Lawmakers call for a re-do on Arnold hearing as the commission considers motion by women in the case

04/14/2014 08:06 PM

Lawmakers and politicians from both parties are calling for the Legislative Ethics Commission to hold a do-over hearing on the sexual harassment complaints brought against former Democratic Representative John Arnold.

In a motion filed Friday by the women in the case, Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, asked the commission to re-open the case because they were not aware that only five members would be present for their hearing and would like to have the case heard again in front of all members.

Anthony T. Wilhoit, the executive director of the legislative ethics commission, told Pure Politics that the motion will be heard at the commission at their next meeting on May 13.

Wilhoit said in order to re-open the case, the motion will have to have sound legal ground, which will be determined by the commission.

It is unclear whether the motion will stand up to legal scrutiny if the main argument the motion uses is that the women weren’t notified that the commission had only the minimum five members present.

The attorney for the two women, Thomas Clay, told Pure Politics that he and his clients were unaware of of the commission’s rule that charges require at least five votes to go forward. That alone should constitute a reason for the case to be re-heard, he said.

“We were optimistic that the commission would be able to do the right thing,” Clay said. “As it turns out, its been just like everything else the state government has undertaken, it ended up in disaster.”

Because of the confusion with the vote and jurisdiction issues dealing with the commission, the House passed legislation Monday that would clarify some of those issues and potentially lead to expulsion of commission members who are not present at meetings.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, also agreed with Clay that the women in the case should have been informed of the five-vote rule before proceeding with the hearing. He, too, says the Legislative Ethics Commission should re-open the case.

“By only having five there, it changed the standard of proof required and therefore I think the complaining witnesses had a right to have that explained to them and then make a decision as to whether they wanted to go forward on it,” Stumbo said (at 3:00 in video below).

House Republicans also said the commission’s decision was a mistake and should be revisited.

But Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he’s convinced there are bigger problems than just the result of last week’s hearing.

Chief among the questions is why the process of policing legislators broke down in the first place, Hoover told Pure Politics Monday after the House Republicans cancelled a press conference on this issue.

“I can tell you this, if the people of Kentucky hadn’t been upset in the past week and there hadn’t been such outrage, noting would have been no action taken today,” Hoover said referring to the legislation to clarify ethics commission bylaws Monday. “They, being House Democrats, want to talk about how there is a war on women. There may be a war on women but it’s certainly not being waged by the Republicans in the House.”

And members of the legislature aren’t the only ones calling for another hearing on the issue. Over the weekend , Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell called for the case to be re-opened, comparing the situation to one he dealt with as a member of the U.S. Senate.

And Monday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes sent out a press release to make virtually the same point as McConnell two days later, calling for the case to be heard again.

But, regardless of what any politicians say about the issue, it only the women in the case who are able to file the motion and it will then be up to the Legislative Ethics Commission to make a determination about the legal grounds to move forward.


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