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Metro Council Democrats will explore removing Anthony Piagentini over ethics violations

Five people standing at a lectern
Roberto Roldan
Five Louisville Metro Council Democrats will explore whether to bring removal proceedings against Council Member Anthony Piagentini, who was found guilty of ethics violations last month.

Some Metro Council Democrats announced plans Wednesday to form a five-member charging committee that will explore formal removal proceedings against the council’s top Republican, Anthony Piagentini.

Last month, Louisville’s Ethics Commission said Piagentini violated multiple ethics rules when he negotiated a consulting job with a health care nonprofit while advocating for the organization to receive a $40 million COVID-19 relief grant from federal funds given to the city. Piagentini, who heads Metro Council’s Republican caucus and represents District 19, has said he will fight the ruling, but the mayor already rescinded the grant.

Council Member Cindi Fowler, a Democrat representing District 14 in the South End, announced the formation of the five-member charging committee at a press conference Wednesday. She said she was saddened by her Republican colleagues’ refusal to participate.

“And it saddens me that there is no contrition from Councilman Piagentini for putting us in this position in the first place, while stacking the cost of the trial and these proceedings on the backs of taxpayers,” she said.

The committee includes Fowler, Paula McCraney, Betsy Ruhe, Pat Mulvihill and Andrew Owen, all Metro Council Democrats representing Districts 7, 9, 10, 14 and 21.

The group will spend the coming weeks reviewing the Ethics Commission investigation into Piagentini. State law requires five Metro Council members to bring formal charges against a representative to advance removal proceedings.

If the group brings charges, Metro Council will conduct its own ethics trial. A two-thirds vote, or a vote of 18 of 25 council members, is required to remove an elected official from office in Louisville.

McCraney said at the press conference that establishing this charging committee is not political.

“The charging committee simply wants to hear the facts,” she said. “We’ve heard from the Ethics Commission, but the beauty of this process is we get an opportunity, as a council, to look at the whole picture and to hear from our colleague.”

McCraney said she believes further investigation of the ethics violations by Piagentini is “an obligation.”

Piagentini issued a written statement after the press conference reiterating that he will “use all legal means available to address and correct the politically motivated findings” of the Ethics Commission. The East End representative previously called the investigation “a political hit job,” and he continued that line of attack. Piagentini accused Fowler of having “a singular focus on paying back Republicans for winning seats in last November’s election.”

“I understand that some of my colleagues want to learn more and that some might have signed onto this group with that intention,” Piagentini said. “If that is their intention, I welcome it, just as I have encouraged everyone to read the findings of the commission.”

Metro Council has held these kinds of formal removal proceedings twice before, in 2011 and in 2013, both times against Democrats. Council Member Judy Green was removed from office. District 2’s Barbara Shanklin narrowly avoided the same punishment.

Metro Council President Markus Winkler said Wednesday it’s possible formal charges won’t be brought against Piagentini until next year, meaning a trial may be months away.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Piagentini has not formally appealed the Ethics Commission ruling.

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