Amid a growing sexual harassment scandal surrounding a longtime Democratic legislator, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Thursday shot down suggestions that lawmakers covered up the claims.
In a statement, Stumbo said there was no cover-up of the sexual harassment claims made by two female legislative staffers against Democratic Rep. John Arnold, of Sturgis. In releasing documents and a timeline of events surrounding the matter, Stumbo stated he wanted to “dispel irresponsible rumors, and to ensure that public confidence in the General Assembly is maintained.”
Two veteran staffers of the Legislative Research Commission filed ethics complaints last Friday alleging Arnold had harassed them, inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments over the last three years, according to documents obtained by WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The women also say lawmakers and LRC leaders did not take their claims seriously.
State GOP leaders have questioned whether House Democratic leadership covered up the claims against Arnold, a retired chiropractor who has served in the House since 1995.
In the news release issued Thursday, Stumbo stated:
Far from being a “cover up”, as some political operatives have irresponsibly suggested, the Speaker’s office was fully focused on protecting the rights of the parties and ensuring that they were actively involved in the investigation.
On Thursday, Stumbo released documents showing that in April 2011 his staff instructed the director of the Legislative Research Commission—which one accuser says was ineffective in handling her reports of sexual harassment—to report “any violation of harassment policy be resolved in accordance with the American Bar Association’s policies in its publication “Sexual Harassment in the Public Workplace.”
All reports of harassment are to be immediately investigated in a “prompt, thorough and impartial” process.
The primary goal is to “maintain a harassment free workplace.”
LRC shall avoid the “common mistake” of “failing to follow-up on the investigation.”
The parties are to be kept informed of the progress of the investigation.
Remind the complainant to “immediately report any retaliation.”
Stumbo stated his chief of staff, Stewart Willis, on May 6 issued a directive to LRC Executive Director Bobby Sherman, advising him to
In the e-mail, Willis wrote: “I appreciate your efforts to investigate and resolve the present matter and provide periodic updates to me and Pierce as necessary. I have also reviewed the materials provided to you several years ago regarding how these matters should be handled for our office. I am most interested in seeing that follow-up meetings are held with all parties in the complaint and that the complainant is comfortable with the way the matter has been handled by your office.”
In a July 10 e-mail, Stumbo’s general counsel Pierce Whites thanks Roy Collins, of the LRC, for offering an update on the LRC’s internal investigation into the matter. The e-mail notes, “we wish to ensure that your review process is confidential, impartial, and independent.”
But the women who filed the ethics complaints against Arnold said lawmakers failed to properly handle the complaints.
In a complaint filed Aug. 16, Cassaundra Cooper wrote:
I feel like the people that I put my trust in to provide me a safe work environment have let me down and they continue to let me down. I am appalled that the people responsible for establishing laws are so eager to ignore them. The sexual harassment sessions for employees was changed from a group training to an on-line course due to some of the discussions from those sessions. It is a disgrace to have the director of the agency having a very public affair with one of his employees. I feel like it is the case of the fox guarding the hen house.”