Judge orders temporary seal in Legislative Research Commission lawsuit depositions

04/08/2015 01:17 PM

FRANKFORT — A Franklin County judge issued a temporary protective order on all depositions taken in lawsuits against the Legislative Research Commission on Wednesday.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate sealed the records as attorneys on both sides brief their arguments over the next 10 days.

House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly, through attorney Anita Britton of Lexington, sought the protective order ahead of her scheduled deposition Monday, citing past leaks from Louisville attorney Thomas Clay.

Clay, who’s representing former LRC staffer Yolanda Costner and current employees Cassaundra Cooper and Nicole Cusic, had provided a video copy of state Rep. Will Coursey’s provocative deposition to the website Page One Kentucky through an intermediary, he said in a previous court hearing. Coursey is a defendant in Cusic’s lawsuit, which alleges he retaliated against her after she raised concerns about harassing behavior toward an LRC employee and an intern, and has filed a countersuit claiming defamation.

Clay told The Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal he planned to question Overly on allegations that former Democratic Rep. John Arnold, the subject of Costner’s and Cooper’s lawsuit, may have inappropriately touched her. He declined to discuss the nature of his questions to Overly, a Paris Democrat and candidate for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Attorney General Jack Conway, when asked by reporters Wednesday.

“We believe that it is absolutely violative of a non-party deponent’s privacy interests to have their words sold out, sampled, taken out of context and otherwise used for a purpose that is not recognized under the discovery rules,” Britton said in court.

Gary Crabtree, a London attorney representing former LRC Director Bobby Sherman, also sought a court seal on depositions relating to an alleged romantic relationship between his client and a former LRC worker and subordinate, Rita Ratliff.

“There is nothing regarding such an alleged relationship that would be admissible on the issues in the complaint,” Crabtree said in court.

But Clay suggested a romantic link between Sherman and Ratliff would reflect the working environment at LRC, noting a draft audit by the National Conference of State Legislatures that found raises granted without rationale. The Frankfort State Journal reported in 2013 on hefty pay raises Ratliff received with Sherman’s approval, with a 19.2 percent salary boost coming about four years before her retirement.

Clay said he understands sexual harassment is an embarrassing topic to discuss in public, “but this is a matter that involves public officials on public property and I think the public has a compelling right to know what went on in their legislature.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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