Bevin seeks to hang $400K sexual harassment settlement around Democrats' necks; Conway says scandal is bipartisan

08/03/2015 09:47 PM

MAYFIELD — In a pre-Fancy Farm speech to members of his own party, Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin sought to connect Democrats with a six-figure sexual harassment settlement recently reached.

In criticizing the $400,000 settlement in expansive sexual harassment suits between the Legislative Research Commission and three current and former staffers, Bevin becomes the first politician to make political hay out of the scandal that rocked Frankfort, perhaps showing his cards for the fall election season.

Bevin cast the settlement as a problem perpetrated and covered up by state Democrats.

“To sweep under the rug the type of shenanigans being perpetrated by and covered up by Democrats in Frankfort that you wouldn’t expect to see or tolerate in any locker room in any middle school or anywhere else in the United States of America, unacceptable,” Bevin said.“Absolutely unacceptable.”

Two women — Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, and Yolanda Costner, a former aide to Rep. Tommy Thompson during his time as House majority whip — who accused former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis of sexual harassment will receive part of a $400,000 settlement with the LRC.

That amount does not include payments from Arnold and former LRC Director Bobby Sherman. Their allegations first came to light in August 2013 in complaints filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The cash settlement was a joint agreement by members of the Legislative Research Commission, which is a 16-member panel comprised of the Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and the Senate.

At the same time Bevin was targeting Democrats for the scandal, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway sought to distance his party from the controversy at the Graves County Democratic breakfast at Mayfield High School.

Conway, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said that Democrats are not responsible for the scandal because the LRC is a bipartisan organization.

“The lawsuits were stopped. Who knows what would have happened on down the road,” Conway said when pressed about Democratic involvement in the allegations.

Before the suit was settled, the lawsuits nearly swept up a bevy of high-profile Frankfort lawmakers, including House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly, who is Conway’s running mate.

Overly had been previously called to be deposed in the case.

Conway said he has been told “nothing” of the case by Overly.

“Sannie had counsel on that case, and Sannie and I have purposely avoided talking about that so I have no knowledge whatsoever of the details of that LRC case,” Conway said.

The Lexington Herald-Leader spoke with Bevin about the comments after the breakfast, where he called on Overly to explain why she asked her deposition in the case, if taken, be sealed.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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