Louisville, KY- Former Kentucky State lawmaker John Arnold will not face punishment from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission after he was cleared of sexually harassing three of his staffers.
In a 4-1 vote the Ethics Commission said they would not punish for Rep. John Arnold (D.-Sturgis) for sexually harassing three staff members who came forward last August.
Last fall, three women, Cassaundra Cooper, Yolanda Costner and Gloria Morgan, came forward alleging Arnold subjected them to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment and no action was taken when the women reported Arnold.
On one occasion, Arnold had the audacity to grab Costner’s panties in front of another lawmaker as the trio was climbing the stairs. In another incident, Rep. Arnold allegedly slapped Cooper’s buttocks as she bent over to put bottled water in a refrigerator. All of the women said Arnold solicited them for sex and made in appropriate comments.
The women reported the harassment, but no one on the Legislative Research Committee took any action to put an end to the harassment.
Cooper and Costner appeared before the Ethics Committee relating the details of their harassment, but they cried foul when the nine-seat commission exonerated Arnold of the sexual harassment. One of those seats is empty and three members were out town for the vote, and Arnold’s accusers said the commission’s decision reeked of politics. They also said they were unaware that five votes were needed before the former state representative could be punished.
“I kind of think we knew there was going to be some maneuvering, and evidently that maneuvering took place,” Cooper said after the hearing, according to the State Journal. “… We think the speaker’s appointee was done for a reason, the timing of it, and it came into play today.”
The women at the center of the case expressed concern that all members of the Ethics commission were white and they are African-American women.
“You have to take the spanking on the butt. You have to take your underwear being pulled. You have to take being verbally assaulted,” Costner said. “No one is going to care about it. If you want to keep your job and position, keep your mouth shut.”
Arnold denied the women’s allegations, but retired just a one month after they came forward.
In light of the scandal, House Speaker Greg Stumbo vowed to make legislators undergo sexual harassment training every year. That’s a step in the right direction, but shouldn’t sexual harassment training be mandatory anyway?
Sexual harassment training is very important and, in many cases could prevent some incidents of sexual harassment, but it won’t prevent them all.
When an employee is being sexually harassed, they must report that harassment and give their employers time investigate and punish the offender. If an employer fails to take the appropriate action, then it is time for the employee to retain a sexual harassment attorney. With legal assistance, a victim can put an end to their harassment and seek compensation for their emotional distress and lost wages.