1:11 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Kentucky Ethics Panel Finds Probable Cause in Lawmaker's Sexual Harassment Case

Former Kentucky State Representative John Arnold, D-Sturgis
Credit Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

The Legislative Ethics Commission has found probable cause to believe former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis may have sexually harassed legislative staffers. 

The panel on Tuesday scheduled a hearing for December 12 to determine if Arnold should be reprimanded or fined.  Arnold resigned from the Legislature last month after the allegations were made against him. 

Legislative Research Commission staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and made vulgar comments. Both women said Tuesday they were pleased with the ethics commission's decision to move ahead with the case.

Arnold said in his letter of resignation that he had been "destroyed politically" and could no longer be an effective voice for his constituents. A retired chiropractor, he had served in the House since 1995.

10:50 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Grimes Outpaces McConnell Since July, Banks $2.5M

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has raised more money than Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell since July, banking $2.5 million as of Sept. 30.

Grimes political adviser Jonathan Hurst said Tuesday the campaign received more than 13,300 individual contributions, showing what he described as widespread grassroots support. 

McConnell reported last week that he had raised nearly $2.3 million since July, pushing his overall fundraising total to $17.7 million for the election cycle.  Campaign manager Jesse Benton said that was McConnell's strongest quarter yet.

McConnell, who had a long head start in raising money for his re-election, has nearly $10 million cash on hand. Hurst said Grimes has about $2 million cash on hand. 

McConnell, already Kentucky's longest serving U.S. senator, is seeking re-election to a sixth term next year.

3:10 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

State Personnel Board Wraps up Agriculture Department Probe

Richie Farmer was elected Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner in 2003 and re-elected in 2007.
Credit Kentucky News Network

The Kentucky Personnel Board has finished its review of hiring practices within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture during the terms of Commissioner Richie Farmer.

Board members found that Jennifer Ledford had been improperly demoted from her past job as a special assistant to Farmer and ordered Friday that she be reinstated to that position or a similar one with back pay. They also ordered that Roger Estill be removed from his position as an administrative branch manager to a job as an internal policy analyst.

Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball star, got into legal trouble for his management of the agency. He pleaded guilty last month in a government corruption case that could send him to prison for two years.

1:10 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

McConnell Adds Nearly $2.3M to Campaign Account

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has banked nearly $2.3 million since July, pushing his overall fundraising total to $17.7 million for the election cycle.  Campaign manager Jesse Benton said Friday the numbers reflect McConnell's strongest quarter to date for fundraising.

McConnell is facing challenges from Democratic front-runner Alison Lundergan Grimes. He also has a primary opponent, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Neither of the two have yet released their fundraising totals.

McConnell's campaign said that he received donations from about 6,000 donors. Benton said the McConnell campaign will report nearly $10 million cash on hand.

McConnell is seeking re-election next year to a sixth term.

12:55 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Key County for Republicans Doesn't Make Senate Primary Endorsement

After an hour of debate, the Republican Party of a conservative Kentucky county stopped short of endorsing the Louisville businessman who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

Boone County is an important county for Bluegrass State Republicans. It sits across the Ohio River from Cincinnati has the fourth-highest number of registered Republicans in the state. That’s why Thursday night’s meeting of the Boone County GOP brought out both Republican Senate challenger Matt Bevin, and Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton.

The Courier-Journal reports that following an hour of discussion, the county party decided not to make an endorsement in the race. Benton told members that it would be a “poor mistake” for any county party to make a Senate endorsement.

That led Bevin to tell members that they should vote their "conscience".

Boone County GOP chairman Rick Brueggemann said while there is “significant dissatisfaction” with Senator McConnell’s voting record, he didn’t think many members were comfortable making a primary endorsement.

12:11 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Kentucky Governor Not Afraid of Going Solo for Health Care

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

Kentucky’s Democratic governor says implementing the Affordable Care Act is “the morally right thing to do.” 

Kentucky is the only southern state both expanding Medicaid and operating a state-based health exchange. 

Appearing Thursday on the national radio show "The Takeaway," Governor Steve Beshear said Kentucky can’t afford not to do it.

“We have some of the worst health statistics in the country," explained Beshear.  "If there’s some way I can attack that and change the course of history in Kentucky on health care, I’m going to do it, and the Affordable Care Act gives me a historic opportunity and a tool to do just that.”

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8:01 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Coursey Likely to File Countersuit in Sexual Harassment Case

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.

1:23 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Some Kentucky Members of Congress Won't Accept Pay During Shutdown

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.

4:28 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers Take Step Toward LRC Review

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.

11:27 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Kentucky State Senator Announces Retirement

State Senator Bob Leeper (I-Paducah)
Credit Legislative Research Commission

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.