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Greenberg pushing back on allegation of nepotism in mayor’s office

Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks at a lectern with hands raised
J. Tyler Franklin
/
LPM
Mayor Craig Greenberg speaking at a press conference on Oct. 20, 2023.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg is asking the city’s Ethics Commission to dismiss a complaint alleging his wife’s role within his administration violates nepotism rules. The complaint also raises concerns about his handling of a summer internship program.

Malcomb Haming, a former executive director of the Jefferson County Republican Party, asked the Ethics Commission to investigate Greenberg in October. The complaint was based entirely on reporting by the Courier Journal published early this year. The newspaper found Greenberg’s wife Rachel has taken an outsized role in city affairs. She’s been given a city-issued email address and uses office space in Metro Hall.

At a last-minute press briefing Thursday afternoon, Greenberg called the complaint “frivolous” and claimed Haming was motivated by a childhood grudge. He said his wife has been working, in a “volunteer role,” on important issues.

“She has served our community in so many ways, with a focus on supporting young people, on improving the education system” he said. “She has been invited to many events by organizations across this city that want her to bring her positive spirit and spread that among their constituents.”

Most recently, his wife helped launch the program Youth Ambassadors Leading Louisville, or Y.A.L.L, Greenberg said. It’s an initiative aimed at getting high school students engaged in volunteering and public service.

Greenberg also defended his administration’s decision to provide internships to the daughter of a top city official and the granddaughter of a wealthy donor through the city’s SummerWorks program. Applicants “who face barriers and come from disadvantaged backgrounds” are supposed to receive priority.

He said neither kid received “unwarranted privileges or advantages,” as Haming claims, because they met the requirements to participate and all interns were paid the same rate of $15 per hour.

“Everyone who was eligible for the SummerWorks program and wanted a job, got a job,” Greenberg said. “These allegations, again, are completely erroneous.”

Haming did not immediately respond to an email Thursday night requesting comment.

Greenberg told reporters he was planning to file a motion to dismiss the complaint with the Ethics Commission sometime before 10 p.m. His press secretary, Kevin Trager, said he was not aware of when the Ethics Commission would discuss the motion or rule on it. The Commission’s next meeting is Dec. 21.

While Greenberg did not provide copies of the motion during the briefing, his staff handed out a press release that detailed some of the issues he has with the complaint and the Courier Journal articles it was based on. He called the news reports “inaccurate” and said they lacked important context.

For example, one story published by the Courier Journal on Sept. 6 claimed Rachel Greenberg “gives orders to Metro Hall staffers.” That was based on two unnamed sources “with intimate knowledge of the situation,” according to the newspaper.

Greenberg said his wife does not supervise any city employees or have anyone who reports to her.

“Like the many other volunteers throughout Metro Government, she does interact with employees in connection with her volunteer activities, in accordance with the Ethics Rules,” Greenberg’s press release states.

The mayor also took issue with reports that Rachel Greenberg had an office in the Mayor’s Office in Metro Hall. He argued that the office space isn’t “dedicated solely for her use.”

Greenberg offered explanations for other aspects of his wife’s involvement, too. Her assigned parking space in front of Metro Hall is for “security reasons.” Her city-issued laptop and email address are to make sure activities comply with state open records laws. All of these things are allowed under the city’s ethics rules, he argued.

The decision on whether to dismiss the complaint against Greenberg or launch an investigation is now in the hands of the seven-member Ethics Commission. The commission is tasked with enforcing the city's Ethics Code, which sets rules for acceptable conduct by top city officials and elected leaders. It mostly deals with conflicts of interest.

Haming’s complaint against Greenberg was filed on the heels of another ethics scandal in city government.

After a months-long investigation, the Ethics Commission ruled in October that top Metro Council Republican Anthony Piagentini violated the ethics code when he negotiated a job with a nonprofit that was seeking a $40 million grant. Some of Piagentini’s colleagues on the council recently voted to move forward with removal proceedings against him.

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