Stumbo and Stivers appoint law professor to long-vacant post on ethics commission

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJune 2, 2014 

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers filled a position Monday on the Legislative Ethics Commission that has been vacant for two years.

The two legislative leaders jointly appointed Henry Stephens, a professor at Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase College of Law, to fill out the nine-member commission that came under fire recently for not having a majority of members present to hear sexual harassment complaints against a former legislator.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday that the appointment took such a long time because it was "an ongoing process." Jodi Whitaker, a spokeswoman for Stivers, R-Manchester, said he has "been vetting a number of individuals" who would be acceptable to both Stumbo and him.

The other appointments are split evenly between them.

"I'm happy that President Stivers and I could come together to make this appointment," Stumbo said in a news release. "I think Professor Stephens is a good choice because of his long and distinguished career at Chase Law School."

"Professor Stephens also has a background working in state government and has received mediation training at Harvard, two other pluses in his favor," Stivers said. "I'm confident he will be an outstanding member in the years ahead."

Stephens was Chase's dean from 1986 through June 1992 and was associate dean from 1981 to 1985. In the 1970s, he worked as a special assistant for the attorney general and was staff attorney for the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet. He also has private law practice experience.

The Legislative Ethics Commission last month found former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, guilty of three ethics charges in a case brought by three female legislative staffers who said he had inappropriately touched them. On a vote of 5-1, the commission issued a $1,000 fine and a public reprimand on each charge against Arnold.

It was the commission's second hearing on the case. In April, the commission voted 4-1 to punish Arnold, but five votes are needed for the commission to take action.

Arnold has denied wrongdoing. He resigned from the legislature last September. His attorney said Arnold is suffering from dementia.

Two of the women — Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper — have filed a lawsuit against Arnold. It is pending in Franklin Circuit Court.

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

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