A former legislative staffer has added House Majority Whip Johnny Bell to an ongoing lawsuit, claiming Bell fired her because she was engaged in whistleblower activity.
Yolanda Costner is one of three women who in 2013 accused former Representative John Arnold of sexual harassment. Though Arnold still denies the accusations, he resigned from his post and was fined for ethics violations.
Now, Costner has added Bell, a Democrat from Glasgow, to the lawsuit against Arnold and the LRC. The suit claims Costner was illegally discriminated against and accuses Bell of illegal drug use and of keeping moonshine in his office.
The complaint was filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court. Kentucky Public Radio reached out to Bell on Monday evening for comment, but no response has been received.
The newest member of the state House Democratic leadership team has terminated a woman who has a pending sexual harassment case against a former Democratic lawmaker.
Yolanda Costner's attorney, Thomas Clay, said she was notified of her dismissal on Wednesday. Costner worked for former House Democratic whip Tommy Thompson. But state Rep. Johnny Bell ousted Thompson earlier this month in a leadership election.
Bell did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
It is not uncommon for new leaders to hire their own staff. But Costner was at the center of a high profile sexual harassment lawsuit against former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold. Clay said he intends to add Bell as a party to Costner's lawsuit.
The Legislative Research Commission wants a mediator to be appointed in a sexual harassment case brought by two female staff members.
The commission's attorney filed a motion Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court saying an impartial mediator would help resolve the case.
Two women brought the case in late 2013 against the LRC and former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Union County, alleging they were sexually harassed by Arnold and that the LRC failed to protect them from Arnold.
Arnold and the LRC have denied the allegations. Arnold resigned from the House in 2013, and the Legislative Ethics Commission later reprimanded him and fined him $3,000 for violations of the legislature's code of ethics.
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.