Politics
7:33 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Former Rep. John Arnold's Mental Competence Questioned as Kentucky Ethics Case is Delayed

John Arnold
Credit Jonathan Meador/WFPL News

FRANKFORT—A hearing on the state ethics complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold was delayed Monday amid questions about his mental health.

In an ruling, Legislative Ethics Commission chairman George Troutman ordered that the trial be postponed because of continued uncertainty over Arnold's mental competence. The continuance was asked for in a motion by Steve Downey, Arnold's attorney, said LEC counsel John Schaaf in a statement.

Downey wrote in the motion that he is still awaiting diagnoses from several doctors on whether Arnold, a Sturgis Democrat, is mentally competent to stand trial. Downey said Arnold has suffered minor strokes.

“His mental and cognitive status is very pertinent to the charges against him," Downey told Kentucky Public Radio. "Despite his doctors’ best efforts, a definitive diagnosis has not been reached. Without this proof, this matter is not ready for a hearing, and John’s health is so poor that it is doubtful he will participate in that hearing.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo told reporters Monday that it was well-known in the Capitol that Arnold suffered mental issues and that, as a result, "we watched him very closely, and we monitored what he did."

"I think anyone who observed him would know he was not well," said Stumbo, a Democrat.

In an interview, Downey reiterated that Arnold's mental health has been declining for the last few years. In the motion, Downey submitted as evidence a Feb. 17, 2014 report from Evansville, Ind., psychologist Jeffrey Gray. 

Gray's report states that Arnold exhibits symptoms consistent with degenerative dementia and short- and immediate-term memory impairment likely related to a "cerebrovascular event," or a stroke.

Gray evaluated Arnold at the request of Arnold's primary neurologist, Francis J. Kadiyamkuttiyil, also of Evansville, Downey said.

Thomas Clay, a Louisville attorney representing three state Legislative Research Commission employees who have accused Arnold of sexual assault and harassment, called the hearing's delay "disturbing."

“It’s very troubling that this proceeding, and the special legislative committee, and all the time and all the meetings that have been convened, have not accomplished one single step to get these matters resolved," Clay said.

"Nothing.”

Related: Past coverage of the John Arnold allegations from WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Gray's report also said Arnold's mental decline began in 2011. Before his resignation in September, Arnold served various state government committees after this alleged decline, including a vice-chairmanship of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

The ethics case delay makes moots more than a dozen subpoenas filed by Downey seeking to compel testimony from lawmakers and LRC staff in the hearing.

Legislators who have been served include Rep. Rocky Adkins; Speaker Greg Stumbo; Rep. Keith Hall; Rep. Tommy Thompson; Senate President Robert Stivers; Sen. Brandon Smith; Sen. Damon Thayer; Rep. John Short; Rep. Sannie Overly, whom was allegedly harassed by Arnold; and Rep. Will Coursey, whom has been accused by a female LRC employee of harassment and retaliation,  According to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. 

Overly was allegedly touched inappropriately by Arnold, according to a court filing. Coursey has been accused of retaliating against an LRC staff member who alleged he'd acted inappropriately with Statehouse interns. He's denied the claim.

Three LRC employees were also delivered subpoenas, according to the Franklin sheriff's office.

Stumbo said that he would be "happy to honor the subpoenas, but not during a legislative session." His comments echo a motion filed in Franklin Circuit Court by his attorney, Anna Whites, which sought to quash those subpoenas on his behalf, citing the distraction they would pose to the General Assembly.

Downey declined to comment on the matter of the subpoenas, but acknowledged that they were moot.

A five-member panel appointed by Stumbo and tasked with investigating the claims against Arnold met several times last year without investigating any evidence, racking up $3,300 in taxpayer expenses. That panel also hired an attorney, Patrick Hughes with the Northern Kentucky law firm DBL, whom has yet to file an invoice with the LRC for the services he provided. Recently, a Joint Government Contract Review Committee approved by a partisan vote a $25,000 ceiling for Hughes' contract.