FRANKFORT — Kentucky taxpayers should learn this week what they will pay to settle two lawsuits filed against House Democrats over sexual harassment and hostile-workplace claims.
An agreed order to dismiss the cases is expected to be submitted in Franklin Circuit Court on Wednesday, 30 days after the Legislative Research Commission and several female legislative staffers reached a cash settlement agreement, said Thomas E. Clay, the women's attorney.
The full terms of the settlement should be filed with the order, Clay said. Lawmakers have declined to reveal what the state will pay to conclude the lawsuits.
"It would be one thing if this was a lawsuit between two private parties. But I think everyone knew going in that this would be handled publicly," Clay said.
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Spokesmen for House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders did not comment Monday on the settlement. The LRC's attorney in the case, Leslie Vose, did not return a call seeking comment.
Both lawsuits were filed in October 2013 by female LRC employees who worked with lawmakers.
In one suit, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper said they were sexually harassed at the Capitol by then-state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold denied wrongdoing but resigned. His lawyer later said Arnold might have been suffering from dementia and uncontrollable behavior problems while he served in the General Assembly.
During the discovery process in their lawsuit, the women learned that House Democratic leaders — including Speaker Greg Stumbo and Majority Leader Rocky Adkins — privately were told about their harassment complaints by the LRC's executive director, Bobby Sherman, who later resigned amid criticism over how he handled the case. In a private memo in 2013, Sherman instructed Arnold to stay away from the women when it was possible, according to court documents.
Sherman and state Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat who chairs the House majority caucus and is running for lieutenant governor this year, sought to keep their depositions in the case out of the public record. In the end, Overly was not deposed, Clay said, and Sherman gave only one day of what promised "to be a very interesting and lengthy deposition."
"That was one of the reasons they were so willing to settle," Clay said. "We were getting into areas of discovery of some political sensitivity to them."
In the other lawsuit, LRC employee Nicole Cusic alleged she was moved to an inferior job after she complained that Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, had sexually harassed female legislative staffers.
Coursey denied the claim and, through his attorney, he asked that "smut-filled" depositions in the case be sealed. However, video excerpts of Coursey's deposition were posted on the Page One Kentucky blog.