Metro Council forming charging committee that could remove Piagentini from seat
The Louisville Metro Council has begun the process of forming a charging committee that could remove Piagentini from office, Councilwoman Cindi Fowler announced Thursday.
Typically, a charging committee has five members. At least four Democratic representatives have already volunteered, Fowler said. One spot is being reserved for a Republican representative, but another representative will be selected if none wish to be involved in the proceedings.
Fowler said she has asked for a Republican representative to step forward by Monday at noon.
The decision comes one week after the Ethics Commission found Piagentini in violation of six ethics charges, including using his office position for "unwarranted privileges or advantages," and recommended he be removed from office.
Piagentini's trial was over allegations he used his city position to land a $40 million grant for a nonprofit that then hired him. The Republican caucus chair took a one-year, $240,000 consulting job with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council a day after the American Rescue Plan funding was approved in December 2022.
He publicly recused himself as a sponsor and did not vote on the grant.
What happens next in the Piagentini trial?
Once the charging committee is officially formed, an investigation will begin. Another public hearing could then take place with the council sitting as a jury. Two-thirds of the council would then have to vote for Piagentini to be removed.
The commission cannot remove Piagentini from the council themselves, as that power lies with the Metro Council. Mayor Craig Greenberg could also play a role, since he is allowed to bring the matter before the council. However, given that the council is in the process of forming a charging committee themselves, it is now unlikely for Greenberg to act.
There are 26 members of Metro Council including Piagentini. If he is allowed a vote, 18 people would be required to vote "yes" for him to be removed. If not, only 17 "yes" votes would be required.
The difference is crucial. There are 16 Democrats and one independent on the council, meaning if Piagentini does not get a vote, he could be removed without Republican approval. If he does get one, assuming he votes against his own removal, at least one Republican would have to vote "yes."
Officials removed from office are unable to fill the vacated position at least until the end of their vacated term. For Piagentini, that would be Jan. 4, 2027.
How has Piagentini responded to the findings?
On Friday, Piagentini hosted a news conference where he said "the fix was in" for him from the beginning because the seven-member commission is not really bipartisan. Piagentini said he has plans to fight the decision "by using every legal means at my disposal."
Piagentini could take the case to the Jefferson Circuit Court or the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
At a press conference later that day, Mayor Craig Greenberg said he would reallocate the funds originally destined for the CEO Council.
Both press conferences can be found here as well.
Article originally published by Courier Journal.
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