FRANKFORT—The first hearing in the sexual harassment lawsuit against former state Rep. John Arnold and elements of Kentucky state government revolved Wednesday around determining which parties should be accused. The hearing resulted in a delay in the trial until later this month.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate heard a motion to dismiss filed in October by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who argued that the state is "legally indistinguishable" from the Legislative Research Commission, which is also a defendant in the suit brought by female LRC employees who allege Arnold sexually harassed and assaulted them.
In their lawsuit, filed Oct. 1, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper named the state and the LRC as defendants.
But attorneys for Conway and the LRC argued in court that because those bodies are one and the same, the case should be dismissed as it is.
David Ward, representing Costner and Cooper, asked for additional time to consider who exactly should be defendants—and the judge granted 10 days.
The issue is that the women work directly for the political leadership of the LRC, and it's unclear whether they are technically nonpartisan state staffers or employees of state politicians, Ward said.
"It's unknown who their actual employer is,” Ward said. “But it is either the LRC and [Democratic House Speaker] Greg Stumbo in his official capacity, or the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Stumbo is also named as a defendant in the suit, and has filed a motion for dismissal as well. His motion includes a timeline of events that his office says shows his “rapid response” in dealing with the allegations against Arnold in February, when he said he first learned about them.
The women are also seeking unpaid wages, including overtime, which Stumbo’s suit seeks to deny based on state and federal precedent.
The court will hear Stumbo’s motion, as well as Ward's response, on Nov. 18.
Andrew Downey, representing Arnold, was present for the hearing but declined to offer a comment. Arnold’s counsel has filed a motion to dismiss the suit, as well, claiming that the women’s claims are moot due to the statute of limitations.
Arnold resigned in September.
A hearing on Arnold’s motion has not been scheduled, nor is there a court date set for LRC employee Nicole Cusic’s lawsuit against state Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia. Cusic’s Oct. 1 complaint alleges that Coursey and former LRC executive director Bobby Sherman retaliated against her after Cusic complained to her superiors about Coursey allegedly attempting to forge an inappropriate relationship with a female statehouse intern. Coursey has denied the allegations.