Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, D-14

Metro Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, D-14, has called for a special discussion in a committee meeting on Tuesday regarding the initiation of an investigation into a state law that “prohibits a council member from holding office” in the state while “being a voting citizen elsewhere.”

Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, the chairman of the Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics Committee, told Insider Louisville that he did not know any details on what’s Fowler’s discussion at his committee meeting would consist of, but confirmed that it was focused on Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, D-21.

Lanshima stated on his Facebook page on Aug. 31 that he would be running for the House of Representatives next year in Nigeria, the country where he was born and emigrated from nearly two decades ago to attend Bellarmine University in Louisville.

Days before that announcement — when first asked by Insider about his website and Facebook page promoting his campaign in Nigeria and if he was indeed running — Lanshima first replied “Nigeria?” but then conceded that he was considering doing so.

In his Aug. 31 post, Lanshima stated that he would continue serving in his District 21 seat until his term expires in December, “providing the same quality service and leadership that D21 deserves.” He added that “for those who have asked, no I will not be spending the next 4 months campaigning in Nigeria.”

Despite those sentiments, Lanshima has been absent from city hall since mid-August, missing the last three Metro Council meetings and the last five meetings of the three committees he serves on. Since his defeat in the Democratic primary for the District 21 seat in May, Lanshima has missed the majority of council meetings and 10 of the 17 meetings of the committees that he serves on.

Lanshima has not replied to Facebook messages from Insider asking if he is aware of Fowler’s special discussion about his legal status on the council and why he has been absent from meetings over the past month and a half.

Councilman Vitalis Lanshima, D-21 | Photo by Joe Sonka

Democratic spokesman Tony Hyatt told Insider in August that Lanshima had spent several weeks in Nigeria after his primary loss, which corresponds with four meetings he missed in late June and July.

Hyatt told Insider on Tuesday that he is unsure if Lanshima knows about Fowler’s inquiry, as he and others have had trouble contacting the councilman lately and are unaware of his whereabouts.

“Honestly, no one really knows if he’s in or out of the country right now,” said Hyatt. “Personally, I have not seen him since mid-August.”

However, Lanshima’s legislative aide told Insider Tuesday morning that the councilman was “flying back into town today” and would have something to say about Fowler’s request.

Fowler would not reveal any specifics about what her special discussion would be about, only saying through Hyatt that “she would recommend you attend the meeting” on Tuesday. The special discussion on the committee’s agenda only states: “Initiate an Investigation into a State Law that Prohibits a Council Member Holding Office in the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Being a Voting Citizen Elsewhere.”

A review of the Kentucky statute regarding consolidated local government councils — 67C.103(6) — does not show any explicit prohibition on a council member having voting rights in another country, but does state that he or she “shall continue to reside within the district from which he or she was elected throughout the term of office.”

The statute also states that a council member must be at least 18 years old and be a resident of the area represented for at least one year before the election, in addition to being “a qualified voter.”

The Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics Committee is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Public Works Committee and the Planning, Zoning and Annexation Committee meet earlier in the afternoon, both of which Lanshima is a member of.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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