Yarmuth says statehouse harassment case puts Grimes in 'delicate' situation on responses and with donation

04/18/2014 10:04 AM

Kentucky U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, said Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes probably should have spoken up earlier about her frustration with the Legislative Ethics Commission handling of a sexual harassment case.

In an interview that aired Monday on Pure Politics, Yarmuth said he believes the absence of members at the Legislative Ethics Commission is a problem that state leaders must address. And he said the commission should hold another hearing on the sexual harassment case regarding former Democratic Rep. John Arnold.

The commission voted 4-1 earlier this month to charge Arnold for ethics violations, but at least five votes on the nine-member commission is needed to charge a lawmaker.

While the issue is not directly related to the U.S. Senate race, Yarmuth agreed that Grimes’ central focus on women’s issues has put her on the spot. The situation is “delicate,” he said, because it’s a statehouse issue and she’s running a federal race.

“I think she has to run her own campaign. I would have been more outspoken about the event and the commission,” Yarmuth said (at 2:00 in video below). “To me, that’s the real troubling part of it that you get one person who can essentially vindicate Mr. Arnold and that’s really really unfortunate.”

As for the $250 donation Grimes got from Arnold , Yarmuth said he doesn’t see much of a reason to keep the controversial contribution.

“I don’t know why she wouldn’t give $250 back if that’s going to make anybody happy, but I don’t think that’s going to make anybody happy.”

Another issue Yarmuth has expressed concerns about is the land deal in Louisville for the new VA hospital that has provoked some big questions.

The Louisville Courier-Journal was first to report on a land deal in Louisville by the department of Veterans Affairs to build a new 125-bed hospital. Questions arose when the appraisal of the property went up significantly over a 14-month period.

The land is owned by Jonathan Blue, a Louisville developer and a frequent political donor. And somehow the price went up more than $3 million when the Veterans Administration looked to buy the property.

Yarmuth has called for an investigation into the deal and the two separate appraisals to see why the second was requested or completed.

Yarmuth says the deal “doesn’t pass the sniff test” and he would like to make sure the VA followed its own rules.

“To put it in perspective, this is a $900 million project so ultimately $3 million is a small amount. But again, it is taxpayer money,” Yarmuth said (at 3:00 in video below). “I got the initial appropriation for the new VA hospital project so that is money that I am, to a certain extent, accountable for and I want to make sure it is being dispensed perfectly legitimately.”

(Clarification — The headline and one paragraph in the article about Yarmuth’s “delicate” comment has been updated to reflect that he was specifically talking about Grimes being in a federal race and being asked about a statehouse issue, however Yarmuth, in the interview, responded in the affirmative to a follow-up question about the relevance of Grimes stressing women’s issues in her campaign.)


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