It was a year ago, in April 2014, that a few legislative leaders received a draft report that you'd thing would shock anyone into action.
Prepared by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the performance audit examined the structure and culture of the Legislative Research Commission's professional staff — the people who research and write legislation and aid legislative committees.
The report was commissioned in October 2013, the day after two LRC staffers filed lawsuits alleging they'd been sexually harassed by former Rep. John Arnold and that their complaints to legislative leaders and LRC management were ignored.
The NCSL report found a mess.
The LRC staff is "at risk," it said. Ineffective and inconsistent management had created a toxic "red zone culture" among employees, characterized by anxiety, alienation, cynicism and hostility. The agency doesn't have job descriptions or a personnel system and people are paid widely different salaries for similar jobs.
But, the authors wrote, there was "a unique window of opportunity for change."
Legislative leaders were moved to action. They hid the report. Not just from the public but also from many legislators. It was finally released earlier this year.
With the bad news out and lawsuits underway, it seemed another "unique window," had opened.
The LRC has had an acting director since shortly after Bobby Sherman resigned under fire in September 2013. There have been no significant personnel reforms.
On a straight party-line vote Feb. 4, Republicans in the committee that oversees the LRC killed a proposal by House Leader Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to begin a search for a new executive director. The Republican Senate also buried a bill the House passed to require the LRC to establish a job-classification and compensation system and set up personnel procedures.
Although the GOP gets the lion's share of the blame for this stalemate, the Democrats aren't distinguishing themselves either.
Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, elected House majority whip in January, fired Yolanda Costner, one of the plaintiffs in the Arnold case. Leadership can choose its own staff but firing a whistle blower sends a bad message. And it got Bell added as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Sannie Overly, D-Paris, chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus and running mate of gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Jack Conway, has asked to have her deposition in the sexual harassment suit sealed from public view, as has Sherman.
Realistically, it's hard to imagine either will remain sealed, given that the whole case involves what elected leaders and government employees did in their public roles.
Nonetheless, like sitting on the report, rejecting a bill to reform the LRC and blocking efforts to hire a permanent director, trying to seal testimony leaves the impression that leaders are less interested in cleaning up the LRC than in controlling the news about it.
Republicans and Democrats should quit delaying and dodging, start a serious search for a permanent director and give LRC staffers the professional personnel management they deserve.