5:40pm

Fri August 8, 2014
All Politics are Local

Date Set For Hearing in Lawsuits Against Will Coursey and John Arnold

Statehouse staffers who've filed lawsuits against a current state legislator and a former lawmaker want access to a report their attorney said may include allegations of improper behavior by other legislators.

Credit Jonathan Meador / Kentucky Public Radio

In a Sept. 10 hearing, a Franklin Circuit judge will consider motions regarding lawsuits filed against Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, and former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis.

The Arnold lawsuit stems from allegations that he sexually harassed and retaliated against Legislative Research Commission staffers. The Coursey lawsuit stems from allegations that he retaliated against an LRC employee after she made claims about his behavior.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents the plaintiffs in both suits, said the LRC opposes his request for discovery regarding documents in the Arnold case that Clay claims may  include past complaints of sexual harassment involving other lawmakers and LRC staff.

He says that report was compiled by Cheryl Lewis, a lawyer from Hyden, who the LRC contracted to mediate  between two of the complainants against Arnold—partisan state House staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper—and their LRC supervisors.

LRC documents state that Lewis also conducted an investigation into those complaints, but the report has yet to be released.

Greg Woosley, assistant general counsel for the LRC, said he did not know whether the LRC was in possession of such a report, and added that if it did, it would most likely be protected under attorney-client privilege.

Coursey's lawyer, Bill Johnson, and Arnold's attorney, Steven Downey, could not be reached for comment. A request for comment from Marcia Seiler, acting director of the LRC, was not returned.

At a September 2013 meeting of House and Senate LRC political leadership, then-LRC director Bobby Sherman said he hired Lewis to investigate the claims against Arnold and file a report on her findings. Sherman retired days later. 

"We're saying that [Lewis] was an employee of LRC, a temporary employee of LRC, and that report is not [protected under] attorney-client privilege," Clay said. "And we want them to produce that report."

Clay said he isn't sure who the other complaints in Lewis' report might name and alleges that the agency is trying to conceal other complaints.

Arnold was accused last year by Costner, Cooper and a third LRC staffer, Gloria Morgan, of sexually harassing them over a period of years. A series of adjudicatory hearings by the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission against Arnoldfound him guilty of three counts of harassment, and ordered him to pay a fine.

Coursey was accused by LRC staffer Nicole Cusic of retaliating against her when she complained to her supervisors about Coursey's alleged harassment of female LRC employees and interns in 2012. Cusic maintains that Coursey and Sherman conspired to remove her from her office and contributed to a hostile work environment.

The Franklin Circuit Court clerk said that the Sept. 10 docket will include motions filed by the women against the LRC to compel the production of documents. In addition, the court will hear a motion filed by Coursey requesting that the court sanction and fine Clay for producing a taped deposition given by Coursey that contained lurid sexual details.

The Courier-Journal has reported that the judge hearing the cases, Thomas Wingate, is inclined to strike the depositions and allow them to be retaken with all parties present.