Dumb, dumber: Sex, shredding in the Capitol

Herald-leader columnistOctober 6, 2013 

Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — Put yourself in the shoes of former Legislative Research Commission director Robert Sherman.

It's Sunday, two days after you submitted your resignation amid criticism your agency botched an investigation of sexual harassment complaints. All of a sudden, you remember you left a copy of your secret formula for drafting fantasy football teams in a file in your former state Capitol office. Do you rush to the Capitol and shred the pages containing your formula to keep your secret safe? Do you invite four people who used to work for you to your little shredding party? Do you get a couple of them to join you in the actual shredding?

Heck no! Heck no! And heck no! Unless you're dumb, dumb and dumber.

A snippet of the conversation at the latest gathering of the Monday lunch crowd I joined after entering semi-retirement explains why rather succinctly. When one of the regulars asked what Sherman could have been shredding, the quickest witted among the rest (definitely not me) responded without missing a beat, "His reputation."

And Sherman didn't do a whole lot of good for the reputations of the four LRC employees he put in the difficult, if not impossible, situation of saying no to their longtime boss or being present during or participating in activity guaranteed to create a negative impression even if we were talking fantasy football formulas.

I know some of these folks better than I know others. And my knowledge of the ones I know best makes me willing to believe, at least for now, assertions by Sherman and LRC deputy director Robert Jenkins that the shredded documents were relatively benign in nature.

But it doesn't matter what I believe.

A Sunday shredding party in an office you no longer officially occupy invites the use of words and phrases like "clandestine" and "something to hide." When the party occurs during the midst of complaints and lawsuits alleging sexual harassment of LRC employees by lawmakers, it also invites an investigation by the Kentucky State Police.

If you're trying to keep score (and I have to say it's difficult to do), I believe (but do not guarantee) the current status is:

■ Three women have filed sexual harassment complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission against former state Rep. John Arnold.

■ A special state House committee is considering House Speaker Greg Stumbo's petition for censure or expulsion of Arnold, who resigned weeks ago.

■ Two of the women who complained to the ethics panel filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court this past week against Arnold, the LRC and Stumbo in his official capacity.

■ A fourth woman filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against state Rep. Will Coursey, the LRC and Sherman on allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation. (No word yet on why Stumbo hasn't petitioned for Coursey's censure or expulsion.)

Now, state police are investigating Sherman's shredding party.

I may have missed one or two allegations/investigations. But don't worry. I'm fairly sure I'll have a chance to catch up before this latest episode of "Sex in the Capitol" even remotely approaches being all over. Before I leave today, though, a couple of observations:

Since Arnold and Coursey are both Democrats, and particularly Democrats from Republicans' new stronghold in Western Kentucky, House D's better hope someone comes forward soon with sexual harassment allegations against a Republican. Otherwise, it's all over but the R's shouting and cheering in 2014.

And of all the dumb acts in this whole affair, nothing was dumber than Sherman's shredding party. If there were documents he didn't want anyone to see, he should have thrown them in his briefcase before he walked out the door on resignation day. That way, he wouldn't shred his own reputation or make some loyal former staffers complicit.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service