LRC staffer alleges she was transferred against her will after calling out legislator's conduct

09/25/2013 06:41 PM

A fourth staffer in the Legislative Research Commission has alleged improper conduct by a lawmaker and is preparing to sue the organization, its former director and Rep. Will Coursey for retribution.

Nicole Cusic said she was transferred against her will from Democratic House offices to the Senate Republican offices after she confronted Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia, about “his conduct toward an intern,” said Thomas E. Clay, the lawyer representing Cusic. Clay also is representing two of the three LRC staffers who filed complaints to the LRC and Legislative Ethics Commission alleging that former Democratic Rep. John Arnold sexually harassed them.

Clay sent a letter to the Legislative Research Commission’s attorney, Laura Hendrix, on Wednesday to “put LRC on notice” of the forthcoming lawsuit against the agency, Coursey and Bobby Sherman, the former LRC director who resigned Friday. Clay said LRC officials told her she was being transferred as a result of her confrontation with Coursey.

LRC leadership told her why she was being transferred,” Clay said. Download the letter here: 9-25-13 ltr. to Laura Hendrix.pdf

Coursey referred questions to his attorney, Mark Edwards. Edwards vehemently denied that Coursey had any inappropriate conduct with an intern and said Cusic was transferred because of her job performance.

He also said he expects to file a countersuit on Coursey’s behalf. He said he has more information “that we’re not going to divulge at this time.”

“Once that’s looked into, they’re going to find she was a poor employee for Mr. Coursey,” Edwards said. “She had a 20 percent absentee rate, was late and left critical work unfinished.”

Edwards said he wasn’t told of any run-ins between Cusic and Coursey about an intern and “can only speculate” about the identity of the intern. He also said Cusic will have a hard time proving her claim of retaliation.

“And I fail to see where she was damaged by this. She was transferred. She wasn’t fired,” Edwards said.

Clay said Cusic didn’t consider it “a demotion” to move to the Senate offices. But he said it was against her will.

“It was not her choice. It was retaliation for having spoken up to Representative Coursey about his inappropriate conduct,” Clay said.

Sherman — who retired abruptly Friday as questions continue to swirl about the agency’s handling of the allegations against Arnold — did not return messages left on his home and cell phones Wednesday night.

A spokesman for House Speaker Greg Stumbo had little to say about Clay’s letter.

“We will review the communication and make an appropriate response in due course,” said the statement from spokesman Brian Wilkerson.

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