The Louisville Metro Council will take steps to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment by current and former employees of the Transit Authority of River City against Ferdinand Risco Jr, who resigned as executive director of the agency last week.
The resolutions unanimously approved by Metro Council on Thursday will initiate the legislative body’s investigation into the alleged incidents, and will allow it to retain attorney David Beyer to conduct an outside investigation.
The Jefferson County Attorney has retained law firm Dinsmore & Shohl to perform an outside investigation after being alerted to the issue by the mayor’s office in late January, Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokeswoman Jean Porter said.
Risco allegedly harassed at least six women who worked at TARC through inappropriate in-personal interactions, as well as lewd text and picture messages, and tied professional opportunities to their receptiveness. He first joined the agency in 2017 after working at Atlanta’s public transit agency.
Fischer appointed him executive director last April following the retirement of Barry Barker the previous November. Risco served as interim executive director before taking the role permanently.
Council members including President David James (D-6) and Anthony Piagentini (R-19), who is vice chair of the government oversight committee, called for a full investigation when the allegations became public last week.
At Thursday’s meeting, Piagentini lamented that the past could not be erased for the women, Metro employees, who were allegedly victimized by Risco.
“Part of that victimization is a breakdown of process. It is incumbent upon us to understand the process and fix the process so this is eliminated and this never happens again within this Metro government,” he said.
State law gives Council the authority to investigate officials appointed by the mayor.
The resolution indicates council members will seek to determine TARC’s current processes for protecting employees from sexual harassment and intimidation and to clarify how and why Risco was appointed executive director.
The Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee will oversee the investigation, whose results could lead to legislative action and recommendations for changes at TARC. The investigation could open as early as next week when the committee meets.
Keisha Dorsey (D-3) said she hoped what Council learns from the investigation will help prevent similar incidents in the future.
“The recommendations or the lessons learned coming out of this investigation really need to be applied across all government agencies and all quasi agencies so that we use this as a springboard,” she said.
Last Thursday, Fischer’s office named two women, Laura Douglas and Margaret Handmaker, to serve as interim executive directors of TARC.