Commission fines former Rep. John Arnold $3,000 for ethics violations in harassment case

05/07/2014 03:13 PM

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: The Legislative Ethics Commission on Wednesday voted 5-1 to charge former Democratic Rep. John Arnold for three counts of ethics violations and to fine him $3,000 for Arnold’s comments to and inappropriate touching of three legislative staffers.

Each count of the three counts represented a staff member who brought complaints against Arnold.

The commission re-heard testimony from those three staff members, Yolanda Costner, Cassaundra Cooper and Gloria Morgan, as well as Arnold’s attorney on Wednesday. Five members of the nine-person commission had taken up the issue on April 8. But with a 4-1 vote in favor of charging Arnold, the commission’s vote fell short of five votes to take any action. The commission decided Wednesday to hold a do-over on the case.

Arnold resigned in September amid the harassment accusations. His lawyer, Steve Downey of Bowling Green, told the seven members of the ethics commission earlier Wednesday that Arnold’s actions — in which he grabbed the underwear of one of the staffers and gave them unwanted back rubs — were a result of his dementia.

After the ruling Downey told reporters that the actions taken on Wednesday were the end of the matter and they would appeal the findings in Franklin Circuit Court.

The commission had come under fire for failing to charge Arnold at its last meeting April 8 when only five members — the legal minimum to do business — showed up. The commission had voted 4-1 to charge but five votes of the nine member commission were needed to take any action.

At the time, commission member and Lebanon lawyer Elmer George was the only vote against charging Arnold. On Wednesday, George again was the lone vote against charging Arnold. One other commission member left before the vote.

Cooper told reporters after the meeting that they were felt vindicated. Both Cooper and Costner said the civil case against Arnold would still proceed.

Here’s what they said about other legislative staffers who could come forward:

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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