal the ruling to Jefferson Circuit Court — which is allowed under the city’s ethics ordinance.

His attorney, J. Brooken Smith, said he would “take a close look” at seeking judicial review of the commission’s ruling.

The commission ruled that Piagentini violated six different ethics laws for using his official position to get a job with the powerful Healthcare CEO Council nonprofit.

The group applied for a COVID-19 relief grant last year, and Piagentini co-sponsored the spending plan that ultimately sent $40 million in federal funds to the group.

The commission found that Piagentini was also seeking a job with the group while he was publicly supporting the grant and urging his colleagues to do the same.

Local ethics lawsforbid council members from using their position for unwarranted gain.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said the violations against Piagentini were “serious” and that his administration would “respond swiftly.”

Greenberg has a press conference set for noon Friday to “make an announcement about Louisville’s share of the American Rescue Plan funding,” according to a press release.

The $40 million that went to the Healthcare CEO Council came from American Rescue Plan funds.

Colmon Elridge, the chair of the Kentucky Democrat Party, said Piagentini “sold out his constituents” and should resign in response to the commission’s findings.

“These violations rise above partisan politics. This is about right versus wrong. Public office is a public trust, and elected officials should be held to the highest ethical standards,” Elridge said in a statement sent via email Friday morning.

Don Fitzpatrick, the chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party, said the ethics commission's findings were an attack on Piagentini.

This story has been updated with additional comments.

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.
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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