Lawyer for harassed staff members slams LRC, indicates broader problems and potential lawsuit

09/04/2013 06:54 PM

As legislative leaders sought answers Wednesday behind closed doors about how the Legislative Research Commission handled complaints of sexual harassment, the lawyer for two of the staff members who brought the allegations blasted the legislature for “bungling” it.

Thomas Clay represents Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner, the first two staffers in the Democratic leadership offices who brought forward allegations that Rep. John Arnold made inappropriate comments to them and touched them.

Clay, Cooper and Costner attended Wednesday’s Legislative Research Commission meeting, in which legislative leaders tried to get answers from LRC Director Bobby Sherman about how

Sherman broadly outlined the timeline of how he and legislative lawyers responded to the complaints when first brought to them on Feb. 19. After conducting a week’s worth of interviews, Sherman said those investigating the claims arrived at findings, which Sherman said were shared with Cooper and Costner.

Clay strongly disputed that.

“They were not. They still haven’t to this day been notified what the results were,” Clay told reporters. “I think he’s sorely mistaken.”

And he indicated that other allegations or complaints could arise.

Clay wouldn’t name the other lawmakers. But the complaints Clay filed on Cooper and Costner’s behalf with the Legislative Ethics Commission refers to two other lawmakers having sexual relationships with legislative staffers. While the legislative employment policies don’t explicitly forbid relationships between lawmakers and staff, it does prohibit any relationship that may upset the workplace environment.

Clay also said his clients are considering a settlement with the Legislative Research Commission or a potential lawsuit.

He said the actions by the Legislative Research Commission on Wednesday to go into executive session and not publicly disclose the

Attorneys for the legislative branch urged lawmakers not to bring out those details in a public meeting for fear of damaging the legislature’s defense in the case of a lawsuit.

As for a possible lawsuit, Clay pledged someone “will be held accountable.”

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