Second state legislator facing sexual harassment claims - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Second state legislator facing sexual harassment claims

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Nicole Cusic (Source: LRC) Nicole Cusic (Source: LRC)
State Rep. Will Coursey State Rep. Will Coursey
Thomas Clay Thomas Clay

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - One Kentucky state representative has already resigned over sexual harassment claims and now another state lawmaker stands accused of similar behavior. The lawyer representing the latest accuser says there are more women coming forward, making claims against other lawmakers.  

Western Kentucky Representative John Arnold, a Democrat, resigned September 13 after three women came forward saying he sexually harassed them. An investigation continues into those claims despite Arnold's resignation. Now Legislative Research Commission employee Nicole Cusic says a boys club exists inside the Kentucky state capitol walls. 

"We're all going to have to stand up and demand some change," Cusic said. 

Cusic was the secretary for Western Kentucky Representative Will Coursey until she says she approached him about what she says was inappropriate behavior and was then moved out of the office at Coursey's request. 

"One time it was inappropriate behavior with a staff person and the second time it was inappropriate behavior with one of the interns," she said. 

"All I can tell you is Mr. Coursey steadfastly denies that any of that is true," said his attorney Mark Edwards. 

Coursey's lawyer says that there was another reason Cusic no longer works with him. 

"The reason that she was moved is that she was a very poor worker," Edwards said. 

Furthermore, he said, "she was not an employee of Mr. Coursey so he has no authority to hire or fire anybody. She works for the Legislative Research Commission." 

Cusic says her supervisors told her that her work was good. 

Thomas Clay, who represents Cusic and two women who accused Representative John Arnold of harassment, says we've just started to scratch the surface of what's happening in Frankfort.

"Not all legislators are involved in it but certainly some of them are involved in this culture where sexual activity seems to predominate as the major activity," Clay said. 

Clay said he's had several other state employees come forward and allege behavior similar to what we saw in the late 1990s when legislative aide Kent Downey was accused of organizing golf trips with women in various stages of undress. Downey eventually pled guilty to federal charges related to prostitution and gambling accusations.

"In fact there was a lot of similar conduct that was exposed during that investigation but apparently the message didn't get out sufficiently to where it stopped," said Clay. "It's still going on and it's still part of the culture." 

The investigation into the claims against Arnold sparked an internal review as to how the Legislative Research Commission handles complaints. The head of the LRC Bobby Sherman resigned last week after that review cleared the agency. 

Wednesday, Kentucky house speaker Greg Stumbo asked state police to investigate claims Sherman illegally shredded state documents on his way out. LRC says they were Sherman's personal documents. 

Kentucky State Police say it will be handled by the special investigations division and the investigation starts Friday. 

Late Thursday Lexington Senator Kathy Stein said she believes there should be an investigation into House Speaker Greg Stumbo and his office for how the sexual harassment claims have been handled. 

Cusic said her supervisors told her the Speaker's office was behind her reassignment.  

Stein says accusations like that have caused the public to lose trust in the General Assembly.

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