Settlement Reached in Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against Kentucky LRC, Lawmakers

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Kentucky Capitol Building at night

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Kentucky State Capitol

Two sexual harassment lawsuits filed against the state’s Legislative Research Commission by staffers concluded in a court settlement this week.

Terms of the deal were not released and it’s unclear how much taxpayer money was spent on the suit.

WFPL’s Ryland Barton reports:

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.

In 2013, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting broke the story of two longtime Kentucky statehouse employees alleging a years-long pattern of sexual assault and harassment by then-State Rep. John Arnold.

Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner alleged Arnold inappropriately touched them and made lewd and vulgar comments in numerous incidents over several years. The lawsuit accusing the LRC of covering up sexual harassment in the state agency and in the legislature settled this week.

LRC staffer Nicole Cusic filed a separate suit alleging she was retaliated against after she complained that state Rep. Will Coursey attempted to forge inappropriate relationships with female Statehouse interns. Cusic was a secretary for Coursey.

Cusic’s case was also settled Monday in mediation, according to the Courier-Journal.

In April, our newsroom filed a motion to intervene in the Costner and Cooper lawsuit and bring to light depositions of former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman and state Rep. Sannie Overly. They had sought to keep the depositions sealed, citing privacy concerns. The case went to mediation after the motion was filed.

Sherman announced his resignation from the LRC in September 2013, following an internal probe into Arnold sexual assault allegations. According to documents filed in the lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court, Arnold also inappropriately touched Overly, who is currently running for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by current state Attorney General Jack Conway. She has repeatedly refused to comment on the matter.

For more on the lawsuit, read Barton’s report on WFPL.