By RONNIE ELLIS
The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission agreed Monday to postpone a hearing scheduled for Tuesday for former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, charged with sexual harassment by three female legislative employees.
The decision came at the request of Arnold’s attorney, Steven Downey of Bowling Green, who filed a motion with the commission contending Arnold, 69, is suffering from “some sort of dementia,” and asked the commission for more time for doctors to evaluate him.
The postponement also means several state lawmakers who were subpoenaed to attend the hearing are now free instead to attend a campaign event in Louisville for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, headlined by former President Bill Clinton. Grimes is the likely Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, claims the subpoenas violate Section 43 of the Kentucky Constitution which provides a measure of legal immunity for lawmakers while they are in session.
Stumbo previously said he wouldn’t honor the subpoena he’d received and Friday afternoon filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court to quash the subpoenas.
He said Monday the postponement of Tuesday’s hearing rendered that motion “moot,” but said if a subsequent hearing is scheduled during the legislative session, which ends on April 15, he’d again challenge any subpoena to appear. Otherwise, Stumbo said, he is happy to attend a hearing and answer questions.
Stumbo also announced the Democratic-controlled House will convene in chambers at its usual time of 2 p.m. Tuesday. Last week he’d indicated the House might reschedule its session for 4 p.m. to allow lawmakers to attend the event featuring Clinton.
But he said Monday he’d forgotten that the annual “Fallen Heroes” observance for families of soldiers who’ve been killed was scheduled for Tuesday, and “We’re going to honor them.”
Stumbo said he would not attend the Clinton event but others who wished to should have time to go and get back for the 2 p.m. floor session. Republicans have been critical of Democrats for trying to re-arrange schedules to accommodate the campaign event in Louisville, and even after Stumbo announced the House would convene at its regular time, the Republican Party of Kentucky sent out a press release criticizing the Democratic House majority for “manipulating” committee schedules around the Grimes-Clinton event.
In his motion, Downey writes Arnold “has cognitive/behavioral issues that are attributable to some form of dementia, and that his intellectual functioning has decreased dramatically . . . .” He says the report is an incomplete diagnosis and Arnold needs further evaluation.
Arnold suffered health problems in 2012 and thereafter some of his colleagues expressed concern for his health, even before the allegations of sexual harassment came to light in August of this year.
During the August special session of the General Assembly it was revealed that two female legislative staff employees had filed charges with the Ethics Commission, alleging Arnold had sexually harassed them on multiple occasions and had refused to follow directions to stay away from them. A third woman subsequently filed similar complaints against Arnold with the Ethics Commission.
Arnold subsequently resigned his seat in the General Assembly while maintaining his innocence. Two of the women eventually filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against Arnold but the subpoenas served on lawmakers were to appear before the Ethics Committee.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
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