Legislative Ethics Commission will take up Arnold case again

05/07/2014 11:01 AM

(UPDATED 12:38 p.m.) — The Legislative Ethics Commission is taking a mulligan and is re-hearing the sexual harassment case against former Democratic Rep. John Arnold on Wednesday.

Commissioners on Wednesday morning decided that the statutes governing the panel allow the panel to take up the case again after last month’s decision ended without charging Arnold. With several members absent at the April 8 meeting, the commission had voted 4-1 vote in favor of charging Arnold with ethics violations. But five votes are needed to take any action.

On Wednesday, seven members of the nine-member commission were present. One spot remains unfilled and the eighth member, former Republican state Sen. Vernie McGaha, resigned from the commission this week. McGaha tried to resign because of disgust with the way the Arnold case went, was convinced by Senate President Robert Stivers to stay on but ultimately decided to leave anyway because of his campaign donation to a sitting legislator, Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, as the Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus reported .

Several legislative staff members have accused Arnold, a western Kentucky Democratic lawmaker for 19 years, of inappropriately touching them and making sexual comments to them between 2010 and 2013. Many legislators and the attorney for those staff members had skewered the Legislative Ethics Commission for failing to charge Arnold at the April 8 meeting.

Arnold’s attorney, Steve Downey of Bowling Green, had filed a motion to stop Wednesday’s proceedings about re-hearing the case. But the commission countered with a motion to rehear it.

Here’s how they say they can do it under the law that governs the committee: Because they had five of the nine commission members present on April 8, they had a quorum to hear arguments and vote. But unless they would get five votes one way or the other, essentially no official action was taken, said the commission’s attorney Mike Malone.

After an hour and a half of arguments Wednesday morning, the commission went into executive session. Eleven media outlets, including cn|2, objected to going into executive session without the commission giving a reason. Eventually, the commission’s attorney cited the specific exception to the open meetings law to allow them to go into executive session.

Once the commission emerged from executive session, commissioners announced that they had decided to rehear the Arnold case.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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