Kentucky state Representative Will Coursey’s lawyer says the legislator is likely to file a countersuit against claims that he sexually harassed a former legislative assistant.
Paducah Attorney Mark Edwards says the Democratic lawmaker denies Nicole Cusic’s allegations that he sexually harassed interns and Legislative Research Commission employees in February 2012.
"According to the things that we’ve been told, the allegations only came up after Cusic was confronted by one of the Republican Senators in that Republican senator suite about a relationship Cusic had with a member of the Democratic leadership at the time, not Will Coursey, and that they were concerned about her working there," said Edwards. "And upon the advice of the Republican senator, it was suggested to her that she retain counsel."
Cusic’s lawyer, Thomas Clay, says other LRC employees agree with her allegations of Coursey’s behavior. Edwards says he is not sure whether Coursey will file a countersuit or a separate suit for defamation and possibly for abusive process and malicious prosecution.
Coursey has about a week to respond to Cusic’s allegations.
Many federal employees will go without a paycheck during the government’s partial shutdown, but the 533 members of Congress will continue to be paid. Congressional pay is protected by the U.S. Constitution, but some lawmakers don’t think it’s fair.
Kentucky’s Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie, a Republican from Bowling Green, is asking that his pay be withheld, and if the stalemate isn’t resolved by the end of the month, he will decide what to do with the money.
“As thousands of federal employees in Kentucky are not being paid during the shutdown, I have submitted paperwork to the House asking that my pay be suspended during this time,” replied Guthrie. “Some of my colleagues have instead chosen to donate their salaries to charity. My family has a strong commitment to charitable giving and I prefer to keep these donations private and not linked to politics.”
For Third District Congressman John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, pay isn’t an issue.
“He has donated every cent of his Congressional salary to Louisville charities every year he's been in Congress,” spokesman Stephen George said in an email.
WKU Public Radio contacted the offices of the rest of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation, but were not able to reach their spokespeople. Emails were not returned, and recorded phone messages and website statements there would be delays in any correspondence until the government resumes normal operations.
Top Kentucky lawmakers have appointed an acting director for the Legislative Research Commission and took the first step toward reviewing the fact-finding and service agency for legislators. The action comes amid scrutiny of how the LRC handled sexual harassment complaints against a former lawmaker.
House and Senate leaders meeting Wednesday appointed Marcia Seiler as acting LRC director. Seiler is director of the Office of Education Accountability.
Bobby Sherman recently resigned as LRC director. State police are investigating whether any laws were broken when Sherman returned to his office and shredded documents after his resignation.
Two legislative workers have filed a lawsuit accusing former state Rep. John Arnold of sexual harassment.
The lawmakers also agreed to approach the National Conference of State Legislatures about conducting a performance audit of the LRC.
Kentucky state senator Bob Leeper says he will not run for re-election in 2014. The Independent senator says the decision to step away from office was a hard one.
"It's a complete change of course so it's not easy to do, but there comes a time when you realize it's time to give someone else a chance," Leeper comments. "There's a lot of good people out here I think may step up and run, and I look forward to seeing who makes that decision."
Leeper has represented Ballard, McCracken and Marshall counties in the state legislature for more than two decades. Before the state Senate, he served as Paducah City Commissioner and practiced as a chiropractor. Leeper says he will return to medicine when his term is up next December.
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.
A second lawmaker from western Kentucky is being accused of sexual harassment. Louisville attorney Thomas Clay is representing Nicole Cusic, who claims she was retaliated against when she complained about the behavior of State Representative Will Coursey.
“For instance, I believe he was asking one of the interns to go to the Governor’s Ball with him, and there were some other things that involved explicit language, which she thought was inappropriate.”
Cusic, who was Coursey’s secretary, claims she was transferred out of his office when she confronted him. Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia, is represented by Paducah attorney Mark Edwards.
“Mr. Coursey’s position is that he’s never had an inappropriate relationship with anybody, and the lady who’s making the complaint did work for him, but the reason she was transferred was that she had a poor work history.”
A Kentucky lawmaker who represents five counties in our listening area has decided two decades in office will be long enough.
Republican House member Dwight Butler announced he won’t run for re-election after his current term expires next year. Butler’s district covers Breckinridge and Hancock counties, along with parts of Bullitt, Daviess, and Hardin counties.
He told WKU Public Radio he plans to take a hands-off approach when it comes to who runs for the seat next year.
“If someone comes to me and asks advice about the district, or about what I’ve seen, or how the process works, I’d be happy to give that to them," said the Republican from Harned. "But I’m not going to have any hand-picked successor, at all.”
Butler’s successor will take over a more compact district than the one the long-time incumbent currently represents. Following the latest round of redistricting, Butler’s district picked up more of Hardin County,while losing parts of Bullitt and Daviess counties.
With the massive federal spending bill facing them, including funding for President Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act, House members return to Washington this week. The government would be forced to shut down if the continuing resolution providing the money is not passed by the beginning of next week.
Second district Kentucky Congressman Brett Guthrie appeared live on WKU Public Radio's Morning Edition Tuesday. In a wide-ranging interview, he told host Joe Corcoran the President is as much to blame for the political standoff in Washington as Republicans.
A legislative committee in Frankfort will hear testimony Wednesday on a proposal to allow local governments to let citizens decide on implementing a temporary sales tax to fund specific projects.
The idea being heard by the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government at 10 a.m. EDT is to allow ballot referendums on whether to temporarily impose a sales tax of up to 1 cent to pay for new parks, sidewalks, roads and buildings.
Some 37 states already allow a temporary sales tax for local government projects.
Committee Chairman Steve Riggs said too often cities don't have the money to pay for special projects. Legislation calling for a constitutional amendment to allow such a temporary tax was introduced in the General Assembly earlier this year but didn't receive a vote.
The former director of Kentucky's Legislative Research Commission says he returned to his office over the weekend and shredded paperwork.
Robert Sherman told The Courier-Journal that the documents included "personalized stuff" such as old salary comparisons. He said none of the paperwork involved anything to do with the sexual harassment allegations involving a former lawmaker or any investigations the agency is involved in.
Sherman's actions have raised concerns among lawmakers, who say he should have gotten permission before destroying the documents and allowed some independent oversight.
Sherman said others, including Deputy LRC Director Robert Jenkins, were present when the documents were shredded.
Jenkins said only extra copies of paperwork that were in Sherman's office were shredded as it was cleaned out. He said all the documents are in other LRC files.