Legislative leaders disagree on whether harassment claims should be discussed in open meeting

jbrammer@herald-leader.comSeptember 3, 2013 

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants Wednesday's meeting of House and Senate leaders to be open to discuss sexual harassment claims against a fellow lawmaker.

In a letter Tuesday to Senate President Robert Stivers, Stumbo said he is seeking a "transparent and responsible procedure" at Wednesday's scheduled Legislative Research Commission meeting.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said last week he wants Wednesday's meeting of all 16 legislative leaders to discuss harassment claims three women legislative workers have filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission against Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, appointed five lawmakers last week to a special committee to investigate the complaints against Arnold, who has not publicly commented on them.

If the LRC wants to go into closed session Wednesday to discuss the harassment claims, Stumbo said, the closed session should be recorded and transcribed "to ensure that we have an accurate record of the meeting" in case there is future litigation.

"In light of counsel for the complainants' stated intent to bring formal legal proceedings, every member of LRC should be prepared to be called as witnesses regarding any closed session discussions," Stumbo said.

"Because 16 people can seldom agree on particulars, it is essential to record the proceedings to avoid differing recollections."

Stivers' spokeswoman Lourdes Baez said Stivers, who will be presiding as chair at Wednesday's LRC meeting, will make a motion that the group go into executive or closed session but that it is recorded. Baez said Stivers preferred that approach since many legislative leaders do not know the specifics of the complaints and want to protect the women.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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