Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 4, 2013

Leadership explores allegations against Arnold

FRANKFORT — The 16-legislator leadership of the General Assembly held a sometimes contentious, confusing and occasionally bizarre meeting Wednesday to discuss allegations of sexual harassment leveled by two legislative employees against Rep. John Arnold.

The Legislative Research Commission is made up of leaders from both parties and chambers, co-chaired by the Senate President and House Speaker and employs the professional staff that assists the General Assembly.

Wednesday’s meeting was called to hear LRC Director Bobby Sherman’s explanation of the status of an internal investigation into claims by Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner that Arnold made lewd and vulgar comments and touched them inappropriately. (CNHI usually does not identify victims of sexual offenses, but the women appeared at the hearing and identified themselves to reporters who questioned their attorney, Thomas Clay.)

The LRC met for six hours but took no action and announced no findings, according to Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. The last four hours were conducted behind closed doors with Democratic house members refusing to participate.

During the two-hour public portion of the meeting, Sherman laid out a timeline of complaints and investigation, but he was careful not to disclose other details, citing fears of litigation and confidentiality concerns.

Sherman said he received the women’s complaints on Feb. 19, 2013 and immediately informed Arnold, meeting with the Union County lawmaker the next day and with “relative witnesses.” A week later, his staff interviewed the women. He said the women and Arnold were informed the following day, on Feb. 28, of the investigation’s findings.

Clay said later his clients have still not been informed of any findings or action taken.

In June, Sherman hired Cheryl Lewis, who has practiced employment law for over two decades, to assist in the investigation. Also in June, Sherman said, a third complaint was filed and his office began an investigation.

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