The state Legislative Research Commission is arguing that none of its members can be sued in an ongoing harassment case due to a state law that permits immunity to lawmakers.
The LRC’s governing body is made up of 16 legislative leaders from the House and Senate.
The case stems from allegations by female state House staffers who alleged they were sexually harassed and assaulted by former state Rep. John Arnold. Leslie Vose is a private attorney hired by the LRC.
“The legislature, the Senate and the House are immune from being sued for violation of state and federal Civil Rights law. It’s a clear, black-letter law, and we’ve asked the court to address it before we go further.”
Vose says that the matter has already been appropriately settled by the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, which found Arnold guilty of three counts of harassment and fined him $3,000.
An investigation into the shredding of documents last year by the former director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission has concluded that no wrongdoing took place. Kentucky State Police spokesman Paul Blanton tells the Herald-Leader that no criminal act was found and that the case, in his words, “is closed”.
The investigation surrounded Bobby Sherman who returned to his office at the capitol last fall and destroyed documents just two days after he resigned.
Lawyers for two legislative staffers who brought sexual harassment allegations against former State Rep. John Arnold asked for the investigation. They feared papers related to the case may have been among those destroyed.
The two female statehouse employees who previously accused Kentucky Rep. John Arnold of sexually harassing them say another Democratic lawmaker acted inappropriately, this time on an out-of-state trip conducting official legislative business.
Legislative Research Commission employees Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner allege that Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, threw a pair of women's underwear onto a dining table at a restaurant during the Southern Legislative Conference held in Mobile, Alabama last year.
In an interview with Kentucky Public Radio, Gooch didn't deny the allegations, and admitted to possibly brandishing a woman's "personal item" in front of LRC employees during a meal.
A Franklin Circuit Court Judge will order depositions in a lawsuit against a Kentucky lawmaker.
Judge Thomas Wingate will order Rep. Will Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia, to provide a deposition in the suit brought against him by Nicole Cusic.
Cusic is an employee of the Legislative Research Commission who has alleged Coursey and former LRC director Bobby Sherman retaliated against her after she complained to her superiors that Coursey was allegedly behaving inappropriately with female interns.
Coursey has filed a counter-motion. It accuses Cusic of slander and defamation. Attorneys are waiting to see if it will be added to this case.
Three of Kentucky’s legislative leaders are calling on all legislative leaders to meet this week and discuss who will head the Legislative Research Commission going forward. The LRC’s director Bobby Sherman resigned recently in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against a former lawmaker.
A letter sent Friday to all House and Senate leaders says there are two items that require immediate action. One is the “leadership vacuum” within the administrative staff of the LRC. The letter notes there are currently four people with the title of Deputy Director, none of whom have authority to take over for Bobby Sherman.
The letter also says the search needs to begin for a permanent successor, noting the LRC Director position is critical and will not be easy to fill. The last time the organization conducted a search was in 1998.
The letter, which calls for a meeting on Wednesday, is signed by Senate President Robert Stivers, Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer, and House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover.
Legislative leaders want to meet to choose an interim replacement for Bobby Sherman, the former director of the Legislative Research Commission who resigned last week.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday that legislative leaders need to also lay the groundwork for a search for a permanent replacement.
Sherman quit abruptly last Friday, saying in a resignation letter that he had been considering doing so for a long while. He created a dustup on Sunday when he returned to his Capitol office to clean out his desk and in doing so shredded some documents.
Now, state police have decided to investigate the shredding to see if any laws were broken. The meeting has been called for 1:30 p.m. EDT next Wednesday in Capitol Annex Room 125.
A Louisville attorney on Tuesday called for a criminal investigation into the former head of the Legislative Research Commission who told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he returned to the Capitol on Sunday, two days after he resigned, and shredded documents.
Thomas Clay wants state police or the attorney general's office to open a probe into what kind of documents former LRC Director Bobby Sherman destroyed.
"I'm very suspicious of what was shredded and why," said Clay, representing two legislative staffers who filed sexual harassment complaints that led to the resignation of Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis earlier this month. "The circumstances suggest some outside agency should inquire about it."
A judge has ruled that the Legislative Research Commission is responsible for legal fees incurred by lawmakers who successfully challenged how legislative districts were redrawn during this year's Kentucky General Assembly.