Politics

The two major party candidates for lieutenant governor on Monday addressed the two-year controversy over sexual harassment in the Kentucky Statehouse.

During a televised debate, Democratic candidate Sannie Overly criticized the culture in the state Capitol, and Republican candidate Janean Hampton questioned Overly’s leadership and transparency on the issue.

Overly didn’t directly respond to a question about why she moved to seal her deposition in a 2013 sexual harassment lawsuit, but instead talked about the need to address sexual harassment in the Statehouse.

Overly, a Democratic state representative from Paris, was drawn into the lawsuit because legislative staff members alleged that former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, inappropriately touched her.

Overly’s deposition was never taken because the parties in the lawsuit decided to resolve the case in mediation at about the same time that the deposition was scheduled to be taken.

“I strongly condemn the actions that were complained of in that complaint,” Overly said in response to the question about the Arnold lawsuit.

Overly, the House majority caucus leader, has repeatedly refused to talk specifically about the allegations. During Monday’s debate, she spoke out against a culture that could allow sexual harassment in the Statehouse.

“I think that when we look at the culture in Frankfort, and really that’s what that lawsuit was all about, we have to look at how do we address the culture,” Overly said.

Republican nominee Janean Hampton, a businesswoman from Bowling Green, has been critical of Overly’s attempt to seal her would-be deposition in the case. Hampton said Overly’s actions lacked transparency, and compared her management style in the corrugated packaging industry.

“I’m not sure why anyone would insist that their deposition would be sealed. However in my plant, my employees knew they could talk to me about anything at any time,” Hampton said.

“The tone is set at the top by the management. I hope that we can set an example for the female employees, for everyone.”

In a deposition of Rep. Arnold released last week, he admitted to “spanking”  Overly’s knee.

Arnold said Overly reacted angrily, according to the deposition.

Arnold resigned from his position in 2013 and was later fined $3,000 from the legislative ethics commission. He also had to pay an independent cash settlement to his accusers in the sexual harassment lawsuit, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said this summer. The details of the additional settlement have not been revealed.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.