FRANKFORT—Two women who made formal complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold filed a motion Friday afternoon with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission asking it to reconsider its ruling that cleared Arnold of ethics charges.
Legislative Research Commission employees Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper asked the commission to reconsider its decision to not charge Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, on three counts of abusing his office when he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted them over a period of years. A third LRC employee, Gloria Morgan, has also accused Arnold of sexually assaulting her.
Arnold was not present for the Tuesday hearing that found him not guilty of the charges.
In their motion, the women say they were not informed that only five members of the nine-member ethics panel would be present for the hearing. The panel voted 4-1 across three complaints brought by each woman, but the commission’s bylaws call for five votes to find Arnold guilty.
“None of us who filed complaints were notified of this unfavorable development or asked if we wanted the hearing to go forward on a day when every commission member present would have to unanimously agree before John Arnold could be reprimanded or fined by the Commission for his actions,” the women wrote.
“Obviously, none of us would have agreed that such a high profile case to be decided by the minimum number of members needed for a quorum.”
The lone dissenter on the ethics panel was Elmer George, a Lebanon attorney appointed to the commission in January by Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
“We feel like, with them not finding him guilty, that it feels like it doesn’t validate or confirm that he actually sexually assaulted us,” Costner said in an interview. “We want them to have the opportunity to fairly evaluate that with all the members there.”
Shortly after the panel’s ruling on Tuesday, Costner told reporters that she felt George cast his vote as a favor to Stumbo, and that George has donated heavily to Democratic lawmakers. State campaign finance records show that George has donated handily to Democratic lawmakers over the past decade, including a $500 contribution to Stumbo in 2003. He also donated $5,200 to the campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
George denied the accusations, and said he voted “no” because the panel did not have jurisdiction over a non-sitting member of the legislature — despite the fact that the panel ruled that it did have authority to hear the cases.
Costner says she feels that George “didn’t understand the matter” of the hearing.
“The question of the day was not that they didn’t have jurisdiction,” Costner said. “The question was, ‘is he innocent or guilty?’ And one person decided that fate, and we don’t think that was fair.”
Pierce Whites, legal counsel for Stumbo’s office, said in a statement on Tuesday that George was appointed “because of his legal training and good reputation as a jurist,” and that Stumbo did not discuss his vote or the case with George.
A request for comment from Stumbo’s office made Friday afternoon on the matter of the appeal was not returned.
Judge Tony Wilhoit says he’s only aware of one other motion to reconsider a verdict in his 17 years as executive director of the ethics commission, which was not granted.