State Lawmaker Accused Of Sexual Harrassment

Aug 21, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Two Kentucky statehouse employees have filed ethics complaints against a House lawmaker, alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and assault.

Democrat State Representative John Arnold
Democrat State Representative John Arnold

In separate complaints, Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner allege that Rep. John Arnold inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments in numerous incidents over several years.  

The complaints, filed Friday, were obtained by WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The 68 year old Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis in western Kentucky, said Wednesday that he’s been advised not to comment on the complaints.

Asked for his reaction, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told WUKY, "there are rumors...I was never made aware, and I've never been advised directly.  I know that director (Bobby) Sherman at one point had contacted us.  He does on other occasions when these matters have been filed with him.  We direct him to follow his protocol and to protect them employees."

Stumbo added that other than condemnation, the House has no way of punishing the lawmaker.

"I have no power to do that.  Nor do I have any power nor does anyone have any power in this body to discipline a legislator.  That's up the Legislative Ethics Commission."

Costner alleges in her complaint that in one incident, Arnold grabbed her underwear while they walked up the steps of the state Capitol Annex.   She says the incident was witnessed by Rep. Reginald Meeks of Louisville, who got angry with Arnold.

Meeks declined to comment about the incident, citing the investigation, but says he believes there’s a culture at the statehouse that leaves some employees feeling vulnerable.

Cooper and Costner both declined to comment for this story, but agreed to be identified in connection with the report.   Both say in their complaints they brought the allegations to Legislative Research Commission staff, high-ranking Democratic representatives and a member of the Kentucky State Police.

It’s now up to the ethics commission to decide whether to initiate a preliminary inquiry into the complaints.