Despite push back from LRC's lawyer, panel picks attorney to help with sexual harassment probe

10/16/2013 11:28 AM

Even hiring a lawyer has been difficult for the special committee that’s been called to investigate the accusations of sexual harassment against former Rep. John Arnold, D-Union County.

The five-member panel of lawmakers on Wednesday decided to hire Patrick Hughes , an attorney from Northern Kentucky who used to work for Attorney General Jack Conway. Hughes was suggested by Democratic Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, who sits on the panel.

But the group got push back from the attorney for the Legislative Research Commission’s lawyer, who wanted the panel to delay its work until the resolution of civil cases brought by the staff members who raised the accusations against Arnold, who resigned in September.

Rep. Jeff Donohue, D-Louisville and the chairman of the committee, urged the group to move forward with hiring an attorney to help guide them through the investigation, which has been marked early on by political divisions over the committee’s charge and organization.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the split over the scope of the probe as well as the leadership of the panel made it difficult to find many attorneys willing to work with the committee.

Benvenuti is an attorney who formerly served as inspector general for the state Health and Family Services Cabinet.

Another Democrat on the committee, Rep. Rita Smart of Richmond, expressed pessimism about the process after reaching out to attorneys. But the others on the committee — both Democrats and Republicans — disagreed that the panel’s investigation would be a waste of taxpayer money.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, called for the special investigation committee in early September after allegations came to light that Arnold made suggestive comments and inappropriately touched two female Democratic staff members. A third later came forward with similar allegations.

Before Arnold resigned, the panel could have recommended expelling Arnold, and can still recommend to the House that Arnold be fined for his actions.

In addition to the special committee, the Legislative Ethics Commission also is investigating Arnold.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.