After a nearly seven-month investigation, the Kentucky State Police say investigators 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.
Trooper Paul Blanton, a KSP spokesman, said a detective concluded that Sherman’s activities weren’t illegal and weren’t part of a cover-up.
“The investigation [of] the initial complaint, which was the destruction of documents to conceal this assault, or physical assault or sexual assault, there was no evidence of that,” Blanton said.
Sherman resigned last September after criticism over his handling of sexual harassment complaints brought by female state House employees against former West Kentucky Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold resigned that same month. Arnold was recently fined $3,000 by a Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission panel for using his state office to conduct sexual harassment.
The Courier-Journal’s Mike Wynn broke the story, wherein Sherman admitted to shredding documents outside of work hours, the weekend following his resignation. State lawmakers asked for an official inquiry into Sherman’s actions.
While Blanton said the case has officially been closed by the acting detective, it still awaits a supervisor’s final seal of approval before KSP will release the files to the public. Blanton said that the records will be made available within the next two weeks.
Kentucky Public Radio obtained copies of correspondence between the KSP and the LRC detailing some communications between the two entities during the initial phases of the investigation late last year.
An Oct. 1, 2013 email from KSP Det. Vincent Schmitt to the LRC’s custodian of records states that there was some suspicion by the KSP over activity associated with Sherman’s network account.
“During the course of an official investigation,” Schmitt wrote in the e-mail, “the Kentucky State Police has determined that the individual associated with this account may have used it to participate in or discuss criminal activity via the computer.”
Blanton said he was not familiar with details of the investigation, and couldn’t confirm the identity of the acting detective.
In another email, dated Sept. 24, 2013, LRC deputy director Robert Jenkins purports to list the documents that Sherman destroyed.
Jenkins wrote—based on conversations with Sherman, LRC human resources director Roy Collins, and former LRC official Rita Ratliff—that the destroyed documents “were either duplicates or other material that was safe to be destroyed” and that “no information related to any threatened litigation was destroyed.”
Jenkins further states that the documents included personal junk mail, information relating to the financing of Sherman’s house, memos to legislative leaders regarding committee appointments, approvals for out-of-town meetings, and LRC employee salary information.
“They were not official documents of the agency,” Jenkins concludes. “And because they had personal identifiable information, [Sherman] felt they should be destroyed.”
Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents two of Rep. Arnold’s accusers, said Friday that KSP Det. Schmitt may have reached a preliminary conclusion prior to conducting a full investigation, and that the facts of the case could very well have proven Sherman’s innocence.
Clay said he will subpeona Sherman as part of a civil suit filed against Arnold and the LRC by two of Arnold’s accusers, longtime legislative staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper.
“I’ve thought long and hard about a plausible explanation for Mr. Sherman’s conduct, and I haven’t come up with one yet,” Clay said. “I can’t think of any justification why, if there were documents in his office that needed shredding, he had to do it on the weekend when nobody else was there.”