Sen. Kathy Stein calls for investigation of Greg Stumbo and other Democratic House leaders

jbrammer@herald-leader.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein called for an investigation Thursday of House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other Democratic House leaders regarding the job transfer of a legislative staffer who complained of sexual harassment by state Rep. Will Coursey.

Stein, of Lexington, said an investigation is needed to help restore the public's trust in a state legislature rocked by the harassment accusations of four female staffers against two male lawmakers.

"These are serious charges being leveled, and an investigation is needed," said Stein, a former member of the House.

Stein said the investigation probably would have to be conducted by a special prosecutor. She said a special five-member committee that Stumbo created last month to investigate sexual harassment complaints by three women against former state Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis would not be the proper authority.

Stumbo did not immediately respond to Stein's comments.

He also has not said whether he will expand the work of the committee he appointed to investigate complaints against Arnold, who denied the charges and recently resigned from the legislature.

Coursey, D-Symsonia, has been accused of inappropriate behavior toward legislative interns. He has strongly denied the allegations.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents two of the legislative staffers who accused Arnold of sexual harassment, said in a letter this week to Laura Hendrix, general counsel for the Legislative Research Commission, that legislative staffer Nicole Cusic intends to file a lawsuit against Coursey, the Legislative Research Commission and former LRC director Robert Sherman for unlawful retaliation.

Clay said Cusic will claim that she was retaliated against when she told Coursey that "his conduct toward a legislative intern and an LRC staff member was inappropriate."

"As a result of her statements to Mr. Coursey, Ms. Cusic was reassigned from the House Democratic office to the Senate Republican office of the LRC," Clay said in his letter.

Clay did not identify the legislative intern he mentioned in his letter to Hendrix.

Cusic told The Courier-Journal that Coursey repeatedly tried to date interns in his office, told inappropriate jokes and made inappropriate statements about an LRC staff member.

She also told the newspaper that assistant LRC directors Anita Muckelroy and Roy Collins told her that the decision to transfer her was made by Stumbo's office.

When asked Thursday who was responsible for reassigning Cusic, Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said via email that "personnel actions are handled by LRC."

"Our goal is to maintain a safe and welcoming work environment for all employees," Wilkerson said. "Given the pending litigation, we are unable to comment further at this time."

Coursey's attorney, Mark Edwards of Paducah, said Thursday that his understanding was that Cusic was moved to another job in the legislature because she often did not show up for work or was tardy.

Asked why she wasn't fired, he said, "I guess they wanted to take care of her."

In his letter to Hendrix, Clay also said an LRC employee has made false and defamatory statements about Cusic in the workplace and that the LRC should stop "this slanderous talking."

Clay did not name the LRC employee.

Sherman abruptly resigned as director of the LRC last Friday, a day after he said an LRC staff investigation of two of the staffers' complaints against Arnold showed that the LRC thoroughly investigated the complaints and implemented protective measures for the women.

Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover urged the state police to investigate Sherman after The Courier-Journal reported that Sherman and a few top LRC employees had shredded documents Sunday in his former office.

State police will investigate the shredding, Richard Saint-Blancard, commander of the state police public affairs division, said Thursday.

"We will give it to our special investigative branch," he said without elaboration.

Sherman has said the documents were not related to the sexual harassment allegations.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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