Politics

A former legislative staff executive in Nevada will be the leader of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, filling a post that’s been vacant for two years since a sexual harassment scandal rocked Frankfort.

David Byerman will become the LRC’s director in October.

Byerman will take over a state agency that’s been under at times intense scrutiny since two LRC employees alleged sexual harassment by a state legislator in August 2013. The LRC provides research and staff support to Kentucky’s state legislators.

From 2010 to 2014, Byerman was the secretary of the Nevada state Senate, serving as the chamber’s chief administrative office and parliamentarian. He managed a $21.5 million biennial budget, according to a press release from the LRC.

Byerman stepped down from the position in November 2014 after Republicans captured the majority of the state Senate and re-appointed former secretary Claire Clift, who had resigned from the position in 2010.

Previously, Byerman also served as the chief government liaison for Nevada and was the president of a public relations firm that worked with clients such as MGM Mirage Casino, state government agencies and a variety of non-profit and private-sector businesses.

He also served as executive assistant to former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, a Democrat.

“After our extensive search and considering many qualified candidates, David’s experience in Nevada is what separated him from the rest,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said in a released statement. “He is the best choice to lead LRC in a new direction, and I look forward to working with him.”

Senate President Robert Stivers said Byerman had read and was aware of an audit report of a critical LRC before he met with Stivers and other Kentucky officials about the job.

“That was one of the things that impressed us,” Stivers said. Stivers said it will be Byerman’s “call  and he inform us after an assessment period as to what he will do.”

Byerman will be tasked with reforming the Legislative Research Commission, which was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal starting in 2013.

In August 2013, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL News reported that two LRC staffers had accused then-Rep. John Arnold, a Sturgis Democrat, of inappropriately touching them. They also alleged that the LRC did too little to protect them.

Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner sued Arnold and then-LRC Director Bobby Sherman. In September 2013, Arnold resigned — citing poor health — and Sherman retired. The lawsuit expanded to include complaints from another staffer against Democratic Rep. Will Coursey, of Symsonia.

The parties agreed to settle the lawsuit in June.

David ByermanJoseph Lord | wfpl.org

David Byerman

The allegations also led to questions about the workplace culture in the LRC and, more broadly, the state Capitol.

A performance audit of the LRC, requested by legislative leaders and completed by the National Conference of State Legislatures, released in January reported low-morale in the state agency and detailed problems with communication, pay equity, hiring practices and unclear career paths for young employees.

The LRC is overseen by a committee of state legislative leaders. About 30 candidates were interviewed. Stivers, a Republican, and Stumbo, a Democrat, were given authority to negotiate employment terms with Byerman, according to a LRC news release.

Byerman will be paid $135,000 annually, according to a LRC news release. The pay range for the position is $120,000 and $140,000.

Correction: This story previously misstated the circumstances of Clift’s departure from her post with the Nevada state Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.