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Details Of LRC Sexual Harassment Settlement Expected Thursday

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Details of the settlement between the Legislative Research Commission and staffers who say they were sexually harassed by state lawmakers will be released Thursday, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case.

Last month the state agency agreed to settle the case with a cash payment to three women, who in October 2013 brought the lawsuit against former Rep. John Arnold, Rep. Will Coursey, former LRC Director Robert Sherman and the state agency as a whole.

An order to dismiss the case was expected to be filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Wednesday, 30 days after the parties hammered out an agreement in mediation. But as of Wednesday afternoon, attorney Thomas Clay said the state agency still hadn’t written a check to the women.

“We are working to get this wrapped up in the morning,” Clay said.

If the check isn’t delivered by the end of the week, Clay said, he will go back to court and ask Judge Thomas Wingate to enforce the terms of the mediated agreement.

The state agency and attorneys in the case have refused to release the terms of the settlement until the case is officially dismissed.

In one of the lawsuits, two LRC staffers accused former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, of inappropriately touching them. Arnold denied the allegations, but later resigned and was sanctioned by the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Former LRC Director Bobby Sherman was also included as a defendant in the suit. He was accused of covering up sexual harassment allegations in the state agency and retaliating against one of the accusers.

Attorney Thomas Clay deposed Sherman in April, but both parties in the suit agreed to seal the deposition.

“In order for it to be released we would have to go back and ask Judge Wingate for his approval to release it," Clay said. "I for one would advocate for its release."

The allegations led to calls to reform the LRC, which is comprised of non-partisan staff who work for the Statehouse administration staff as well as partisan staff who work for state legislators.

The LRC has had an interim director since Sherman resigned in September 2013. A new director will be in place by Oct. 1 of this year.

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.

In a second lawsuit, a female LRC employee accused Symsonia Democratic Rep. Coursey of demoting her after she alleged that he had sexually harassed female staffers.

 

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.