Third Woman Accuses Rep. John Arnold of Sexual Harassment, Says State Failed to Act

A third Kentucky Statehouse staff member has filed a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Commission, alleging that state Rep. John Arnold touched her inappropriately in 2009 and that a supervisor at the Legislative Research Commission, where she works, failed to act after she reported Arnold’s conduct.

The complaint filed by Gloria Morgan, 55, with the ethics commission on Thursday afternoon accuses Arnold of walking beside her as she left her office, stroking her back and asking her if she was going to “come out and play” that night.

After Morgan attempted to rebuff Arnold, according to the complaint, he allegedly continued to stroke her back and commented that “all work and no play was dull.” Arnold then became angry, according to Morgan’s complaint, and has spoken to her only once since that time.

Morgan’s complaint also contends that when she reported the incident that night to Anita Muckelroy, the LRC’s assistant director for legislator services, Muckelroy “dismissed the entire situation by saying I shouldn’t worry about it.”

Muckelroy never pursued the matter, according to Morgan, a response that Morgan found “disappointing and disconcerting. It became clear to me that her concern was not with me as a person or employee.

“Instead, her only question for me was whether I was ‘nice’ to a legislator as he propositioned me and engaged in unwanted and unwelcomed touching of my body.”  

(You can read Morgan’s complaint here.)

Attempts to reach Arnold on Thursday were unsuccessful. Muckelroy did not respond to three telephone messages left at her LRC office.

In 2008 or 2009, Arnold made a comment about Morgan’s legs, telling her she had legs like singer Tina Turner’s, the complaint reads. Morgan claims she told Arnold that she had once performed as Tina Turner for a United Way charity event. “He indicated that he would like to see me dance like Tina,” the complaint states.

Morgan said she reported this conversation to Muckleroy, “whose only response was that LRC would not be the appropriate venue for that kind of event,” according to the complaint. “Thereafter, on many occasions Representative Arnold would walk down the hall and get my attention by singing the name ‘Tina.’ When he would see me he would say, ‘Hey Tina.’”

Arnold was not on the House floor during Thursday afternoon’s session.

He has not responded to repeated requests for comment from WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which broke the story of the sexual harassment claims earlier this week.

Two complaints filed last week by LRC staff members Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, allege that Arnold—a veteran legislator from Sturgis in western Kentucky—inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar remarks to them over a period of several years.

Cooper and Costner also said they had taken their complaints to LRC officials, to Democratic representatives in the House leadership and to a member of the Kentucky State Police, but had failed to receive a satisfactory response that put an end to Arnold’s alleged misconduct.

(Related: Past coverage of the Arnold ethics cases from WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.)

Morgan said she felt that if her sexual harassment claim was taken seriously, Cooper and Costner could have been spared.

“Had my report against Rep. Arnold been handled appropriately by Ms. Muckelroy when brought to her, then perhaps neither Ms. Costner nor Ms. Cooper would have been subjected to the conduct they endured from Rep. Arnold in the years thereafter,” Morgan’s complaint states.

Morgan is a secretary at the LRC who works for three legislators including state Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat.

Burch said Thursday that she never mentioned anything to him about Arnold or about being harassed by anyone. “Our relationship was strictly business,” Burch said. “I don’t bring my personal life into the workplace, and neither did she.”

Burch described Morgan as “one of the most professional women I’ve ever worked with. Gloria is very, very professional, one of the best. She would make anyone she works for a high executive.”

Robert Sherman, director of the LRC, who earlier this week defended his agency’s policies and procedures for handling allegations involving misconduct, said Thursday that he had no knowledge of the latest complaints and that he could not discuss them anyway because they involve personnel issues.

Sherman told WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Wednesday that the LRC takes seriously any allegations of sexual harassment or other misconduct involving any of its employees, and that such matters are investigated promptly, thoroughly and fairly. 

The LRC has about 380 employees, including fiscal analysts, attorneys, computer operators, librarians. They provide legislators with services such as bill drafting, oversight of the state budget and educational reform, production of educational materials, maintenance of a reference library and Internet site, and the preparation and printing of research reports, informational bulletins and a legislative newspaper.

This is not the first time that the LRC has been touched by controversy. In the 1990s, three LRC said they complained to the agency’s chief of staff that a fellow employee, Kent Downey, had put strippers on the state payroll, sexually harassed women, drank in the office and allowed staffers and friends to drink there.

Downey, who was director of operations for the state House of Representatives, eventually pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote prostitution and gambling, was sentenced in August 1998 to three years’ probation.

The three employees said managers at the LRC ignored their complaints. LRC officials said they did all they could with the information they had at the time.

This story was reported by WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Both are part of Louisville Public Media.

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