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Media Outlets File Motion to Intervene in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Involving Lawmakers

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and The Courier-Journal have filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the Legislative Research Commission by two former staffers of the agency.

The media organizations are trying to bring to light depositions of former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman and state Rep. Sannie Overly, a Paris Democrat.

Overly is scheduled to be deposed on Monday and Sherman was deposed on Wednesday. They have tried to keep the depositions sealed, citing privacy concerns.

Sherman announced his resignation from the LRC in September 2013, following the conclusion of an internal probe into allegations that former state Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, sexually harassed statehouse employees.

According to documents filed in the lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court, Arnold also inappropriately touched Overly, who is currently running for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by current state Attorney General Jack Conway.

Overly did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Jon Fleischaker, an attorney representing KyCIR and The Courier-Journal, said Thursday that the lawsuit isn’t a private matter.

“Court proceedings are public, it is dealing with a very public agency, a very important public agency and with officials and legislators who are very public people.”

(The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting is affiliated with 89.3 WFPL News and also part of Louisville Public Media.)

The sexual harassment suit originated in October 2013, when former LRC staffers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper accused Arnold of inappropriate touching and making sexual comments.

Arnold resigned from the legislature after Costner and Cooper filed complaints in August 2013 with the Legislative Ethics Commission, charging him with misconduct.

Arnold and House Speaker Greg Stumbo were named defendants in their lawsuit, thought Stumbo was dismissed from the case in late 2013. Rep. Johnny Bell, the House Whip, was added as a defendant in the suit in February for allegedly retaliating against Costner.

The lawsuit also accuses the LRC of covering up sexual harassment in the state agency and in the legislature.

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Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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