By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
The attorney representing a former lawmaker accused of sexually harassing legislative staff has subpoenaed several lawmakers in advance of a Legislative Ethics Commission hearing next week.
According to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, Bowling Green attorney Steven Downey subpoenaed “a whole bunch of them.”
Stumbo and at least one other member of House Democratic leadership were served subpoenas requiring them to appear next week at a Legislative Ethics Commission meeting considering charges against former state Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis.
During an August special session of the General Assembly it was revealed that two female legislative staff employees had filed charges with the Ethics Commission, alleging Arnold had sexually harassed them on multiple occasions and had refused to follow directions to stay away from the women. A short time later, a third woman filed similar complaints with the Ethics Commission.
Arnold subsequently resigned his seat in the General Assembly while maintaining his innocence. Two of the women eventually filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against Arnold, but the subpoenas apparently pertain only to the Ethics Commission hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
As of press time, Downey had not returned messages left with his assistant at his law office.
Stumbo said he is considering invoking the constitutional immunity for lawmakers when the General Assembly is in session.
Section 43 of the Kentucky Constitution states: “The members of the General Assembly shall, in all cases except treason, felony, breach or surety of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the attendance on the sessions of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House they shall not be questioned in other place.”
Stumbo said the Ethics Commission hearing could linger throughout the day causing several lawmakers to be absent from that day’s legislative proceedings. That, he said, is what Section 43 of the constitution seeks to prevent.