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Democrat Kentucky state Rep. John A. Arnold Jr. is under fire for alleged sexual harassment of female staff members at the state House.
Three employees have filed complaints against Arnold in recent weeks, resulting in calls for his resignation and the announcement of a formal investigation by the state House on Thursday that could result in the lawmaker’s expulsion.
Two of the women work in offices of the Democrat leadership, which is staffed by the non-partisan Legislative Research Commission. Cassaundra Cooper works an aide in the office of House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins (D.), and Yolanda Costner works an adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson (D.).
The women said they informed the Democrat leadership of the allegations, which date back to 2010. Arnold received $40,000 from the party for his reelection in 2012.
Cooper and Costner filed their complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission on Aug. 16, which was first reported by WFPL, a public radio station in Louisville.
Costner alleges that Arnold grabbed her underwear while they were walking up the steps of the State Capitol in March 2010.
“I just could not resist grabbing those fancy red lace panties,” Arnold is allegedly to have said to Rep. Reginald Meeks [(D.)], who witnessed the incident.
Cooper claims on Valentine’s Day this year Arnold hit her backside when she was in Thompson’s office picking up bottled water off the floor. Other allegations include lewd and vulgar comments.
A third formal complaint filed on Aug. 22 dates Arnold’s harassment even earlier, with the alleged victim working as a secretary across the hall.
Gloria Morgan, also a Legislative Research Commission employee, filed a complaint of “unwanted physical touching and sexual harassment,” accusing Arnold of harassment as far back as 2009.
One night when leaving the office in 2009, Morgan said Arnold began stroking her back and asked her if she was going to “come out and play.”
“Rep. Arnold came up beside me as I walked and began rubbing up and down my back from just above my bra stroking down my lower back and waist area,” she wrote in the complaint. “I was shocked and stunned by his behavior. He then asked me if I was going to ‘come out and play’ tonight.”
When Morgan said no and that she had a lot of work to do, Arnold allegedly said, “all work and no play was dull,” and again asked her to “come out and play.” He became angry when she refused and has since only spoken to Morgan once.
Arnold also allegedly made comments about Morgan’s body, saying she had “legs like Tina Turner,” and he would sing the name “Tina” down the hall to get her attention.
“What we’re talking about here is not a single off-color joke or even an allegation that a member of the legislature brushed up against someone once, making that employee feel uncomfortable,” said Joseph Gerth, a political columnist for the Courier-Journal.
“We’re talking about an alleged pattern of abuse.”
Arnold, 69, represents Kentucky’s 7th district. His Kentucky legislature bio lists him as a “Chiropractor, Farmer, Businessman. Baptist.” Arnold is from Sturgis, Ky., where he formerly served as mayor and city councilman. He has served in the House since 1995.
Arnold was narrowly reelected in 2012, defeating Republican challenger Timothy Kline by just five votes. He received more than $40,000 in donations from the Democratic Party in the state that year. The Kentucky Democratic Party contributed $20,635, while the Kentucky House Democratic Caucus gave $20,000.
WFPL reported that Cooper and Costner both informed House Democratic leaders and the Legislative Research Commission of the allegations.
Then-Majority Whip John Will Stacy (D.) was alerted to the underwear incident in 2010 and told Costner that Arnold was “harmless.” Stacy now represents the 71st district.
Rep. Adkins was also informed of the alleged act against Cooper this year.
“Other legislative leaders either witnessed or were told of various alleged incidents of harassment, according to the ethics complaints,” WFPL said.
When the story broke, Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he had heard “rumors” of the allegations but had no direct knowledge of the acts.
Stumbo filed on Thursday a petition of censure or expulsion for Arnold, which will launch an investigation by the House that could result in his removal.
“I have decided to take this action so that the full House will have the opportunity to review the evidence and the recommendation of the eight-member investigative committee I shall appoint tomorrow after speaking with candidates from both the majority and minority caucuses,” he said in a statement. “The Constitution gives each chamber of the General Assembly authority to determine its rule of proceedings and to punish a member for disorderly behavior and, with a two-thirds vote, to expel him or her.”
“These allegations have become a distraction as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, and I know of no other way to deal with the matter even though the complaints are under review by the Legislative Ethics Commission,” Stumbo said.
Arnold has also been suspended as chairman of the Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, and Public Protection, Stumbo’s office said.
Arnold’s office told the Washington Free Beacon that they are not making any statements at this time.
Calls to the offices of Adkins and Thompson were not returned.