LRC ponies up $400K to settle sexual harassment lawsuits by current, former employees
07/23/2015 07:56 PM
Three women who sued the Legislative Research Commission after a wide-ranging sexual harassment scandal have received $400,000 in an agreed settlement, their attorney announced Thursday.
Louisville lawyer Thomas Clay said he had not yet received the check, which also includes attorneys’ fees, or the agreement itself pending signatures from the involved parties.
“This amount of money was determined as a result of a long mediation,” Clay said in a phone interview with Pure Politics. “I think the mediation went 13 hours, so it was a long mediation process and there was give and take on both sides, and in the final analysis, the parties agreed on this amount.”
Clay represents Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, and Yolanda Costner, a former aide to Rep. Tommy Thompson during his time as House majority whip, who accused former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis of sexual harassment. Their allegations arose in August 2013 in complaints filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission.
As a result, Arnold was found in violation of state ethics laws by the commission in May 2014 and fined him $3,000. Arnold has since appealed that decision in Franklin Circuit Court.
Clay’s other client, legislative secretary Nicole Cusic, accused Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, of retaliation after she allegedly complained about harassing behavior towards others at LRC in 2012. She said the LRC transferred her from House offices to Senate offices against her will.
Arnold and Coursey have maintained their innocence. Coursey had also filed a countersuit against Cusic claiming defamation of character, but Clay said the suit will be dropped as a result of the settlement.
Clay hopes the $400,000 resolution will embolden others at LRC to come forward if they experience sexual harassment at the workplace, but he says that still may be a daunting task for some given concerns of retaliation.
“I can’t predict that,” Clay said when asked whether he expects the case to change procedures at the LRC. “All I know is that nothing much has changed at LRC. The director has left, but a lot of the people who were there at the time this culture existed are still there, and until they get someone in from the outside to change the culture at LRC and implement some of the suggestions made by the National (Conference) of State Legislatures, I don’t think much is going to change there.”
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