The Richmond Register

Breaking News

State News

September 17, 2013

Arnold faces probe despite resignation

FRANKFORT — A select committee of House members will proceed with an investigation into the conduct of one of their former colleagues despite that lawmaker’s resignation Friday.

Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, submitted his resignation to Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday in the wake of allegations by three female employees of the legislature that Arnold touched them improperly or made lewd or vulgar comments to them.

The women — Cassaundra Cooper, Yolanda Costner and Gloria Morgan — filed sexual harassment complaints against Arnold, 69, with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

News of the allegations became public midway during the Aug. 19-23 special session of the General Assembly, prompting Arnold to leave and not return for the final two days of the session.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, filed a petition to investigate Arnold’s conduct and potentially censure or expel him from the General Assembly. Stumbo appointed a five-member committee — Democrats Rita Smart, Arnold Simpson, and Jeff Donahue and Republicans Robert Benvenuti and Julie Raque Adams — to investigate the charges and report to the full House in January.

At Tuesday’s first official meeting, the committee selected Donahue as its chair by a 3-2 vote on party lines. Adams had nominated her fellow Republican, Benvenuti, who at one time worked as inspector general of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The committee also agreed to seek outside legal counsel and to proceed with its investigation despite Arnold’s resignation.

The meeting began with Stumbo telling the committee its duty is to protect the integrity of the House, even if Arnold is no longer a member. His resignation, Stumbo said, eliminates the potential for expulsion, but the full House may still reprimand Arnold if the investigation produces evidence of his guilt.

“The conduct being investigated was conduct which occurred while he was a member of the General Assembly,” Stumbo said. “I believe you have to move forward, at least toward making a report to the House.”

Benvenuti agreed. He said if the committee fails to act, a legislator could escape responsibility for his actions simply by resigning.

“We shouldn’t allow someone to end an investigation by resignation,” Benvenuti said.

Stumbo told the committee he will approve the hiring of independent counsel or staff but left those decisions to the committee.

After Donahue assumed the chair, he suggested each committee member suggest up to three persons to serve as counsel to the group. The committee then set its first meeting for 1 p.m. on Oct. 9 when it hopes to choose an attorney.

Donahue said after the meeting he isn’t concerned about partisanship, that committee members and the House disapprove of the conduct alleged by the three women and wish to ensure the integrity of the chamber regardless of their party.

But the meeting couldn’t avoid at least an undercurrent of partisanship. Benvenuti and Adams suggested committee actions must be approved by a super-majority of four votes, but the three Democrats voted to require a simple majority of three.

Democrats currently hold a 54-45 majority in the House (with Arnold’s seat now vacant) and Republicans have set their sights on gaining control of the House in the 2014 elections. Some have suggested the allegations of sexual harassment and charges by some Republicans that Democrat leaders didn’t respond effectively to the allegations could play a role in the 2014 campaigns.

Arnold maintained innocence in his resignation letter: “After having been appropriately advised, I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment.”

Arnold has retained Steve Downey of Bowling Green as his attorney.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

Text Only
State News
  • Bill Clinton will stump for Grimes in eastern Kentucky

    Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is again calling in the “Big Dog” in her quest to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

    Former President Bill Clinton will join Grimes on Aug. 6 for a campaign rally in eastern Kentucky, according to a campaign official who would provide no further details.

    July 26, 2014

  • 7-1 Warren-Grimes 1.jpg Warren blasts McConnell on economic issues

    Elizabeth Warren said here Sunday that Kentucky voters have a simple choice this fall in the nation’s most important election.
    They can re-elect Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who the Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senator said represents the interests of the wealthy and says “no, no, no” to measures to assist the middle class.

    June 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, often was cited as a national model.
    Nevertheless, those in Kentucky who didn’t sign up before the March 31 deadline will have a second chance to enroll.

    April 3, 2014

  • House sends $20.3 million budget to Senate

    It took four hours and it won’t last long in its present form when it reaches the Republican-controlled state Senate, but the House passed a $20.3 billion, two-year budget late Thursday on largely, but not entirely, party lines.

    March 13, 2014

  • Right-to-work bill dies in House panel

    The sponsor of a right-to-work law in Kentucky knew it had no chance of passing a House committee Thursday.

    March 13, 2014

  • Feds deny giving OK to selenium standards

    When lawmakers wrestled last year with new standards for releasing selenium into streams by coal mines and industry, they were assured by state officials the proposals were based on sound science and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

    March 7, 2014

  • Senate panel OKs trial use of cannabis oil

    Rita Wooten and her husband Ricky face an excruciating choice: watch their 4-year-old son suffer from repeated seizures — or violate the law in order to help him.

    February 26, 2014

  • Two honored for work with sexually abused

    It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.

    February 26, 2014

  • Paul asks Senate for help in 2016 quandary

    Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last week asked Republican state senators to try to repeal a Kentucky law that bars anyone from appearing on the same ballot for more than one office.

    February 24, 2014

  • Republican party split on display in Cave City

    Splits in the Kentucky Republican Party were subtly on display here Saturday evening – if you knew what to watch.

    Around 400 gathered at the Cave City Convention Center for the annual Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner but this one was different from past dinners.

    February 24, 2014