Politics

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has ruled that embattled Louisville Metro Councilman Vitalis Lanshima cannot hold office while running in another country, said Metro Council President David James on Saturday.

The council will vote this week on whether to ask the Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on the issue, James said.

“At this point, we have spoken to Councilman Lanshima. We have asked him if he plans to resign,” James said. “He has told us he does not plan to resign.”

Lanshima, who represents District 21, was already under scrutiny for missing about 20 meetings so far this year, and is now running for public office in Nigeria.

O’Connell’s decision comes after a meeting of the Metro Council’s Government Accountability Commission. Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, of District 14, requested an investigation into the propriety of Lanshima being a voting citizen in another country.

If Attorney General Andy Beshear concurs with the county attorney’s opinion, Lanshima could defend his actions in court and appeal the decision if the court rules against him, James said.

“I don’t believe Councilman Lanshima entered into the race to be in Nigeria in order to cause this confusion,” James said. “It wasn’t until yesterday we found out there was a real problem.”

Lanshima’s seat in District 21 is up for re-election on November 6th. Democrat Nicole George, Republican Bret Shultz and Independent John Witt are all running for the seat. Lanshima lost to George in May’s primary.

Metro Council members appointed Lanshima to the District 21 seat in 2017 to replace longtime Councilman Dan Johnson, who was removed following sexual harassment allegations.

Metro Council’s vote on whether to send the County Attorney’s decision to Beshear’s office is set for Thursday, James said.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.