Legislators move to support staff alleging sexual harrassment against Rep. John Arnold

08/21/2013 01:09 PM

Legislators on Wednesday stopped short of calling for the resignation of Democratic Rep. John Arnold until the conclusion of an ethics investigation into whether Arnold sexually harassed legislative staffers.

The investigative team at WFPL public radio in Louisville first reported Wednesday that two staff members who work for the Democratic majority caucus filed complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission alleging that Arnold inappropriately touched them and made harassing and vulgar comments. That included an incident in which Democratic Rep. Reginald Meeks intervened and chastised Arnold after witnessing Arnold grab one of the staffer’s underwear, according to WFPL’s description of the complaint.

Arnold declined to comment to WFPL and ducked out of the House chamber and into the private offices in the House Speaker’s suite when reporters sought to interview him Wednesday.

Many lawmakers said they heard about the situation for the first time Wednesday. After a long debate over redistricting, Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, rose to introduce a resolution praising the staffers for their courage for coming forward. The complaint cited by WFPL listed two staffers. Riner said a third also is coming forward.

The complaint also said the staff members didn’t get assistance they sought after complaining to the Legislative Research Commission and Democratic leaders.

Democratic Rep. Kelly Flood of Lexington said she was “livid” to learn of the allegations and the potential that the issue wasn’t handled by Democratic leaders. But she said she wasn’t ready to call for Arnold’s resignation until the matter handled by the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Bobby Sherman, director of the Legislative Research Commission, said he couldn’t comment on the specific case. “Anything involving personnel, I can’t talk about,” he said.

But he said the LRC does “follow procedures” any time a harassment complaint is made. And that process includes protections for staffers against fear of reprisal.

The LRC “Personnel Policy Manual” devotes two of its 51 pages to sexual harassment and holds sexual harassment training for staff every 18 months. Lawmakers, themselves, are not included in that training.

LRC will not engage in or tolerate any form of retaliation against any employee who has made a good faith report of harassment,” the policy says.


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