Sexual harassment saga coming to an end with cash settlement

06/23/2015 10:53 PM

Nearly two years after sexual harassment allegations against a former lawmaker first became public, two lawsuits alleging harassment and retaliation by legislators have been settled.

The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus first reported that the cases involving former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, and Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, had reached an end in mediation late Monday.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the cases were wrapping up behind closed doors.

“The basic framework … I believe is in place,” Stivers said on a press call. “A dollar figure has been proposed. Some language about drafting a settlement document is out there.”

Stivers, who serves as the co-chair of the LRC, told reporters that it was “premature” to discuss details of the settlement, but said Yolanda Costner, a former advisor to Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, during his time as majority whip, and Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, would receive payments.

The women were seeking damages from Arnold and the LRC for actions taken by Arnold, who is appealing ethics violations related to the sexual harassment lawsuit, and against the commission for failures to take action against the harassment to take place.

After the allegations became public Arnold resigned his House seat, though he denied the charges. Former LRC Director Robert Sherman left his post later that month.

In 2014 the Legislative Ethics Commission found Arnold guilty of sexually harassment and fined the former lawmaker.

As the drama wore on other lawmakers became embroiled in the allegations with a second case coming forward brought by legislative staffer Nicole Cusic against Coursey. Cusic alleged that she was transferred against her will from Democratic House offices to the Senate Republican offices after she confronted Coursey about his conduct toward an intern.

Coursey denied the allegations and filed his own countersuit against Cusic in 2013.

Earlier this year the lawsuits nearly swept up a bevy of high profile Frankfort lawmakers, including House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly, a candidate for lieutenant governor who was called to be deposed in the 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@twcnews.com.

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