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.
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.
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 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.
Kentucky lawmakers have finished their first-ever training on sexual harassment.
Over a hundred lawmakers heard a lecture from Aime McFerren, a Louisville attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She shared strategies for identifying sexual harassment, and the benefits of preventing it.
“Sex harassment, retaliation, it’s prevalent still," McFerren said. "It’s costly in a monetary sense, but also in a non-monetary sense. I’m sure you can understand that when a workplace is involved in an investigation where someone has alleged discrimination or retaliation it can be very upsetting to the workplace.”
This has become a larger issue in the General Assembly after revelations that former lawmaker John Arnold allegedly harassed female state employees.
Rep. Will Coursey has also been accused of retaliating against a female state employee who spoke out about his alleged treatment of a female intern.
After nearly four months of meetings and without interviewing a single witness or examining any evidence, the special House committee tasked with investigating claims of sexual harassment against a former state lawmaker voted Thursday afternoon to end its operations.
This summer, female staffers with the Legislative Research Commission say former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, sexually harassed and assaulted them.
Democratic committee chair Jeff Donohue of Louisville made the motion to disband the panel. He cited an opinion drafted by legal counsel that said lawmakers could not discipline Arnold because he resigned in September.
“Despite the committee’s lack of jurisdiction and as a member of the House of Representatives, I’d like to work with my colleagues to develop stronger policies and laws to prevent sexual harassment. And that is what I plan to do. And I thank you all for your time today.”
Donohue says he doesn't know how much the committee has cost taxpayers.
A Franklin Circuit Court Judge will decide which parties can be named in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the state and a former Kentucky lawmaker.
Two women have filed suit against former Representative John Arnold, the Legislative Research Commission, and state government. The women claim Arnold sexually harassed them, and the LRC didn't properly address their complaints.
Previously, the civil trial was delayed, as the Attorney General said the LRC and the state are the same and can't both be sued. And there's a question over whether the women are non-partisan LRC employees since they serve the body’s partisan leadership.
Thomas Clay is lead counsel for the women. He thinks they’re technically employees of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who is also named in the complaint and has asked the court to be removed from the suit.
The Legislative Research Commission has a $115,000 contract with a Lexington law firm to offer legal guidance in a sexual harassment investigation and to help defend the state in a pending lawsuit.
Lawmakers unveiled and approved the contract with Landrum & Shouse on Tuesday. The contract runs through June 30, 2014.
The firm will advise legislative leaders in a continuing investigation into allegations that former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis sexually harassed three legislative staffers. That committee could ultimately recommend Arnold be reprimanded or fined.
Arnold resigned from the Legislature after the allegations were made public.
The legislative staffers involved later filed a lawsuit claiming their supervisors didn't protect them from sexual harassment even after they reported it.