Lawmaker says work of panel charged with investigating Arnold was 'embarrassing' before it shut down

12/12/2013 05:30 PM

The committee that was supposed to conduct an internal investigation of the conduct of former Rep. John Arnold abruptly shut down without conducting a single interview.

The panel didn’t call a single witness. It didn’t even make a witness list.

On its fifth meeting Thursday, the panel’s committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Jeffrey Donohue, called for the panel to disband. He cited the advice from the panel’s outside counsel, who said the committee didn’t have the authority to conduct such an investigation once Arnold resigned from the House, as Tom Loftus of the Courier-Journal reported.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo formed the committee in August to look into Arnold’s conduct after legislative staffers alleged that he made inappropriate comments to them and sexually harassed them. Stumbo wanted the committee to look into the allegations and make a report to the full House in January to potentially recommend censure or expulsion. But Arnold resigned from the House in September.

The decision to dissolve the committee came two days after Democrats lost a special election to keep Arnold’s seat, the 7th District that covers Union County and parts of Henderson and Daviess counties.

Stumbo, though, said in a brief statement he still expects the five-member panel to make a report to the full House.

“Any action taken regarding the report will be a decision of the entire body,” Stumbo’s statement said.

But Republicans criticized the committee as being a sham.

“Recent actions of House Democrats and their leaders are nothing short of appalling. Kentuckians deserve transparency in government, but House Democrats are more interested in fog and obfuscation,” said Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson.

The day before the committee met for the last time, one of its two Republican members, Rep. Robert Benvenuti of Lexington, told Pure Politics in an interview that the committee was “embarrassing” after spending three months and four meetings to accomplish nothing. Members spent the meetings debating how to move forward, including a more than 45-minute session last week in executive session.

Benvenuti, a former inspector general for the state Health and Family Services Cabinet, said the panel didn’t do any investigative work.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Subscribe to email updates.

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

TWEETS ABOUT KENTUCKY POLITICS