Ky. House votes to overhaul ethics code in wake of sexual - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. House votes to overhaul ethics code in wake of sexual harassment scandal

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to overhaul its own ethics code Monday.

The House action comes as the political drumbeat surrounding the sexual harassment case of former Rep. John Arnold grows louder.

"I think we need to insure in our workplace here that everyone is safe," said Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville), a co-sponsor of the amendment.

House Democrats proposed the amendment after controversy surrounding the Legislative Ethics Commission handling of the Arnold case. Three Capitol staffers have accused Arnold of sexual harassment.

The Commission voted 4-1 to find Arnold guilty – one short of the minimum five votes needed. Three of the nine-member commission were absent and one seat is vacant.

The lone 'no' vote from member Elmer George, who said the panel does not have jurisdiction over the case because Arnold had already resigned.

 "The recent decision by the Ethics Commission has devalued the humanity of our legislative staff," said Rep. Reggie Meeks (D-Louisville) during the debate on the House floor. 

The amendment overhauls the ethics code to prevent future commission inaction.

"We want to send a message that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in any branch of the government," said Rep. Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort).

But House Republicans chided Democrats for not taking action until public outrage grew.

"We will not tolerate harassment of any kind until there's enough pressure from the public placed upon us that we have to no longer ignore it, and we have to pay attention to it, and that's what I feel like we're doing here today in this chamber," said Rep. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) as many of her colleagues applauded.

The bill passed overwhelmingly as Arnold's alleged victims looked on.

"It seems like more people are on board. They're standing up and fighting not just for us but for other people," said Cassaundra Cooper.

And Stumbo joined the chorus of those calling on the Ethics Commission to reconsider, saying it mishandled the case.

"I think the commission should have found that the acts occurred and that some form of punishment should have been offered," said Stumbo.

The controversy has even reached the U.S. Senate race. Over the weekend, Mitch McConnell, and now Alison Lundergan Grimes both called on the Ethics Commission to re-hear the case.

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