5:05pm

Tue January 7, 2014
State Capitol

Critics Renew Debate Over House Handling Of Sexual Harrassment Claims

FRANKFORT— House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook (left), speaks with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives prior to the start of the opening day of the 2014 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
Credit Legislative Research Commission
The opening day of 2014 general assembly included a renewal of the debate over a highly publicized sexual harassment case. Critics took to the house floor and attacked the House special committee that investigated allegation of sexual harassment leveled against former Representative John Arnold.  The panel disbanded just before the holidays without taking action.   

Committee chair Jeffrey Donohue defended the move, saying Arnold’s resignation rendered the review moot.  The Democrat says it’s now a court case. “Each and every member of this committee expressed a strong desire to see that action was taken.  In the final vote, a majority agreed with the independent counsel that the Franklin Circuit Court is the proper place for the full hearing on this important issue,” said Donohue. Lexington Representative Robert Benvenuti, who also served on the special investigative panel, says the committee voted to hide behind a legal opinion.  A third committee member, Julie Raque Adams was also critical...accusing some members of putting politics before the well-being of women. “There was an air of, I’m gonna be partisan first and a human being second,” said Raque Adams. Unless further allegations are made, Speaker Greg Stumbo indicated, after the session, the harassment case against Arnold is probably out of the hands of lawmakers.  “We can’t send him to jail, that’s up to the courts.  We can’t make him pay restitution to the plaintiffs for his actions, that’s up to the court.  All we could have done would be to censor or expel him,” added Stumbo. Unless further allegations are made, Speaker Greg Stumbo indicated, after the session, the harassment case against Arnold is probably out of the hands of lawmakers.  The House Speaker rejects any contention there's a culture of sexual harassment within the state legislature.    He stresses in the last eight months, no similar allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced.