Two state employees at the heart of a sexual harassment case against a former lawmaker say legislators still have a clubhouse mentality.
Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper told WDRB TV on Wednesday that they feel vindicated by the Legislative Ethics Commission's ruling that former Representative John Arnold violated state ethics laws by improperly touching them.
“It’s no more ‘alleged’. These things actually happened to us and now the public knows and it was validated that we were sexually assaulted at work,” Costner said. “He was found guilty for the actions that we knew he did. Like she said…we don’t have the allegations now it’s like he did these things,” Cooper added.
The panel also voted to fine Arnold $3,000 for the violations.
However, Costner and Cooper maintain that their case has done little to change the culture around the state capitol.
“Some things have changed I guess the way people treat us, is different. People are afraid to talk to us, or people are afraid to hug us. That wasn’t making sexual advances to us. But as far as some of our co-workers and the interns, we saw things during the session that hadn’t really changed. The culture has not changed,” Costner said. “It’s still a clubhouse,” Cooper added. “And even with the mandatory ethics training that was required at the beginning of the session they still did things that were addressed during the ethics training,” said Costner.
The case could have repercussions for House Democrats in the fall elections.
Costner and Cooper — who work for House Democratic leaders — testified their complaints were initially ignored. Republicans hope to use the incident to capture control of the chamber from Democrats; something the GOP hasn’t had since the 1920’s.