Louisville lawmakers to begin process of removing Piagentini from Metro Council
A group of Metro Council members will band together to initiate the process of removing the chair of the council’s Republican caucus, Anthony Piagentini, in the wake of an ethics commission ruling that he broke the law.
Metro Council Member Cindi Fowler said Thursday that she and four council members are ready to push for Piagentini’s removal from office.
She declined to identify the council members.
She wants at least one Republican to join the effort, though the group of five is enough to proceed.
Fowler, a District 14 Democrat and chair of the council’s government oversight and accountability committee, held a press conference Thursday afternoon at City Hall to announce her plan. She said she’s invited Republican members to join her group. She said she will make a formal announcement about the removal proceedings next week. That could involve announcing formal charges against Piagentini.
She said she wants Republicans to tell her if they’ll join the committee by noon on Monday.
A spokesperson for the council’s Republican caucus declined to comment on Fowler’s announcement.
In order to remove a council member from office at least five council members must swear under oath that they believe Piagentini committed “misconduct, incapacity, or willful neglect,” then the full council will hold a public trial.
The move comes a week after the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission said Piagentini violated six different ethics laws when he took a job with a nonprofit immediately after helping it get a massive COVID-19 relief grant. The commission recommended removing Piagentini from office.
“The public expects us to do the right thing,” Fowler said. “There were recommendations handed down and I believe that those speak for themselves.”
The trial will operate similar to the ethics commission’s public hearing, which took place in August. The group of council members will argue why they think Piagentini should be removed, then he’ll get a chance to defend himself. Then, the council will vote. Piagentini will not be allowed to vote.
Fowler said at least 18 members must vote for removal in order for Piagentini to lose his seat on the council. Currently, 16 members are Democrats, one is an Independent and the rest are Republicans.
Piagentini declined to comment on Fowler's announcement.
Kevin Kramer, a District 11 Republican and vice-chair of the minority caucus, said he doesn’t know if any of council’s Republican members will join the charging committee to initiate the removal proceedings.
“I’ve not heard anyone in our caucus express an interest,” he said. “I don’t know what folks on my side of the aisle are thinking about this.”
A grant awarded, then taken away
Piagentini and Metro Council President Markus Winkler, a District 17 Democrat, sponsored the spending package in October 2022 that sent $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council.
Piagentini gushed in a council budget committee meeting that the proposal from the Healthcare CEO Council was just what the city needed. The group, a coalition of powerful healthcare executives, wanted the money to train entry level health care workers and prop up health care entrepreneurs.
The city received $388 million in federal COVID-19 funds. The Healthcare CEO Council’s project was the largest allocation of that pot approved by the Metro Council. And the vote was unanimous.
While he publicly supported the federal grant package, Piagentini was also jockeying for a job with the group, the ethics commission said.
He ultimately accepted a one-year consulting job with the Healthcare Council that pays $240,000 — signing the contract the day after the full Metro Council approved the spending deal.
The ethics commission said Piagentini used his officials position for personal gain and “took advantage of a perilous moment in government finance and did so with the intent to personally enrich himself.”
Piagentini denies he did anything wrong.
The day after the commission’s ruling, he went on the defensive. He held a press conference to say the commission was biased and unfair, and said he’d “rather die than accept what they’ve accused me of.”
He’s pledged to “fight” the commission’s ruling — which he can do by appealing to Jefferson Circuit Court — but has not yet made any formal attempt to do so.
Hours after Piagentini’s comments, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg rescinded the $40 million grant. Greenberg said he terminated the contracts with the Healthcare CEO Council following the ethics commission’s ruling.
“As public servants and elected officials, it’s our responsibility to reserve and uphold the community’s trust in our government and in ourselves,” Greenberg said.
He recommended reallocating much of those funds to public projects, while asking the Metro Council to send some to other nonprofits that were set to work with the Healthcare CEO Council.
Lily Burris contributed reporting. This story has been updated.