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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Will party politics get in the way of the investigation into sexual harassment at the State Capitol? The issue flared up during a meeting of the committee looking into accusations against former Rep. John Arnold.
The five-member committee is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, and today the undercurrent of politics came to the surface.
It came during a discussion about hiring an attorney to represent the committee during the investigation. Lexington Republican Robert Benvenuti said several qualified lawyers told him "no thanks" because of concerns they'd be rejected because of politics.
"They have better things to do with their time than to go through a beauty contest in which they don't think they have the ability to win," said Benvenuti.
Richmond Democrat Rita Smart said she was "aggrieved" by the comments. "I think if you come to my district and ask people, they'll tell you I work with everybody," she said.
In the end, all did agree to hire northern Kentucky attorney Patrick Hughes.
The committee chairman later said he's not concerned that the panel may be fracturing along party lines. "We've got to stay focused on the true issue given to us to do before we move forward, and I feel like we'll be fine. We're working well together," Rep. Jeff Donohue of Fairdale.
All this comes a day after the Legislative Ethics Commission found probable cause that former Rep. John Arnold did sexually harass two Capitol employees, Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper.
"I'm not going to say that at the end we might not come to same conclusion. We may not. But I feel like it necessitates us to continue forward," said Donohue.
But the committee is fast running out of time. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants its recommendations in time for the 2014 session, which starts in January.
"Perhaps we could go to the Speaker and get an extension on that. We do have a 60-day session coming up, so there might be some flexibility there," said Benvenuti.
The committee meets again next Wednesday with members hoping they can begin the real work of the investigation.