Speaker Greg Stumbo: Legislative Leaders Should Discuss John Arnold Case Publicly

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants to open a closed-door meeting of the Legislative Research Commission scheduled for Wednesday that will discuss an internal investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Rep. John A. Arnold by two longtime state house staffers.

“As you know, I have already publicly released documents showing our efforts to ensure prompt and professional investigation of all harassment claims,” Stumbo said in a statement. “I believe the public has a fundamental right to know these facts, and have convened a House Select Committee to ensure this will occur.”

The meeting is set to be held in executive session as it deals with a personnel matter. Stumbo’s office, however, contends that because Arnold is not an LRC employee, the state’s open meeting laws do not allow for the session to be closed, if Arnold is the subject of the discussion.

The law states:

Discussions or hearings which might lead to the appointment, discipline, or dismissal of an individual employee, member, or student without restricting that employee’s, member’s, or student’s right to a public hearing if requested. This exception shall not be interpreted to permit discussion of general personnel matters in secret;
 

The meeting could discuss the LRC employees who filed the complaints against Arnold. But, in any case, whomever proposes the meeting be held in executive session will have to site the legal reason why.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers called for the executive session last week to shed light on an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault and harassment made against Arnold by Cassandra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, two employees of the Legislative Research Commission.

That investigation was conducted by Cheryl Lewis, an attorney from Hyden, Ky., who was hired by the LRC with Stumbo’s approval to investigate the claims. Both women told WFPL they were dissatisfied with the LRC probe and Lewis’ role in it, and they say they have yet to see any results of the investigation since first meeting with Lewis and LRC superiors on July 9.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, remains the only member of House and Senate leadership not attending the Wednesday session, but he wrote to Stivers on Tuesday that the meeting should be open to the public, recorded and transcribed.

Update: Stumbo’s representative now says the speaker will attend the meeting. Stivers has agreed to have the meeting be recorded.

Stumbo has formed a five-person committee in the House to investigate the claims against Arnold. The panel will report its findings in January during the next regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly, and the full chamber could vote to censure or expel Arnold.

(Related: Past coverage of the Arnold sexual harassment allegations from WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting)

Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, Ky., has been named in a total of three separate complaints alleging sexual harassment and assault against three female LRC employees over the past several years. He has not responded to repeated requests for comment on these allegations.

During the most recent Special Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, Arnold was paid the standard legislator rate of $188.22 per day—including the two days of that session he was absent after the allegations against him were made public, according to LRC staff.

The executive session will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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