In wake of Arnold's resignation, questions about probes persist while parties scramble for candidates

09/16/2013 06:24 PM

John Arnold’s resignation as a Democratic state representative Friday amid allegations of sexual harassment has relieved the General Assembly of some issue — namely Arnold — but it also presents new questions.

First, what took so long? What happens next with the disclosure of what went on behind closed doors at a legislative meeting about handling of the allegations? What’s next for the investigation into Arnold? And what’s going to happen with the special election to replace Arnold?

Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he will call the special election in the next “several weeks” but wants to have the election before January when lawmakers convene for the 2014 session. And the law requires 49 days between the party’s selection of nominees and the election.

Special election

The special election for the 7th House District in Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess counties will be the first special election since the General Assembly passed new district maps in last month’s special session.

Legislators still represent the old districts to which they were elected last fall. But in light of a federal lawsuit brought by Northern Kentuckians, a panel of judges essentially forced the legislature to pass the maps with a provision that called for the maps to take effect immediately. Beshear said the special election will cover the newly-drawn 7th District:

The district still has Union County, but the precincts in Henderson and Daviess County have changed. Some voters in precincts in northeast Henderson and northwest Daviess who have been moved out of the 7th will technically be orphans in the 2014 General Assembly without a state representative.

“There could be some precincts that are left naked, if you will,” said Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Philpot, whose district will shed several southern Owensboro precincts to the 7th District.

Thompson said he and other area representatives will step in to make sure those constituents are covered.

One other consequence is that the Republican candidate who only lost to Arnold by five votes last November won’t be able to run in this special election.

Tim Kline’s neighborhood was drawn out of the 7th District. He has put his home up for sale and can potentially move into the newly-drawn 7th District. But the law requires a candidate to live in the district for a year before to be eligible. So Kline wouldn’t be able to run for the until next year’s regular election.

A front-runner has yet to emerge for either party. Like the special election for a Central Kentucky House seat in June, the 7th District race is likely to attract a lot of attention and money as a potential precursor to the 2014 election cycle.

What’s next for the investigation?

Several entities are investigating the allegations, including the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Stumbo also called a committee of five House members to investigate Arnold’s conduct. That committee could have recommended expelling or censuring Arnold.

Stumbo said that investigation will continue even though Arnold is no longer a member of the General Assembly and the statute in which Stumbo used to call for the investigation pertains only to members of the General Assembly.

That five-person committee is scheduled to convene tomorrow at 10 a.m., where among other things they are planning to lay out the scope of their investigation.

Those allegations against Arnold were first brought in February by two Democratic House staffers, who say Arnold inappropriately touched them and made sexual comments to them.

Disclose or not disclose?

On Sept. 4, legislative leaders from both parties and from both chambers took their first official steps to get answers about how legislative leaders and the non-partisan director of the Legislative Research Commission handled the sexual harassment allegations.

They got some answers in a public meeting. But much of it was done in a behind-closed-doors executive session for four hours. Democratic House leaders didn’t attend in protest, saying they thought it should have been conducted in the open.

After Arnold’s resignation on Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers contacted House Speaker Greg Stumbo to propose that a tape recording of the closed door part of those meetings be released to the public.

Now Stumbo’s not so sure he wants that information to come out.

Stumbo said because he was not there, he has no knowledge of what was said and doesn’t want to compromise any legal standings.

“The Senate relied on its counsel when agreeing to meet in closed session and during all closed session discussions. The Senate needs to make sure that (the LRC-hired) Attorney Cheryl Lewis and the lawyers speaking in the meeting agree that releasing the tape does not expose any member, witness or third party to potential harm.”


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