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Cash Settlement Reached in Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against Kentucky LRC, Lawmakers

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A settlement has been reached in the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits filed by Statehouse staffers against the Legislative Research Commission and current and former lawmakers.

A cash payment is included in the terms of the settlement, said Senate President Robert Stivers, who is also co-chair of the Legislative Research Commission.

But Stivers and attorneys involved in the case would not elaborate on details of the settlement.

“We have reached a settlement that is mutually satisfactory to all parties,” said Thomas Clay, a lawyer representing three women who had accused two lawmakers of sexual harassment.

Leslie Vose, the attorney representing the defendants in the lawsuit, didn’t respond to interview requests on Tuesday.

Two of the plaintiffs, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper, accused former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, of inappropriately touching them. The allegations were first made public in 2013 by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL News. Arnold resigned after the allegations were made public, citing health reasons. He was later sanctioned by the state legislative ethics commission.

A third plaintiff accused Rep. Will Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia, of demoting her after she alleged that he had sexually harassed female staffers.

Former LRC director Bobby Sherman is also a defendant in the case. He was accused of covering up sexual harassment allegations in the state agency and retaliating against one of the accusers.

The allegations led to calls to reform the LRC, a state agency comprised of non-partisan administrative staff as well as partisan research and support to Kentucky's part-time legislators.

Earlier this year, newly-designated House Majority Whip Johnny Bell, a Democrat from Glasgow, was added as a defendant to the case. One of the plaintiffs alleged that Bell fired her from the whip’s office in retaliation for the lawsuit.

Stivers said Vose met with LRC leadership—comprised of partisan leadership from the state House and Senate—to create a "general framework" for the settlement.

Stivers said that details of the settlement would eventually be made public.

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