FRANKFORT — A legislative staffer fired last week by state House Majority Whip Johnny Bell alleged in court documents Monday that Bell's decision was motivated in part "by his desire to have an intimate sexual relationship" with another woman he wants to hire.
Yolanda Costner, one of three legislative staffers who alleged sexual harassment in 2013 by a former state lawmaker from Western Kentucky, also said Bell, D-Glasgow, had illegally obtained a controlled substance —Xanax — from the other woman when she worked for him previously.
Costner also alleged that Bell, a lawyer, kept moonshine in his office and was seen in possession of a marijuana cigarette in front of the Capitol Annex.
Bell did not return phone calls to his cellphone Monday evening seeking comment.
Earlier this month, Bell strongly denied the claim by Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who is representing Costner, that Bell was angling to replace Costner in the majority whip's office with one woman in particular.
"That's a damn lie," Bell said at the time.
On Monday, Clay said Costner was trying to add Bell as a defendant to the sexual harassment lawsuit she and colleague Cassaundra Cooper filed in 2013 in Franklin Circuit Court against former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold has denied any wrongdoing but resigned from the House.
A hearing on the request to add Bell as a defendant is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, Clay said.
He said the allegations against Bell in the court filing bolster Costner's argument that she has been unfairly targeted because of her decision to blow the whistle on Arnold.
She wrote a letter to state Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, in December warning him of Bell's intention to fire her if he were elected majority whip and asserting her status as a whistle blower who should be protected from retaliation.
Riner wrote in a Jan. 1 letter to his Democratic colleagues in the state House that he recently received a "shocking email" from one of the women who had alleged they were sexually harassed by Arnold. The email detailed "how a legislator running for a House leadership position was telling other legislators of his intent to 'clean house,' including terminating her employment if elected," Riner wrote in his letter. Clay identified the candidate as Bell.
Bell, who has been in the House since 2007, said at the time that he had given no thought to staffing if he should win the leadership race.
Bell defeated incumbent Tommy Thompson of Owensboro to become House majority whip, a position that involves keeping tabs on how members will vote on legislation.
Bell later dismissed Costner, who had 25 years of government service. She said she was not given any reason for the termination.
Bell and other House Democratic leaders have said it is customary for any leader to choose his or her staff.
Clay claimed Bell violated a state law that protects whistle blowers and Costner's civil rights.
In the documents filed Monday, Costner claimed Bell made an advance in 2012 toward the female staffer he allegedly wants to hire, asking her, "When are you gonna give it up?"
Costner also claimed Bell used an ATM machine in the Capitol Annex to get cash to pay the woman for Xanax.
The woman eventually told Bell to get Xanax from an employee at the Capital Plaza Hotel, the documents alleged.
Clay declined to identify the witnesses whom Costner alleged saw Bell with marijuana.
The lawsuit names the woman whom Bell allegedly wants to hire, but the Herald-Leader could not reach her for comment Monday evening.