After nearly four months of meetings and without interviewing a single witness or examining any evidence, the special House committee tasked with investigating claims of sexual harassment against a former state lawmaker voted Thursday afternoon to end its operations.
This summer, female staffers with the Legislative Research Commission say former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, sexually harassed and assaulted them.
Democratic committee chair Jeff Donohue of Louisville made the motion to disband the panel. He cited an opinion drafted by legal counsel that said lawmakers could not discipline Arnold because he resigned in September.
“Despite the committee’s lack of jurisdiction and as a member of the House of Representatives, I’d like to work with my colleagues to develop stronger policies and laws to prevent sexual harassment. And that is what I plan to do. And I thank you all for your time today.”
Donohue says he doesn't know how much the committee has cost taxpayers.
A Franklin Circuit Court Judge will decide which parties can be named in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the state and a former Kentucky lawmaker.
Two women have filed suit against former Representative John Arnold, the Legislative Research Commission, and state government. The women claim Arnold sexually harassed them, and the LRC didn't properly address their complaints.
Previously, the civil trial was delayed, as the Attorney General said the LRC and the state are the same and can't both be sued. And there's a question over whether the women are non-partisan LRC employees since they serve the body’s partisan leadership.
Thomas Clay is lead counsel for the women. He thinks they’re technically employees of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who is also named in the complaint and has asked the court to be removed from the suit.
The first hearing in the sexual harassment lawsuit against former state Rep. John Arnold and elements of Kentucky state government revolved Wednesday around determining which parties should be accused.
The hearing resulted in a delay in the trial until later this month
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate heard a motion to dismiss filed in October by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who argued that the state is "legally indistinguishable" from the Legislative Research Commission, which is also a defendant in the suit brought by female LRC employees who allege Arnold sexually harassed and assaulted them.
In their lawsuit, filed Oct. 1, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper named the state and the LRC as defendants.
The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission has found probable cause that former Union County Representative John Arnold violated ethics rules three times when he allegedly harassed three female staff members.
Commission members met behind closed doors for nearly two hours Tuesday before returning to an open session and voting unanimously on sexual harassment complaints made against Arnold by legislative staffers Yolanda Costner, Cassaundra Cooper, and Gloria Morgan. The Courier-Journal reports the commission has scheduled a full hearing on the complaints for December 12.
Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, served in the state House from 1995 until last month, when he resigned after the sexual harassment allegations against him were made public. Arnold has denied the charges, but said he couldn’t move forward politically due to the damage done to his reputation.
The Legislative Ethics Commission said there was probable cause to believe Arnold had “inappropriate and unwanted physical contact” with the women.
Arnold’s attorney, Steve Downey of Bowling Green, didn’t comment after the commission returned its findings.
Kentucky House lawmakers would have to undergo annual sexual harassment sensitivity training under a resolution approved Thursday after three legislative staffers filed sexual harassment complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission.
The allegations against Democratic state representative John Arnold of Sturgis triggered a public outcry, forcing House Speaker Greg Stumbo to address the matter on the floor Thursday evening. He assured angry colleagues the matter "will be dealt with responsibly" and that Arnold could be expelled from the House if the charges are proven to be true.
Arnold, who represents parts of Union, Daviess and Henderson counties. refused to answer questions about the allegations Wednesday and was absent from the legislature on Thursday.
In the complaints, first reported by Louisville public radio station WFPL-FM, the staffers alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments over a period of years.