Politics

How many meetings has your Metro Council representative missed this year?

It’s a question on some people’s minds this week, after District 21 Councilman Vitalis Lanshima was criticized by fellow council member for — among other things — missing about 20 meetings so far this year.

But Lanshima isn’t the only council person with absences in the double digits, according to a WFPL review of published minutes of both full Metro Council and committee meetings so far this year.

The council member with the worst record was Julie Denton of District 19. She had 25 excused absences to date in 2018.

“One of the reasons I chose not to run for [another term on] Metro Council is because my job is taking me out of town a lot, and that becomes problematic,” Denton said in a call returned late Friday afternoon. She noted she tried to not miss any full Metro Council meetings.

Denton serves on the Public Safety and Appointments committees and is vice chair of the Appropriations committee. This year, she missed four of 12 Appropriations meetings, seven of 11 Appointments meetings and five of 11 Public Safety meetings.

Denton is a registered lobbyist for Hosparus Health and others in Frankfort. She has earned $114,500 in that role so far this year, according to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

In 2011, while a state senator, Denton was reprimanded for skipping six of eight mandatory ethics training sessions. She was elected to the Metro Council in 2014. Her terms ends this year and she is not running for re-election.

“From my viewpoint, there are other members that have missed more meetings than I have. So if we are going to be on trial for the same thing, that’s fine. Let’s go ahead and do that,” Lanshima said at a government accountability meeting this week.

He missed 21 meetings this year, which included two unexcused absences, according to meeting minutes. Many of those were while he was in Nigeria, on vacation or receiving “consultations” for his 2019 campaign for the House of Representatives in his home country. Lanshima, whose term expires at the end of this year, announced the international political run after he lost the Democratic primary for Metro Council earlier this year. He was appointed by the Metro Council late last year to replace longtime Councilman Dan Johnson, who was removed by his peers after sexual harassment allegations.

Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, of District 14, earlier this week called for — then tabled — an investigation into the appropriateness of Lanshima’s Nigerian political campaign. She also raised concerns that constituents could not reach him while he was abroad, but did not provide evidence.

Lanshima defended himself earlier this week, saying the absences were excused. He said he and his legislative aides continued to serve District 21 constituents, and that no one who contacted his office by phone or email went unanswered.

Metro Council rules say council members have the responsibility to attend every meeting of every committee they serve on, District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander said at the government accountability meeting. But all “excused” means is that the Council member told someone ahead of time that they would not attend a meeting.

Council members don’t typically need to explain why they are missing a meeting to have their absence considered excused, he said.

“What happens with an excused absence is you send an email and say, ‘I’m not going to be there today.’ And the chair, pretty routinely, says, ‘OK, that’s an excused absence’ and reads that at the meeting,” Hollander said.

The Metro Council members with the best record so far this year are District 4’s Barbara Sexton Smith and Council president David James of District 6.

Each Metro Council member has been paid $37,015.72 to date in 2018, according to figures released by Louisville Metro.

Here’s a look every Metro Council person’s attendance record so far this year, for both committee and full Metro Council meetings:

District 1: Jessica Green

  • Excused absences: 5
  • Unexcused absences: 2
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 2
  • Committees: Government, Oversight, Audit and Ethics; Public Safety (chair)

District 2: Barbara Shanklin

  • Excused absences: 13
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 4
  • Committees: Community Affairs and Housing (chair); Appointments

District 3: Mary Woolridge

  • Excused absences: 2
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Community Affairs and Housing; Appointments (chair); Budget

District 4: Barbara Sexton-Smith

  • Excused absences: 1
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Public Safety; Labor, Economic Development and Contracts; Appropriations; Committee on Committees

District 5: Cheri Bryant Hamilton

  • Excused absences: 4
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Public Safety; Budget; Committee on Committees

District 6: President David James

  • Excused absences: 1
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Committee on Committees (chair)

District 7: Angela Leet

  • Excused absences: 8
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Health and Education (chair); Public Safety; Budget; Committee on Committees

District 8: Brandon Coan

  • Excused absences: 7
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 3
  • Committees: Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Parks and Sustainability

District 9: Bill Hollander

  • Excused absences: 3
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics; Budget (chair)

District 10: Pat Mulvihill

  • Excused absences: 7
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility (chair)

District 11: Kevin Kramer

  • Excused absences: 5
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Labor, Economic Development and Contracts; Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics; Budget; Committee on Committees

District 12: Rick Blackwell

  • Excused absences: 10
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Appropriations (chair); Appointments; Budget

District 13: Vicki Aubrey Welch

  • Excused absences: 9
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 2
  • Committees: Health and Education; Community Affairs and Housing; Parks and Sustainability

District 14: Cindi Fowler

  • Excused absences: 6
  • Unexcused absences: 2
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics; Budget; Parks and Sustainability (chair)

District 15: Marianne Butler

  • Excused absences: 5
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Labor, Economic Development and Contracts (chair); Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Budget

District 16: Scott Reed

  • Excused absences: 3
  • Unexcused absences: 3
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics; Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Budget

District 17: Glen Stuckel

  • Excused absences: 5
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 2
  • Committees: Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Parks and Sustainability

District 18: Marilyn Parker

  • Excused absences: 8
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Health and Education; Community Affairs and Housing; Appointments; Budget

District 19: Julie Denton

  • Excused absences: 25
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 5
  • Committees: Public Safety; Appointments; Appropriations

District 20: Stuart Benson

  • Excused absences: 3
  • Unexcused absences: 1
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 0
  • Committees: Labor, Economic Development and Contracts; Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Community Affairs and Housing

District 21: Vitalis Lanshima

  • Excused absences: 19
  • Unexcused absences: 2
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 4
  • Committees: Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Health and Education

District 22: Robin Engel

  • Excused absences: 9
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Public Works, Facilities, Transportation and Accessibility; Planning, Zoning and Annexation; Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics

District 23: James Peden

  • Excused absences:8
  • Unexcused absences: 4
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Public Safety; Appropriations; Parks and Sustainability

District 24: Madonna Flood

  • Excused absences: 10
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 2
  • Committees: Planning, Zoning and Annexation (chair); Health and Education; Public Safety

District 25: David Yates

  • Excused absences: 8
  • Unexcused absences: 7
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 2
  • Committees: Labor, Economic Development and Contracts; Appropriations

District 26: Brent Ackerson

  • Excused absences: 5
  • Unexcused absences: 0
  • Metro Council meetings missed: 1
  • Committees: Budget; Government Oversight, Audit and Ethics (chair)

This post has been updated to include a response from Councilwoman Julie Denton, and to indicated that James and Sexton Smith are tied for the best attendance record in Metro Council.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.