In Frankfort, lawyers for the state are asking a judge not to allow the release of documents that could include information on sexual harassment in Kentucky state government.
Louisville Attorney Thomas Clay represents female state House employees who say in a lawsuit they were sexually harassed by former Kentucky lawmaker John Arnold. They also allege they were retaliated against in a separate matter by current state Rep. Will Coursey.
Clay said that in a hearing Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Wingate heard a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. The state argues that because the Legislative Research Commission, which is named as a defendant, did not employ Arnold, the suit is moot.
Clay believes the documents detail instances of sexual harassment beyond the Arnold case, and says that the state is dragging its feet.
“That argument is frivolous because there’s ample federal authority that says the employer has a duty to protect employees from harassing conduct even from non-employees of that employer," Clay said.
Wingate did not decide on any of the motions, and has yet to schedule the next hearing date.
The women are seeking damages from Arnold and the state for embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and retaliation, as well as attorney’s fees.
An audit of Kentucky's state government by the National Conference of State Legislatures is currently under “review” by political leaders in the commonwealth, but the report hasn’t been made public.
A spokesman for the NCSL says a preliminary draft of their report was delivered on April 25 to Marcia Seiler, the acting director of the Legislative Research Commission, and to members of state House and Senate leadership.
The LRC authorized a $42,000 audit in December following allegations that it improperly handled claims of sexual harassment by former Rep. John Arnold. Arnold was fined this year by a state ethics board after it found him guilty of the charges.
Recently, the LRC extended its contract with the NCSL through June of 2015, to accommodate the longer review process. The legal counsel for GOP state Senate President Stivers says that will not cost any extra taxpayer money.
Louisville Rep. Tom Riner has been an outspoken opponent of the secrecy of what he calls a culture of harassment in Frankfort. He said he hasn’t seen the audit, but has a theory why it hasn’t been released yet.
Statehouse staffers who've filed lawsuits against a current state legislator and a former lawmaker want access to a report their attorney said may include allegations of improper behavior by other legislators.
In Sept. 10 hearing, a Franklin Circuit judge will consider motions regarding lawsuits filed against Rep. Will Coursey (D-Symsonia) and former Rep. John Arnold (D-Sturgis).
The Arnold lawsuit stems from allegations that he sexually harassed and retaliated against Legislative Research Commission staffers. The Coursey lawsuit stems from allegations that he retaliated against an LRC employee after she made claims about his behavior.
Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents the plaintiffs in both suits, said the LRC opposes his request for discovery regarding documents in the Arnold case that Clay claims may include past complaints of sexual harassment involving other lawmakers and LRC staff.
Former Kentucky state Rep. John Arnold has filed an appeal in an ethics case in which he was found guilty of abusing his office by sexually harassing three female state House employees.
Arnold’s attorney filed an appeal in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday asking a judge to rescind a public reprimand and $3,000 in fines levied against the former lawmaker by a state ethics panel last month.
The appeal claims that the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission acted outside of its jurisdiction when it ruled against Arnold because he was not a sitting member of the legislature at the time of the trial.
After a nearly seven-month investigation, Kentucky State Police say they have found no evidence that former Legislative Research Commission Executive Director Bobby Sherman shredded work-related documents to cover-up information on sexual harassment within the state legislature.
KSP Trooper Paul Blanton says the acting detective on the case has finished his investigation and concluded that Sherman's activities weren't illegal and didn't involve a cover-up of sexual harassment by former state Rep. John Arnold or other lawmakers.
“The investigation into the destruction of documents to conceal this physical assault or sexual assault--there was no evidence of that."
Blanton says state police will release the case files sometime in the next two weeks.
After hours of deliberation and sparring with his defense attorney—not to mention the news media—a full quorum of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission on Wednesday voted to reprimand and fine former state Rep. John Arnold.
It was the second, and final, hearing in the ethics case brought against the Union County Democrat by female state House staffers. The panel voted 5-1 across three separate complaints to find Arnold guilty of violating state ethics rules. The commission found that he used his position to sexually harass and assault three employees of the state Legislative Research Commission over a period of years. In its votes, the commission reprimanded Arnold for his behavior and fined him a total of $3,000—or $1,000 for each complaint.
A member of the legislative ethics commission says he is stepping down from his position due to the panel's handling of a case involving former state Rep. John Arnold.
Vernie McGaha told The Courier-Journal that he already sent his resignation letter, but was persuaded by Senate President Robert Stivers to remain on the commission until it decides whether to reconsider Arnold's case. Three women testified during a hearing before the panel that Arnold sexually harassed them.
The commission voted 4-1 to find Arnold guilty. But state law requires at least five "yes" votes from the nine member commission to convict. Three commissioners did not attend the hearing and one seat is vacant.
The commission is expected to take up the case again at its next meeting on Wednesday.
The ethics trial against former Kentucky legislator John Arnold may continue. Because the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission did not consider a motion to dismiss the case against the Sturgis Democrat in a hearing last week, the case may go forward.
The panel voted 4-1 last week to find Arnold guilty of ethics violations stemming from charges that he sexually harassed female state House staffers. Because nearly half of its members were absent for the hearing, and five votes were required for a motion to pass, Arnold was let off.
The commission will consider the issue at its next meeting on May 7th.
Update 12:49 p.m. (From Associated Press report) One dissenting vote last week spared former State Rep. John Arnold from any disciplinary action stemming from multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. Now, lawmakers have taken action to try to prevent that from happening again.
The House voted Monday to change the rules for the ethics committee to require commission members to attend at least half of the meetings every year. The rules changes also gave the committee jurisdiction over former lawmakers. The one commission member who voted not to punish Arnold last week says he did so because he felt the commission didn’t have the power to punish lawmakers who’d already resigned.
Two women who made formal sexual harassment complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold have filed a motion with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission asking it to reconsider its ruling that cleared Arnold of ethics charges.
The ethics trial involving a former Union County lawmaker accused of sexually harassing female state employees will begin Tuesday.
Three of the women who brought formal ethics complaints against former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, are expected to testify at Tuesday’s adjudicatory hearing that will determine whether or not Arnold violated state ethics laws.
Thomas Clay is an attorney for the women, and he expects the proceedings to go by the numbers.
“Well I think it’s going to be a typical administrative hearing," the attorney said. "I think they’ll call witnesses. They’ll be subject to direct examination and cross examination, and then the commission will deliberate and make a decision, and hopefully the process will play out.”
Calls to Arnold’s Bowling Green attorney, Steve Downey, were not returned. Downey has informed Kentucky Public Radio in the past that Arnold will likely not appear at any hearing due to what he says are Arnold’s declining mental and physical health.