FRANKFORT — The Legislative Research Commission must turn over all sexual harassment complaints involving lawmakers and staffers filed within the past five years, plus an investigative report about allegations against former state Rep. John Arnold, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate also ruled that state Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, may be added as a defendant to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in 2013 by two female legislative staffers.
Wingate might choose to review the documents before allowing them to be released publicly, he said in his eight-page order.
Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who is representing the two women, said he was "very pleased" with the ruling.
Leslie Vose, an attorney representing the LRC, a support agency for state lawmakers, was not immediately available for comment.
Bell's attorney, Charles English Sr. of Bowling Green, said "we will timely and appropriately respond" to the judge's order. He did not elaborate.
Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper filed a sexual harassment complaint in 2013 against Arnold, a Democrat from Western Kentucky who has denied the claims but resigned from the House.
Bell fired Costner last month after his colleagues elected him state House majority whip.
Costner claimed that Bell unfairly dismissed her after he won the leadership position Jan. 6 because of her decision to blow the whistle on Arnold. She also claimed that Bell's decision was motivated in part "by his desire to have an intimate sexual relationship" with another woman he wants to hire.
Bell has said that the claims aren't true and that all three staffers who worked for the previous whip, Democrat Tommy Thompson of Owensboro, no longer were in the office. Costner and another employee were dismissed, and the third was resigned.
Costner said she wasn't offered another job in the LRC and was unemployed after 25 years of government service.
Bell and other legislative leaders have said that it's not unusual for a legislative leader to hire his or her own staff. He called it "a damn lie" that he was angling to replace Costner with one woman in particular.
Clay argued at a court hearing Monday that Bell should be included as a defendant in the initial lawsuit because Costner's rights as a whistle blower were violated.
Vose argued that Bell was not a party to any of the sexual harassment complaints and therefore should not be added to the lawsuit. She told reporters there was no basis to Costner's claims against Bell.
Clay also requested every sexual harassment complaint that the LRC has received in recent years and a report about the Arnold case that was created for the LRC by Hyden attorney Cheryl Lewis.
Vose said other harassment complaints are not relevant to the Arnold case, and she accused Clay of trying to garner publicity. She said in court that Clay had asked for any complaints against Arnold; former legislative staffer Kent Downey, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal prostitution and gambling charges and was sentenced to probation; and former Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.
Williams, now a circuit judge, said Monday that he would encourage the LRC to release any records it has about sexual harassment involving a lawmaker.