Key members of panel investigating sexual harassment in House differ on breadth of probe

10/09/2013 02:39 PM

Members of the panel investigating allegations of sexual harassment against former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Union County appear to be at odds over how broadly their probe should go into the culture of the state House.

On Wednesday, the panel used its second meeting to request legal counsel to help define the scope and direction of the investigation.

The five-person legislative committee — three Democrats and two Republicans — opted to wait for their own legal counsel instead of using one hired by the Legislative Research Commission. The LRC hired lawyers to represent the agency in civil suits brought by the staff members accusing Arnold of sexually harassing them filed in Franklin Circuit Court.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jeff Donohue, D-Louisville, said the group wasn’t organized to look into other allegations about lawmakers.

However, Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, asked that a letter be sent to LRC staff requesting anyone with information talk to the committee about Arnold or other allegations.

“You cannot view those allegations (against Arnold) in a vacuum. Nor can you assume only those who have come forward so farare the only ones who have meaningful information to the committee,” Benvenuti told Pure Politics.

Benvenuti, who is a former inspector general of the state’s health cabinet, said the panel should “see where the information leads.”

While the group contemplates just how in-depth they’ll go with the investigation, Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, wondered whether the panel should limit the number of witnesses considering Arnold hasn’t disputed the allegations.

He said the group should proceed “deliberately, but cautiously” in the investigation.

At the end of the investigation, the group is to present a written report to the full House. And Donohue said he hopes the results will strengthen the sexual harassment policy for legislators.

Simpson went a step further and spoke about ending the culture of a “good ole’ boy” network in the House.

“If the good ole’ boy system has not been pronounced dead it will be,” Simpson said.

The committee met for less than an hour and scheduled three more meetings. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said that investigations are often slow moving at their start, but hoped they could quicken the pace with the advice of legal counsel.

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