Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 20, 2013

LRC director turns in resignation

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — The director of the governing arm and support staff of the Kentucky legislature resigned Friday after 14 years as director and more than 30 working for the General Assembly.

Robert “Bobby” Sherman, 61, informed Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who chairs the Legislative Research Commission, of his resignation by letter on Friday.

The resignation comes in the midst of an investigation into allegations by three LRC female employees that they were sexually harassed by former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, who resigned a week ago, declaring he is innocent of any sexual harassment.

Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner filed complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission which indicated they’d also registered complaints with the LRC. Their complaints indicated they were unsatisfied with how Sherman and others responded to their charges.

A third woman, Gloria Morgan, subsequently filed a third complaint against Arnold with the ethics commission, also charging her complaints weren’t taken seriously by the LRC staff.

Sherman’s letter said he has been “contemplating the appropriate time for my retirement” for some time and might have done so earlier “except for my desire to follow through with supervision and support of a staff investigation of work-related harassment complaints.”

He went on to say an LRC staff investigation was “thorough and strenuous” and the complaints “were addressed promptly, fully examined, and protective measures implemented.” The goal of the investigation, Sherman said, was to protect the employees “from improper conduct and retaliation of any sort. I believe that goal was achieved.”

He said now the investigation is complete it is a “logical time for my departure.” The LRC investigation reported no impropriety in the way Sherman or the LRC handled its investigation into the allegations.

Sherman declined comment to CNHI beyond what is in his letter of resignation.

Lourdes Baez, spokeswoman for Stivers, said Sherman called Stivers earlier Friday to inform him that he was resigning. She said Sherman told Stivers it was an appropriate time to resign but gave no other reason. She said Stivers had additional comment on Sherman’s decision.

Stumbo had little to say other than to express appreciation for Sherman’s tenure as LRC Director.

“We thank Bobby for his many years of service, both as a staff person and as the director,” Stumbo said in a statement released by his press office.

After the news broke of the allegations against Arnold during the special session of the legislature during the week of Aug. 19-23, Stivers and other members of the LRC outside of House Democratic leaders said they were unaware of the charges or the investigation.

Stivers requested a special meeting of the 16-lawmaker governing body of the LRC which met on Sept. 4 and heard a description of the timeline of events from Sherman. But Sherman was hesitant to provide further details in open session, citing the possibility of litigation, and later met with most of the commission behind closed doors.

Stumbo appointed a five-member select House committee to investigate charges against Arnold and perhaps recommend censure or expulsion. That was before Arnold resigned, but the committee decided on Tuesday to proceed with its investigation and report its findings to the full House when it convenes in January.

Sherman became LRC director in 1999 after a stint in private law practice. In 2008, the legislative leaders on the LRC voted 11-5 to raise Sherman’s salary from $132,000 to $195,000 to keep Sherman from retiring.

Sherman said in his resignation letter that “I am most proud of each and every current and former member of LRC staff,” thanking them for their professionalism and non-partisan work.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.