Embattled State Representative Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Investigation
FRANKFORT, Ky. - An embattled lawmaker who faced the possibility of censure or expulsion from the General Assembly because of allegations that he sexually harassed legislative staffers resigned Friday.
Democratic state Rep. John Arnold, of Sturgis, submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Steve Beshear just days ahead of the first meeting of a special legislative committee that is investigating the matter.
Beshear confirmed the resignation in a statement late Friday afternoon.
"I respect his decision to step aside so that our legislators can focus instead on the business of the state," Beshear said. "I will begin reviewing the options for calling a special election to make sure the people of the 7th district will be represented during the 2014 session of the General Assembly."
Legislative workers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments. Arnold hasn't publicly responded to the allegations. He didn't return a phone call to his legislative office Friday.
Costner and Cooper have hired Louisville attorney Thomas Clay to represent them. Clay said he expects to file a lawsuit because the Legislative Research Commission had failed to protect his clients from the harassment even after they had complained.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed five lawmakers to a special committee to investigate the sexual harassment complaints against Arnold. Their first meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. That committee could have ultimately recommended Arnold's censure or expulsion from the Legislature.
Stumbo said the investigation will continue.
"The only thing that will change is that the members will not have to make a recommendation of potential disciplinary action," Stumbo said. "We look forward to that committee beginning its work and providing feedback to the House."
Legislative leaders had already suspended Arnold as chairman of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development & Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.