, Corbin, KY

State News

September 30, 2013

‘Leadership vacuum’ concerns legislative leaders

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

Legislative leaders want to address the “leadership vacuum” created by the resignation of their staff director at a meeting of the Legislative Research Commission next week.

The LRC is governed by 16 party leaders from both parties and both chambers of the General Assembly and co-chaired by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The term is also widely used to describe the staffing arm of the legislature which was headed by Robert “Bobby” Sherman for 14 years before he resigned last Friday.

Sherman’s resignation came in the wake of a growing list of allegations of sexual harassment and other alleged inappropriate behavior by lawmakers toward LRC staff.

Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, signed a letter to the other 13 members of the LRC requesting the group meet next Wednesday, Oct. 2, to discuss two items related to Sherman’s resignation.

“First, the resignation of Bobby Sherman on September 30, 2013 has left a leadership vacuum within the administrative staff,” the letter states. It goes on to say there are four deputy directors but none has the authority to assume Sherman’s duties.

Friday’s letter from the three legislative leaders said Sherman “designated Robert Jenkins the administrator in charge.” But that is temporary, the letter says, until the full commission can meet and take action.

The letter goes on to say the commission needs to “immediately begin to address the process to find a permanent successor to Mr. Sherman. This is a critical position and will not be easy to fill. The last time the organization conducted a search was in 1998.”

Sherman, 61, took over after that search, beginning in 1999.

Stumbo did not sign the letter but later Friday issued a statement saying he agreed with the other three leaders’ call for a meeting.

‘I think it is a good idea,” Stumbo said. “We need to appoint an interim acting director and lay the groundwork for conducting the search for a replacement director.”

Sherman’s resignation followed allegations by three LRC female employees that they were sexually harassed by former Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, who resigned on Sept. 13, proclaiming his innocence.

The three women filed complaints with the Legislative Ethics Commission and also allege their prior complaints to Sherman and LRC staff weren’t taken seriously. An attorney for two of the women, Thomas Clay, has indicated the women are considering filing suit as well.

On Sunday following his Friday resignation, Sherman returned to his office and shredded papers and documents while Jenkins and LRC employees Roy Collins, Steve King and Rita Ratliff were present. Jenkins later informed Stivers and Stumbo that no documents pertaining to the investigation of sexual harassment were destroyed.

But that nonetheless prompted Hoover to ask for an investigation into the shredding by Kentucky State Police.

Then on Thursday, Clay — the attorney representing two of the LRC staff alleging harassment — revealed yet another female staff person, Nicole Cusic, claims Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, acted inappropriately toward legislative interns. Coursey and his attorney have vigorously denied the allegations.

Palmer, the Senate Minority Leader who signed Friday’s call for an LRC meeting next week, said a final agenda for Wednesday’s meeting hadn’t been approved, “But obviously we’re going to have to discuss the leadership of the LRC.

“And I’d think at the very least we’d also ask the deputy director (Jenkins) for a list of the items they destroyed on Sunday,” Palmer said. “And then we need to have a discussion on who we want to be interim director.”

The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday in room 125 of the Capitol Annex.

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
  • Grimes comes out firing on McConnell

    Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in this fall’s elections, went after the five-term incumbent in a speech here to a convention of local county officials.

    July 11, 2014

  • Conway, Comer address judge-execs

    It might have been a preview of next year’s Kentucky governor’s election — but county officials here for a convention probably didn’t expect one likely candidate to endorse a potential opponent.

    July 11, 2014

  • McConnell, Grimes parade cases

    Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes know a good place to look for votes when they see it.

    July 7, 2014

  • McConnell, Grimes disagree on contraception case

    Kentucky’s Republican congressman praised Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations may opt out of a requirement to provide employees contraceptive coverage through insurance plans.

    July 1, 2014

  • Beshear sings praises of Affordable Care Act

    Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told a Washington conference Tuesday that Kentucky’s embrace of the Affordable Care Act has been “life-changing” for thousands of Kentucky enrollees and “transformative” for Kentucky.

    June 18, 2014

  • Kentucky actually fares well under new EPA regs

    Kentucky politicians and the coal industry howled about the latest installment of greenhouse gas emission regulations issued last week by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

    June 16, 2014

  • New EPA C02 regs examined

    Given their complexity and potential impact in coal-dependent states like Kentucky, there’s considerable confusion about new carbon emission regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    June 16, 2014

  • State budget officials predict ‘significant shortfall’

    With only 20 days left in the 2014 fiscal year, state budget officials announced Tuesday Kentucky faces an “inevitable” and “significant” revenue shortfall in both the General and Road Funds.

    June 11, 2014

  • Grimes ad blasts Obama for coal policies

    Mitch McConnell is no longer the only U.S. Senate candidate running against Democratic President Barack Obama.

    June 5, 2014

  • Legislative leaders blast carbon regs

    President Barack Obama’s efforts to rein in carbon emissions, blamed by science for changes in the climate, continues to draw harsh criticism from both political parties in Kentucky.

    June 5, 2014