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New District 21 Councilman Vitalis Lanshima Rejects Employer JCPS's Allegations

District 21 Metro Councilman Vitalis Lanshima

Vitalis Lanshima was sworn in as the replacement councilman for District 21 last Thursday. Soon after, reports surfaced that his employer, Jefferson County Public Schools, recently sought to fire him for inappropriate behavior.

Lanshima, who was a special education teacher at Ramsey Middle School, held a press conference Tuesday at City Hall to address the allegations against him. He is accused of threatening to prevent a student from having lunch, wrestling with a student in class and flipping a desk to intimidate a student, Courier Journal reported.

Lanshima rejected those accusations, calling them "grossly exaggerated and sometimes outright false."

Lanshima is appealing the termination decision, and said he hopes to go back to work. He declined to say whether he would take legal action if he does not get the result he desires.

This issue did not come to light while Lanshima was campaigning for the District 21 seat over the past month. He said it is clear, in hindsight, that he should have disclosed it. The reason he did not bring it up before is because he thought it would not disqualify him from the position and thought he could work through the issue, he said.

Council President David Yates told WHAS11 last week that he would wait to see whether Lanshima's appeal is successful, but he wished he had known about the allegations during the interview process.

Lanshima said his constituents can expect him to be forthright from now on.

"They can expect absolute transparency," he said. "I did not want to speak publicly because it was a situation that was going through the legal process."

Lanshima said he is now in a position to speak publicly and share more information about the situation. He said people can read the termination letter and draw their own conclusions.

He filled the seat vacated in November by Dan Johnson, who was removed following several accusations of sexual harassment. The appointment would have him serve out the rest of Johnson's term, through 2018. Lanshima ran an unsuccessful bid for Jefferson County Clerk in 2013. He is from Nigeria, and is the first immigrant to serve on Metro Council.

Lanshima said he does not think this controversy will distract from his efforts to lead District 21.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.